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Ontario draft forest strategy to increase wood use, reduce regulatory burden


December 4, 2019
By Government of Ontario

The Ontario government has released its draft Forest Sector Strategy for further feedback through the Environmental Registry.

The government will also consult with Indigenous partners and engage municipal leaders on the draft for advice on how to best help protect existing jobs and create new ones, help industry innovate and attract new investment while ensuring our forests continue to be managed sustainably for the future of Ontario’s communities and families.

Key actions for consideration in the draft strategy include:

Leveraging sustainable forest management practices

Ontario wood products are globally recognized as coming from forests that are responsibly and sustainably managed. More than three quarters of Crown forests are accredited by third-party forest certification systems. Ontario can leverage the growing consumer preference — both at home and abroad — for renewable, more environmentally conscious and sustainably sourced products, and play a part in satisfying this demand.

Ontario will continue to work with strategic partners, including the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, Forests Ontario, and third-party certification organizations to reach key groups and ensure that international customers have all the facts they need about Ontario’s strong record in sustainable forest management. Ontario also recognizes that many Indigenous communities hold Treaty rights and they rely on healthy forests to exercise those rights.

Investing in technology to understand the forest

The province is investing in newer technologies, like Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), which produces high-resolution aerial imagery of forests. This will provide more accurate and timely information to forest companies and their investors, and meet the increasing demands of forest management planning. It will also ensure Ontario’s ecosystems are healthy and diverse, by providing technical information to inform natural resource management decisions.

Reducing regulatory burden

Ontario is working to reduce red tape and deliver regulatory burden relief for the forest sector, including streamlining the process for permits and approvals, removing duplication, and modernizing the forest management planning process and the approach to independent forest audits. All of this will reduce costs and barriers to industry and put government resources to better use, while continuing to ensure forests are sustainably managed.

Forest sector investment and innovation program

The Forest Sector Investment and Innovation Program, which was redesigned under the Open for Jobs Blueprint, will provide up to $10 million per year in funding over five years to support forest sector businesses in Ontario. The program will strategically support projects that improve business innovation, create and sustain jobs and provide benefit to regional economies.

Promoting innovation

Ontario is working with industry leaders, the Centre for Research & Innovation in the Bioeconomy, FPInnovations, and universities and colleges to support the commercialization of innovative forest products and processes. For example, a northern sawmill converts logs into lumber, the lumber is sold to a southern mass timber producer, the mass timber will then be used in tall wood buildings, and therefore renewable products are supporting job creation across Ontario.

By encouraging and promoting innovation, Ontario will help the industry to stay competitive and adapt to an ever-changing business climate.

Increasing wood use

Ontario is creating opportunities to increase the use of wood in construction where it has not traditionally been used, such as using more wood in low-rise and taller residential, commercial and institutional buildings. The government is working, through efforts such as the Housing Supply Action Plan, to harmonize the Ontario Building Code with national codes to expand opportunities to use mass timber, opening new markets for manufacturers and providing stimulus to the forest sector.

Reaching new markets and addressing trade barriers

Ontario will enable small and medium-sized enterprises to access growing global export markets by providing strategic advice and market intelligence, and by supporting participation in trade missions in emerging markets.

The government continues to recognize the importance of forest product exports, including to the United States, and will work with industry, governments across Canada and with partners in the U.S. to promote fair and open trade.

Growing talent in the forest sector

Forestry is suffering from labour shortages in many roles – from truck drivers, logging operations and mill operations, to skilled trades and supervisors. The government is working to attract young Ontarians and particularly Indigenous youth to forestry careers and highlight pathways into these careers. Programs include the Specialist High Skills Major in Forestry, a key part of Ontario’s education and career/life planning program outlined in Creating Pathways to Success.

Submit comments to the draft strategy here.