Following recent curtailments across the province, Minister of Forest Doug Donaldson says its time to consider a new approach when addressing the issues in the forestry sector.

“Really, what needs to be done is a transition from focusing on maximizing volume to maximizing value,” Donaldson told MyPGNow. “We don’t have the same volume of wood anymore in the interior, so its incumbent on us as a government to work with industry, communities, and First Nations to work on plans to maximize value. That is our Mass Timber Initiatives regarding a value-added product in engineered wood that we think BC could become a leader on.”

The Minister states the government has three levels of response in order to address and deal with the current situation surrounding the forestry sector.

The immediate response, as Donaldson described it, has community transition response teams that are coordinating activities in communities that have seen mill closures. Responses like this have already been going on in communities such as Mackenzie.

Donaldson stated the government is also wanting to hear back from communities, providing rural-dividend funding in order for plans to be pieced together for potential investments in the future for communities and their local economy. $25 million has been granted by the government in order for communities facing economic loss due to curtailments to do so.

Donaldson, having experienced and witnessed it while living in the Hazeltons, understands the worry and states he would never underestimate the stress it creates when a person loses their job.

“That’s why we have the immediate response with the Community Transition Response Teams to coordinate activities for workers, developing individualized plans, whether they want to look at early retirement, whether they want to look at re-training,” said the Minister. “We have a $20 billion public infrastructure program in BC over the next three years, so many of the communities impacted have new schools being built, new hospitals being built, so if workers are in a stage of their life where they’ll want to re-train for those kinds of jobs that are available in the construction industry, that’s certainly an avenue. ”

While these programs are intended to be immediate responses to the curtailments and address the possibility of permanent job loss at certain mills, Donaldson says efforts are being made to ensure the longevity of the sector.

“We also have to address the medium-term, this is an industry that is facing the fact that there is less wood than there was before. If we had begun this process of imagining the future together by taking concrete actions based on feedback from communities, first nations, and industry, then we wouldn’t be so far behind the eight ball than we are right now,” said Donaldson.

“The forest industry remains integral to rural communities and contributes vast amounts to the provincial economy as well. I believe it will continue to be an industry that will be a mainstay of rural communities, it’s just going to change from their focus on volume to focus on maximizing value, and there are lots of good investment opportunities for that.”

The Prince George Chamber of Commerce has a roundtable discussion tomorrow (Friday) on the impacts in the forestry sector and what has been learned from the industry. Doug Donaldson informed MyPGNow that he was not made aware of the meeting and did not receive an invitation.