Minister Doug Donaldson is imploring the federal government to provide assistance to BC forest workers and communities.  

He sent a letter to the Minister of Natural Resources, Amarjeet Sohi, requesting that he, along with other ministers work on this issue together.   

“Create an action plan and do so at a very, very expedited manner,” said Donaldson.“What we presented were five targeted interventions that we are seeking support on.”  

Donaldson said one of those recommendations directly related to workers is an early retirement incentive program. 

“In Mackenzie, where a third of their workforce associated with the sawmill curtailment are over 55 years old. So there could be some of those people who would like to retire early but they need some bridging support between now and when their pensions kick in.”    

From the letter sent to Minister Sohi: 

“In addition to these efforts, there is an urgent need for our governments to jointly engage communities, organized labour, and the industry to develop new programming that can be rapidly deployed to support workers impacted by mill closures in B.C., and to support community and industry transition. To begin this work, I propose we assign our Deputy Ministers to work together on the following:

  •  Enhancing and extending the Softwood Lumber Assistance Program to address the urgent needs of mill workers, independent harvest / hauling contractors and affected communities;
  • Developing and providing an early retirement incentive program that would support successful industry restructuring by bridging age-eligible workers impacted by a permanent or indefinite mill closure or where their position could be filled by an impacted worker from another facility;
  • Working with the industry to establish a centrally-operated worker transition coordination office to provide equitable treatment of workers impacted by permanent and indefinite closures, oversee support services and coordinate placement opportunities, with a focus on individual worker needs and personal circumstances;
  • Working with the industry and labour to identify adjustments to Employment Insurance eligibility to address the unique needs of rural, forestry-dependent workers undergoing significant economic disruption; and,
  • Expanding and extending forest industry transformation support, with an emphasis on new conversions from conventional products to engineered wood, pulp, bioenergy, and composite products.

Donaldson was optimistic about how the letter has been received so far. 

“I was happy to note that within 24 hours of this letter being distributed the Deputy Minister, with Minister Sohi, have activated a team in their ministry and cross ministry because this isn’t just one federal ministry, it also involves the Minister of Employment and Social Development Canada.”