Premier David Eby said an investment of up $90 million over three years will support high-value industrial and manufacturing projects to drive clean and inclusive growth in areas affected by changes in the forest industry.
“We need to get more good-paying jobs from our forests and every resource in our province,” Eby said in a statement released after he had announced the funds in Prince George Tuesday (Jan. 17).
The province will deliver the funding through the new BC Manufacturing Jobs Fund. It will focus on areas experiencing economic impacts from changes in the forestry sector, so it would help former forestry workers, but not just forestry workers.
The fund promises to support established for-profit organizations to plan and launch shovel-ready projects, which bring direct benefits and jobs to regional and Indigenous communities. Forestry companies needing to buy new equipment to for new products such as mass timber production or paper packaging may tap into that fund.
Tuesday’s announcement comes as Eby prepares to address the BC Natural Resources Forum Wednesday, less than a week after Canfor announced the closure of its Prince George Pulp and Paper Mill, with 300 people set to lose their jobs. The closure appears among a series of similar ones in the forestry sector and points to the larger challenges facing the industry.
Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation Brenda Bailey said the funding represents an investment in people.
“As our natural resource sector transitions, our government is investing in local economies to provide new opportunities that will create jobs and ensure long-lasting prosperity for people throughout our province,” she said in a statement.
President and CEO of Council of Forest Industries Linda Coady called the funding “one step in the broader suite of actions” needed to maximize the role a strong, sustainable forest industry,” can play in helping people and the planet.
Paul Rasmussen, president of the Interior Lumber Manufacturers’ Association based in Kamloops, said the funding will benefit the region.
“Many of our members have already made investments in their value-added wood product facilities in B.C. and could use this opportunity to innovate further.”
But his comments also repeat a concern heard from the forest industry, namely a shortage of fibre.
“To continue providing good jobs in B.C. communities, value-added facilities require secure, long-term access to wood fibre,” Rasmussen said. “We will continue to work with government to implement improvements that will meet those needs.”