Donaldson Says More Federal Help Urgently Needed for Struggling BC Forestry Workers

John Crawford

BC Forests Minister Doug Donaldson is calling on the federal government to work with the province to help support workers and communities impacted by mill closures.


Donaldson was in Saskatchewan Wednesday for the annual Canadian Council of Forest Ministers' annual conference, where he detailed the hardships facing the industry here in British Columbia.

Several companies have announced mill closures or curtailments at 22 locations, including three permanent facility closures, impacting more than 39-hundred workers across 16 communities.


In a letter to Federal Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi, Donaldson is proposing that the two levels of government jointly engage with communities, organized labour and industry to come up with new programs which can be rapidly deployed.

 "Some of them have to do with direct assistance to workers, some of them have to do with the varied situations that communities are facing; in some situations, mill workers are older -- in one community, one third of the workers impacted by the curtailments are over 55, so some of them are looking for bridge funding until they hit their pension years, and that's the kind of financial support we're looking at in one of the targetted interventions from the federal government," he said.

Donaldson also wants Ottawa to extend the Softwood Lumber Assistance Program to address the urgent needs of mill workers, hauling contractors and affected communities. 

The Stikine MLA is proposing that he and Sohi both assign their deputy ministers to work together to develop a strategy that will help transition the industry away from conventional lumber products, and towards products such as biofuels and engineered wood. 

He says the immediate focus needs to be on helping workers through these tough times:  "to expand and extend some specific programs and some targetted interventions -- and this is after discussions we've had and actions we've taken in communities impacted by mill closures and curtailments and we want to really focus on workers."


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