The province’s new forestry plan is a combination of recommendations made by the Working Roundtable on Forestry three years ago and work the industry is already doing.
Rick Jeffery, president of Coast Forest Products Association, which represents a number of coastal forest companies, said the recently released Forest Sector Strategy doesn’t include anything radically different from what’s already being done, but reflects a focus on what is working.
“You’re not looking necessarily at what’s new, but what’s effective,” he said. “It builds on the roundtable stuff that industry is doing. It’s all a continuation.”
Jeffery said industry has grown business in Korea, China and Japan and the plan calls for furthering those markets, as well as some exploration work in India.
“We’ve been in Asia for 10 years,” he said. “What we’ve learned is relying on the U.S. market is not a good strategy.”
The roundtable led to legislation requiring all building projects funded by the province to use wood as the default building material and the B.C. Building Code was changed in 2009 to allow for six-storey wood frame construction (up from four storeys).
Jeffery said the next step outlined in the strategy is to increase the use of lumber in six-storey or less commercial buildings – wood is only used in about five per cent of the non-residential building market, which is about a $365 billion per year industry in North America.
Diversification of products as well as markets is also part of the strategy.
Opportunities in the bio-energy sector, such as using a wood-based substance to make plastic products and biofuels, are being explored, said Jeffery.
“There’s a whole world of opportunity on those kind of products,” he said. “Really we’re in a place where we’re developing those products.”
And to support companies, the plan includes a review of the tax structure for the forestry industry to ensure B.C. remains competitive. The review, which Jeffery said was prompted by the return to the PST, is expected to be complete by the end of the summer.
Jeffery said industry is seeking improvements to research and development tax credits to reduce the risk of developing new products for the market and accelerated capital cost write-offs.
Darrel Wong, president of the United Steelworkers local 1-1937, criticized the plan for a lack of investment in manufacturing infrastructure.
Since 2002, 15 sawmills on the coast have closed, he said, and while industry has worked on markets in China and Japan, it does not do B.C. workers much good if all that is being shipped out is raw logs.
“The issue here is that at this point in time, they really need to focus on an industry that creates jobs and creates manufacturing,” said Wong, adding that he would have liked to see incentives in the plan that encourage companies to invest in this aspect of the industry.
“Most of [the plan] is stuff that’s been talked about forever,” he said.