Environment & Work,  Industry & Sector,  Research

Building a Sustainable, High-Value-Added Forestry Sector in B.C.

B.C.’s economy has always depended on its rich forests—from First Nations communities, through the early settler economy, to modern forestry practices and technologies.

But in recent years the industry has been buffeted by a perfect storm of environmental, economic, and geopolitical challenges. Total production has declined by up to half in recent years, with devastating effects on employment, output, exports, and taxes. Dozens of remote and regional forest communities are unsure of their future, unless a viable and sustainable future for forestry can be achieved. 

The three major unions representing forestry workers in B.C. (including Unifor, the United Steelworkers, and the PPWC) recently came together to host a special Forestry Summit. The Summit aimed to bring attention to the challenges facing the industry, and demand a concerted strategy by government and all industry stakeholders to stabilize and sustain the industry on a sustainable, high-tech foundation. The Summit featured a major report, co-authored by Jim Stanford (Director of the Centre for Future Work) and Ken Delaney (from the Canadian Skills Training and Employment Coalition). The report describes the forestry crisis, and maps out the major elements of a sector strategy to preserve jobs and workplaces – consistent with both conservation objectives and First Nations stewardship of treaty and traditional lands.

The report proposes a series of key reforms to develop and implement a strong sector strategy for a modern, value-added, sustainable provincial forest industry. The strategy consists of four major elements: 

  1. Creation of a Permanent Province-Wide Forestry Sector Council
  2. Development of a Province-Wide Plan for Stable, Sustainable, Economic Fibre Supply
  3. Forest Adjustment Bureau to Redesign and Integrate Worker and Community Adjustment Supports
  4. Eight-Point Strategy to Maximize Value-Added from Stable Fibre Harvesting

Please see the full 54-page report, A Better Future for B.C. Forestry: A Sector Strategy for Sustainable, Value-Added Forest Industries.

Summary slides highlighting the major findings of the report can be downloaded here. They are also available in French.

For more information on the Fighting for our Future campaign launched by the three unions, please visit https://bcforestryworkers.ca/. 

Jim Stanford is Economist and Director of the Centre for Future Work. He divides his time between Sydney, Australia and Vancouver, Canada. Jim is one of Canada’s best-known economic commentators. He served for over 20 years as Economist and Director of Policy with Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector trade union.