'Exhaustive' forestry plan includes everyone, says Premier Dwight Ball
Government hopes it will act as a road map to revitalizing the industry
New wage subsidies and a bigger industry in Labrador are just some of the points that have come together to form a mega plan of sorts for the forestry industry in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Premier Dwight Ball, along with Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources Gerry Byrne, announced the plan Monday in Corner Brook, where they were joined by many in the industry.
"In my history, this will be the first time I've seen anything that has been so exhaustive where we've included all aspects of the industry — Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, the industry association themselves, our educational institutions," said Ball.
"I'm not surprised there are 32 action items, but what I am surprised by is the commitment that I've seen from everyone that participated today. They want to make this work because they know where those opportunities are."
The Forestry Sector Work Plan is the culmination of ten months of meetings between representatives from dozens of groups including the Newfoundland and Labrador Forestry Association, the Registered Professional Foresters of Newfoundland and Labrador, Qalipu First Nation, Memorial University, and the College of the North Atlantic.
Together they identified 90 problems or opportunities within the industry and boiled them down to land on a plan, Ball said.
That plan's five categories are:
- Sustainable forest management.
- Public awareness.
Goals are in sight: Ball
While most of the action items are still in the early planning stages, Ball said things are progressing in some areas. He said the province is well on their way to reaching the goal of increasing timber allocations and harvest levels by 20 per cent by 2020.
Another key element of the plan is focused on ways to help Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Ltd. diversify their product lines while also helping them to improve the logistics associated with moving wood fiber.
"If you go back just a year ago it was a very different story than what we're talking about here today. Last year it was about saving the industry, this year is about building the industry to the future," said Ball.
"[Kruger] made a commitment to Newfoundland and Labrador. We all know that the foundation of the industry in the province is a strong newsprint industry or a strong pulp and paper mill that we have right here in Corner Brook."
Part of the plan also includes expanding the forestry industry in Labrador, with the province indicating they would be issuing a request for proposals for the area.
Help with wages
Also, a new wage subsidies program is getting a $500,000 boost.
Starting in April, employers involved in secondary processing in either the forestry, fishery, aquaculture or agriculture sector could qualify for subsidies of up to 60 per cent of $12 per hour.
The government also wants to ensure that people who are currently working in the forestry sector stay there.
"The forest sector attraction and retention strategy outlined in the Forestry Sector Work Plan will help address the sector-specific skills and training needs of the forestry industry," said Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour Bernard Davis.
The N.L. Forest Industry Association says overall, the sector supports 5,000 direct and indirect jobs.