A look into the B.C. budget shows the impact of the decline in forest revenue

Michelle de Leon / November 26th, 2019

Canfor to shut down all 10 of its sawmills by Dec. 23
(Province of British Columbia/ Flickr)

The B.C. government’s projected budget surplus has decreased, with problems like ICBC and the forestry sector posing as potential risks.

Finance Minister Carole James announced the province’s second quarter fiscal update on Tuesday and dropped the forecasted figures down $31 million dollars.

James says the slowing global economic growth has had an impact on B.C. exports including lumber, with the forest revenue dropping 11 percent and roughly 4,100 jobs have been lost in the sector.

“I’m concerned, first and foremost for the communities in British Columbia, for the people and the families who are impacted by the down turn in the forest industry. It’s an industry that has built British Columbia, and people are really struggling right now.” – Finance Minister, Carole James

The crisis only deepened when Canfor announced on Monday that it would be curtailing operations at all B.C. sawmills at the end of December.

According to the Annual B.C. Origin Exports report, the forest sector in 2018 was responsible for $14.9 billion dollars of the province’s total exports and it is the primary employer in many parts of the province.

Forestry-related activities directly support over 7,000 business and employ more than 50,000 people.

The Finance Minister says the B.C. government continues to provide support for the workers and communities, while also looking at long term strategies with the Premiere and Minister of Forests.

“We are looking at the revitalization strategy. There are short term things we are looking at and a long-term vision.” – Finance Minister, Carole James

In October, the provincial government announced that contractors, workers and communities impacted by indefinite and permanent mill closures can apply for support programs to help reduce the impact of job losses.

Resources include the retirement bridging program, job placement coordination offices and skills training for employment program.

Despite the losses of the forestry sector and other retail sales drops, James promised to continue cutbacks to discretionary spending within the government.

According to the figures in the quarterly report, James still has $550 million contingency allowance remaining as well as $500 million for a forecast allowance.

Finance Minister Carole James announced the second quarterly budget in Victoria.
(BC NDP/ Flickr)