Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Funding announced for forestry communities but union demands more assurances

Just as the federal government announced Friday that cash was starting to flow to hard-hit communities dependent on forestry, Canada's largest forestry union launched a campaign denouncing the government for failing those communities.

"The Harper government has clearly blown off forest communities," Dave Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP), said in a news release.

The union wants the federal government to make loan guarantees to stop permanent mill closures and take steps to protect jobs and pensions.

The CEP issued the statement just after the federal government announced that forestry-dependent communities in Quebec and New Brunswick are among the early recipients of money from the $1-billion federal Community Adjustment Fund (CAF) announced in the January budget.

Federal commitments under the Community Adjustment Fund, as of May 15 ProvinceAmount (millions) Newfoundland and Labrador $22.7 Prince Edward Island $13.3 New Brunswick $28.7 Nova Scotia $33.6Quebec $211.6Ontario $348.9Manitoba n/a*Saskatchewan n/a*Alberta n/a*British Columbia$125.2North$32.8* A federal news release said the West, including B.C., will get $306.3 million.

Source: Government news releases

In separate announcements Friday, the federal government and the two provinces announced new silviculture programs.

Quebec will get $200 million, half from Ottawa and half from the province, ver two years to create or support 8,000 jobs in the area of forest cultivation and regeneration.

New Brunswick will get a first boost of up to $7 million for "a silviculture initiative designed to create jobs and short-term stimulus in forestry-dependent communities," the governments said.

"This investment will have immediate impact in the 2009 growing season, supporting such activities as tree planting, thinning and site preparation," they said.

In Quebec, the money will support reforestation in areas where forests have regenerated poorly, rehabilitation of hardwood and mixed-wood forests to raise the value of the wood and silviculture work such as thinning commercial plantations to increase yields.

The Quebec announcement was based on recommendations made by the Canada-Quebec Forestry Task Team, appointed in April to generate ideas to support stressed forestry communities.

Forest Products Association of Canada president and CEO Avrim Lazar said the task force was not an adequate response when it was appointed, "given the severity of the crisis" affecting forestry-based communities.

The CEP said it's launching a national campaign to pressure the government to make changes in forestry policy. Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe, NDP Leader Jack Layton and Canadian Labour Congress president Ken Georgetti addressed a union demonstration in Montreal Friday.