The provincial government announced a proposed new model for wood allocation and pricing Friday; it’s a move that if successful might see some forestry companies restart operations in Northwestern Ontario.
Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry Michael Gravelle outlined the framework for a forest tenure system that would see sustainable forestry licenses (SFLs) become the responsibility of local forest management corporations (LFMCs).
"What we’re looking for is a more competitive environment for our Crown wood and the forest," Gravelle said. "We want to continue to work with our existing operators in the province but also to open up those opportunities to new entrants as well."
The framework came from a series of public consultations the province held; Gravelle said they heard that stakeholders in all facets of the industry want to have more involvement in the decisions of how wood is used in Ontario.
It hasn’t yet been determined who will be part of the LFMCs or how many there will be; Gravelle said the province is looking somewhere between five and 15. The public and stakeholders will have a chance to give their input during sessions held across Northern Ontario starting in Thunder Bay May 18.
Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union national representative Marvin Pupeza said who is on the board of the local forest management corporations is key to the proposed framework’s success.
"I believe it would be a mistake if all stakeholders were not represented, that includes labour," he said. "We bring a lot to the table and we should be a part of it. The worst thing that could happen would be its just foresters and economic professors sitting on the board of directors; that would be a mistake."
But if the end result is based on the framework presented Friday, Pupeza said it could keep some forest operators going and even help those shut down restart.
"If there’s a process to make us more competitive in other jurisdictions, that’s a good thing," he said. "I’m encouraged by the framework."
While the new process could mean forest industry giants losing SFLs, Pupeza said he hasn’t seen anything they should be fearful of.
"On the other hand, we’ve always maintained as a union that if you’re not using the wood, you should not have it locked up," he said. "If there’s operators that can use that wood that ‘s going to create employment then they should get the wood. The opportunity is there for change."
Gravelle said if the framework does move forward, there would be a transition period before the local forest management corporations take over the process.
"When we began this process, we did it at a time we were seeing a great deal of our wood, under the management of the present SFL holders, not being used," he said. "We set up a competitive wood supply process to try to put Ontario’s wood to work. This is a longer-term vision of how we think the Crown resources can be allocated in a different fashion and priced in a different fashion."