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Record B.C. lumber profits should go to wildfire fight, Horgan says

Prices have plummeted from May peak, supply tightening
B.C. Premier John Horgan, right, walks with Hardy Wentzel, CEO of Structurlam in Okanagan Falls, March 2019. Horgan’s NDP government has emphasized value added production and redistribution of Crown timber licences. (Penticton Western News)

Lumber company shutdowns due to B.C.’s early and hot wildfire season are a needed break, and a chance for big forest companies to share record profits and equipment needed to help preserve forests, Premier John Horgan says.

Touring the Southeast Fire Centre in Castlegar Wednesday, Horgan said he expects other companies to follow the lead of Canfor Corp. in shutting down operations as trains, roads and forest activity are disrupted by hundreds of wildfires.

“Canfor and other forest companies have done very well in the past number of months,” Horgan said July 21. “And a break now to give relief on the land base to provide the resources that we need, potentially, equipment from those companies to put to the fire is what happens almost annually when we have difficult seasons.”

“So I’m not surprised Canfor has decided to shut down,” Horgan said. “Will that have an impact in the short term? Of course it will. But, again, these are quarterly businesses that save all their profits and you would have seen record high profits by major B.C. forest companies in the first quarter. I suspect we’ll see that in the second quarter. We need to make sure that those benefits to those companies flow down to workers, to communities, and of course also to the province, so that we can provide the services that we need, critically, right now, to put out fires.”

Horgan has targeted major forest companies since becoming premier, most recently with a forest ministry overhaul that aims to redistribute Crown timber licences to smaller, value-added production and timber rights awards to Indigenous communities across the province.

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Natural Resources Canada tracking shows North American lumber prices have declined sharply from record highs in April and May, driven by a pandemic-related home building and renovation surge and log scarcity as B.C. came through a forest beetle epidemic. This summer is shaping up as a third season of widespread forest fires, after 2017 and 2018 set records for area burned and forced evacuations.

Lumber future prices have begun to bounce back this week as analysts expect more fire-related shutdowns, with hot fire seasons in Washington, Oregon and California as well as B.C. and Ontario.


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