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Province adds millions more to forestry transition fund, while forest workers want their cut

Nova Scotia to use 50M fund to help forestry sector
WATCH: Nova Scotia is topping up the fund it created to help the forestry sector transition after the closure of Northern Pulp. But as Jesse Thomas reports, some in the industry say more money isn’t enough and need new markets for their products.

The Nova Scotia forestry transition team has spent $13.5 million dollars already on initiatives to help those in the forestry sector affected by the closure of the Northern Pulp paper mill in Pictou Couty.

On Tuesday following the annual Forest Nova Scotia general meeting, lands and forestry minister Iain Rankin announced the $50 million aimed at helping the forestry sector transition will be topped back up and put in a trust fund.

READ MORE: PC Public Accounts member calls on NS forestry transition chair to answer questions

“And so it’s protected from year to year,” said Rankin. “There will be trustees that will be administering that fund, so really it’s an incremental commitment of $13.5 million (on top of) what was committed to previously.”

Rankin says the three trustees will see one appointed by the government with two appointed by the members of the forestry transition team. The trustees will manage the spending of the $50 million based on recommendations by the transition team.

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It was back on December 20th when premier Stephen McNeil announced a forestry transition team would be established and $50 million set aside to help the forest industry.

Since then $7 million has been earmarked for silviculture work, to help build roads in the forests across the province to allow further harvesting practices on both private and crown land, while another $5.5 million was allocated for forestry contractors to access loans, and another $1.5 million went to offering training and education in skilled trades.

READ MORE: Investment, innovation key to future of Nova Scotia’s forestry sector: mill exec

PC lands and forestry critic Tory Rushton says jobs and livelihoods are at stake and more needs to be done to assist those struggling during the forestry downturn.

“I’ve heard from people that lost their equipment, that have lost their jobs,” said Rushton “And the economy solely sits on the government that is sitting right now and I’m just dissatisfied with the management of this file.”

Without a kraft paper mill like Northern Pulp in operation, it means the market for lower grade material like wood chips and pulpwood has shrunk.

Sawmill operators, wood lot owners, and loggers like David MacMillan who owns and operates MacMillan Forest company in Tatamagouche and says no matter how much overtime they work, they’ll lose revenue without access to alternative markets for its lower grade wood.

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“Speaking personally nothing that has come out of the transition team has been beneficial to us,” said MacMillan.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia’s forestry industry in ‘crisis mode,’ says Colchester County wood lot owner

Some have found alternative markets for their wood byproducts, but loggers like Macmillan who relied on Northern Pulp to purchase his low-grade softwood says he can’t find a market that has the same purchasing power.

The plan to bring on more biomass plants in the province he says isn’t the solution.

“We have sold a couple of loads as biomass but we didn’t get $75 dollars a cord but instead $32,” said MacMillan. “That didn’t even pay for the cutting of it and didn’t pay the landowner. It didn’t even pay enough money to even harvest it.”

Rankin says the transition fund will use some transition fund money to seek alternative export markets, like in Europe where they are currently exploring options and says consultations with current companies that export to other markets overseas are also underway.