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Forest industry directly employs 50,000 across B.C., has big economic impact: Study

It seems barely a day goes by without an announcement about layoffs, temporary closures or permanent mill shut downs in British Columbia's struggling forest industry. Softwood lumber is pictured at Tolko Industries in Heffley Creek, B.C., Sunday, April, 1, 2018. Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press

A new study of B.C.’s forest industry says the sector plays a big role throughout the province, and is larger than most people think.

Released this week by the B.C. Council of Forest Industries (COFI), the study says forestry generates “significant economic activity in every region of the province.”

Specifically, the study says that, in 2019, the provincial forest sector supported more than 100,000 jobs, generated more than $13 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) and nearly $8.5 billion in wages, salaries, and benefits.

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“This study demonstrates again that B.C.’s forest products sector is an important part of the provincial economy, putting paychecks in people’s pockets, helping small businesses pay their bills and supporting a good quality of life for British Columbians,” Susan Yurkovich, COFI president and CEO, said in a press release.

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“The industry contributes to the well-being of communities from the Cariboo to the Northeast, from the Island to the Lower Mainland and Southwest part of our province, where nearly half the jobs supported by the forest sector are located.”

Released by the B.C. Council of Forest Industries, the study said the forest sector generated more than $13 billion in GDP in 2019 and nearly $8.5 billion in wages, salaries, and benefits. Submitted

The study added that forestry added more than $4 billion in government revenue to support health, education and other important social services. Additionally, the study found that between 2009 and 2019, forest industry companies invested about $14 billion in their B.C. operations.

According to COFI, the data was largely sourced from Statistics Canada, and was reviewed to confirm accuracy.

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Among the data:

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  • The industry supported around 50,000 direct jobs
  • 5,300 Indigenous people were directly employed in the sector
  • $8 billion paid out in wages, salaries and benefits in 2019

“B.C.’s forest industry is, and will continue to, provide opportunities and benefits for British Columbians for decades to come,” said Katrine Conroy, B.C.’s Minister of Forests.

“We look forward to continuing to work with First Nations, industry, labour and communities to ensure a healthy, resilient sector.”

A graphic from the forest industry study. Submitted

Also according to the study, many businesses across B.C. rely on the forest sector.

“The forest industry has not only been important to the Ideal Café, but to our family too,” said Stephanie Bergen, who runs the Ideal Café in Campbell River with her parents. “Forestry is what fed our family for many years.”

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In releasing the report, COFI included quotes from several mayors across B.C., including Gaby Wickstrom of Port McNeil, who said “the forest industry has long been an important part of our community and region. It contributes to our economy, provides well-paying jobs that support families and adds to the fabric and well-being of our community.”

“The natural resources sectors, including forestry, are providing job opportunities across our region,” said Terrace mayor Carol Leclerc. “These jobs support families, communities, and a good quality of life for the people who live and work here.”

“Forestry is an important part of B.C.’s economy and also right here in Vancouver,” said Vancouver councillor Lisa Dominato.

To view the report, click here.

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