In the wake of the indefinite shutdown of the Tolko lumber mill in Kelowna, the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce is calling on government to take action.
“Each level of government should be working together to lower costs as a means of assisting the forest industry in order to save jobs and help B.C.’s economy,” said chamber president Nikki Csek.
The 140 workers at Tolko’s Kelowna mill had already been off the job for a six-week temporary closure when the indefinite shutdown was announced Thursday.
On July 12, Tolko permanently cut is second shift of 90 workers.
High log costs and low lumber prices have hit the B.C. forestry industry hard and companies have responded with cutbacks, temporary and permanent closures.
While market conditions are beyond the industry’s and government’s control, there are many things governments can do to help, according to the chamber.
“One way is to understand that increased taxes and fees that are under their (governments) control are a contributing factor,” said Csek.
“The cumulative impact of increased costs at every level is colliding with decisions around mill closures. We are calling for greater leadership from the province and other levels of government to take action to reduce the costs that are under their control.”
Some of the measures governments could take to help the forest industry, according to the chamber, include cutting stumpage fees, carbon tax, property tax, employer health tax, federal corporate tax, increasing annual allowable cut and getting a new softwood lumber agreement with the U.S.
When Tolko eliminated its second shift in Kelowna, it also closed its Quesnel mill.
Canfor, Conifex, Louisiana-Pacific, Norbord and Aspen Planers are among the other forestry companies closing mills, reducing shifts or laying off workers.