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Forestry businesses remain open across Canada with ‘essential’ designations

March 30, 2020  By Maria Church

Photo: Annex Business Media

With the country settling into the reality of social distancing and non-essential business closures for the next few weeks, many provinces have included forest products as essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In spite of the designation, some Canadian producers are scaling back in response to uncertain markets for wood products.

As of this morning, all provinces and territories are allowing forest products manufacturers and supply chain businesses to continue operating.


Here are the conditions in which they are allowed to remain open:

British Columbia

B.C. has stopped short of ordering non-essential businesses to close, but on Thursday released its list of essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under non-health essential service providers, the province lists businesses that “ensure global continuity of supply of primary and value-added forestry/silviculture products.”

Examples of those businesses included:

  • Lumber
  • Pulp
  • Paper
  • Wood fuel, etc.
  • Soft-pulp products, such as:
    • Protective masks
    • Gowns
    • Drapes
    • Screens and other hospital supplies
    • Household paper products

As of today, B.C. is still allowing non-essential businesses that have not been specifically ordered to close to remain open as long as they adapt to the provincial health officer’s orders and recommendations.


On Friday, Alberta ordered the closure of certain businesses to prevent the virus spread. Forest products or any other manufacturing operations are not affected. The closures are limited to businesses in retail, recreation and entertainment, restaurants, cafes and bars, and personal services.

The government also stipulated that all businesses with more than 15 workers on a work site must follow public health guidelines, including physical distancing measures. Employers should:

  • self-assess and find alternate ways to organize large group meetings
  • cancel workplace gatherings of 15 or more people in a single space (e.g. training events)
  • employ mitigation strategies to limit risk
  • continue business continuity planning to prepare critical operations for any potential interruption


Saskatchewan released a list of critical public services and allowable business services last week, stipulating that non-allowable business cannot offer “public-facing services” after March 26.

Production, processing and supply chains of the forestry sector were included in the province’s allowable business services during COVID-19 pandemic.

As of yesterday, Canada reported 6,258 cases of COVID-19.


Manitoba has not ordered the closure of non-essential businesses as of this morning.


On March 23, Ontario shut down non-essential businesses for at least two weeks to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Companies that ensure the global supply of forest products were included among the province’s list of essential workplaces permitted to stay open. This includes suppliers of pulp and paper, lumber, wood fuel and other forest products.


A day after Ontario, Quebec ordered the closure of non-essential services and “economic activities.” In its list of essential businesses, under priority manufacturing activities, Quebec included the pulp and paper sector, as well as “inputs necessary for priority sectors,” covering forest product companies in the supply chain.

As well, under the maintenance and operation of strategic infrastructures, the province included the production, supply, transmission, transportation and distribution of bioenergy.

New Brunswick

New Brunswick ordered the closure of specific non-essential businesses on March 19, limited to retail, entertainment, and personal services.

Production and manufacturing operations are permitted to remain open provided they “apply all the social distancing and hygiene recommendations of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.”

Nova Scotia

On March 22, Nova Scotia issued an order for specific businesses to close, and all other non-essential business to maintain staff distancing and hygiene measures.

Construction and manufacturing as well as transportation businesses were listed as essential and exempt from the province’s five-person gathering limit, but are required to maintain social distancing.


As of March 27, P.E.I. has ordered the closure of non-essential government services and businesses. Among the list of essential services is supply chain businesses, including industrial manufacturers.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador closed all businesses providing in-person service on March 23. Non-retail businesses are permitted to stay open as long as workers are able to maintain six-feet of distance between them.

Yukon / N.W.T. / Nunavut

All three territories have yet to order the closure of non-essential businesses.


The federal government has not issued business closures or released a list of what it considers essential services.

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