December 5, 2019 By P&PC Staff
The Ontario government has released a draft version of the Forest Sector Strategy it announced in September 2018, aimed at stimulating job creation, promoting economic growth, and reducing costs for businesses in the province, while ensuring sustainable forest management.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry held seven roundtables across the province over the past year, hearing from Indigenous partners, industry and municipal leaders, as well as from the public through survey and email submissions. Based on feedback, four main areas of focus were identified to shape the draft strategy:
- Putting more wood to work
- Improving cost competitiveness
- Fostering innovation, markets and talent
- Promoting stewardship and sustainability
“We have worked hard over the past year to develop the proposed strategy,” said John Yakabuski, minister of natural resources and forestry. “We listened to what was working and more importantly, what was not – and we are continuing the conversation with Indigenous partners, affected communities and industry as we work towards finalizing the strategy.”
Below are the top takeaways from the draft strategy.
1. Putting more wood to work
By 2022, the province plans to modernize and improve forest inventory, remove barriers to accessing wood, evaluate ways to grow more wood, provide wood supply certainty and increase use of available wood supply.
Ontario will invest $84.5 million to gather more information about the forest inventory using Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), an advanced remote sensing technology, which will boost forest management planning and decision-making.
The ministry also says it plans to remove redundancies in legislation to help with wood access, and create a provincial wood utilization strategy. The feasibility of centralized processing yards will be assessed, and species restrictions on wood use at facilities will be removed to help increase wood use and attract investment while supporting existing mills and forest operators.
2. Increasing cost competitiveness
By 2022, the province plans to reduce costs for the forest sector, make strategic investments in forest access roads, encourage use of under-utilized species and log qualities, streamline forest management requirements, reduce duplication and modernize approvals processes.
In April 2019, Ontario launched consultations with industry stakeholders about the design and effectiveness of industrial electricity pricing and programs, including the Industrial Conservation Initiative and the Northern Industrial Electricity Rate Program.
Ontario developed its own provincial policy as an alternative to the federal output-based pricing system to reduce carbon emissions, which recognizes the use of mill byproducts (e.g. bark, small tops) to provide sources of biomass heat, steam and energy for manufacturing in place of fossil fuels.
The province is also echoing federal measures that allow businesses to accelerate write-offs of capital investments. These measures apply to assets acquired after November 20, 2018.
3. Fostering innovation, markets and talent
By 2022, Ontario plans to redesign the business support program for modernization, invest in the next generation of forestry products, increase the use of Ontario wood in construction and heating, increase awareness of Ontario’s forest sector and sustainable forest management, encourage and support mass timber and bridge projects in Ontario, and release a carbon calculator tool.
To accelerate commercialization of next generation forest products and technologies, Ontario will work with the Centre for Research & Innovation in the Bioeconomy (CRIBE), industry, Indigenous communities, and other partners to develop value chain roadmaps.
Through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC), Ontario will support northern Ontario employers, including the forest sector, in addressing skilled labour shortages in the region. Employers will be eligible to seek support when hiring individuals that will be trained to fill skilled labour gaps in the region.
4. Promoting stewardship and sustainability
By 2022, Ontario plans to enhance recognition of Ontario’s sustainable forest management system, establish and strengthen partnerships between Indigenous and forestry businesses, expand resource revenue sharing with Indigenous communities, and improve collaboration in managing forests
The province says it will continue to work with the forest industry, Indigenous communities and other partners to maintain and adapt the forest management planning process to sustainably manage Ontario’s forests. It will will pursue strategic alliances with ongoing third-party certification systems to take advantage of extensive marketing tools to reach key groups.
Public consultation on the draft Forest Sector Strategy through the Environmental Registry will close February 5, 2020 (submit comments here). Additional comments received will be considered as the government completes further consultations with Indigenous partners and municipalities. The final strategy is expected to be released in the spring of 2020.
The forest industry contributes $4.9 billion to Ontario’s GDP and provides 155,000 direct and indirect jobs.
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