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Ontario draft forest sector strategy focuses on reducing costs, boosting innovation


December 5, 2019
By P&PC Staff

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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.”

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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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1 Comment » for Ontario draft forest sector strategy focuses on reducing costs, boosting innovation
  1. Margaret Smith says:

    I have several concerns regarding the Ontario Forest Industries Assoc. plans for the next several years, particularly for the area of Northwest Ontario, where I have lived for over 30 years.

    The importance of forests (including old-growth forests) is becoming increasingly recognized worldwide, with the concerns related to climate change, decline in woodland caribou and moose populations, and loss of 25% of N. American birds over the last 50 years. Habitat loss is recognized as the main cause for these drastic declines.
    Canada has committed to protecting 17% of its forests and lakes from harvesting and development. To date, the Dryden District Crown Forest has protected only 8% of its forests.

    This area of Ontario relies on tourism, and the attraction of its pristine, clear lakes, and wilderness areas which have limited road access. Nearby Manitobans and other Canadians, as well as international travellers, during summer (kayaking, canoeing) and winter (snowshoeing, dogsledding). Forestry access roads, motorized vehicles and boats diminish the wilderness experience, and change the nature of these areas. As an example, the Winange Park – Eagle Dogtooth Park area should kept roadless. Recreational areas such as the Dryden Ski Hill, with its network of cross-country ski trails should not be harvested (and have been petitioned as such).

    Construction of forestry access roads is a huge expense for Ontario taxpayers. Why should not the Forest Companies, which are making huge profits from logging our Ontario forests, pay for these roads?

    Anyone who travels the Trans-Canada highway between Dryden and Thunder Bay notes the huge swaths of clearcut areas, which detract from the natural beauty of this area. Many of these clearcuts go right to the road edge, and are very unsightly.

    The Farabout Peninsula on Eagle Lake (savefarabout.org), with its great diversity of plant and animal species (some of them rare and endangered), and its significant archaeological finds of past indigenous cultures, should be removed from Dryden Forest Management jurisdiction, and be officially recognized as a heritage site.

    The Ontario government should be researching other fibres than trees that could be used in the production of tissue and toilet paper. Governments should do more to pressure tissue companies into increasing the % of recycled content in their tissue.(https://www.nrdc.org>resources>issuewithtissue).

    I believe that we need to recognize forests for more than simply the fibre they produce and the logging jobs that they create, and to set aside areas for wilderness, animal and bird species habitat, and remote tourism.

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