Government can play a role in a healthy forest industry

Richard Froese and Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Several issues have been set by the forest industry for candidates and parties in the provincial election set for April 16.

Tolko Industries, for one, has urges government to diversify the economy and protect the environment. Forestry has a valuable role in building the province, says Tom Hoffman, who looks after stakeholder relations for the company.

“We need government support and to move forward on that relationship so we have a productive industry,” he says.

Hoffman adds partnerships with Indigenous communities are vital and need to be supported by government. Expanding markets for forestry products also needs government support.

“We’d like to have the government advocate for the Alberta forest industry across Canada and around the world,” Hoffman says.

A request for comment from West Fraser was referred to the Alberta Forest Products Association. Paul Whittaker, the president of that organization, had some things to say by way of a news release.

The AFPA recommends that government recognize that a secure supply of wood is the foundation of the forest sector. It further recommends that government “foster a competitive business climate that includes streamlined regulations and investment in a strong transportation network.”

Fighting for a fair deal in the softwood lumber dispute is another recommendation. Finally, the AFPA urges government to use wood in public projects, invest in research and help open new markets.

At least three of the parties competing in the provincial election have made a point of talking about support for the industry. Last week Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel announced his party (if elected) would allow taller buildings to be made with wood. A few days before that, the United Conservative Party came out strongly in support of the industry with its ‘Forestry Jobs Guarantee.’ In response to that (and other things) Lesser Slave Lake NDP candidate Danielle Larivee spoke up publicly on various measures the government has taken to support in the industry in the past four years. These include loan guarantees to help Tolko re-start its High Prairie mill.

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