THUNDER BAY – There’s no doubt that, in recent years, Ontario’s forest sector has been hard hit by the global recession and downturn in the US housing market. However, the McGuinty government has been diligent in responding to the challenges faced by this sector over the past five years.
It would be difficult to agree with any inference that Ontario’s sector has been affected more significantly than other jurisdictions. In fact, Ontario’s mill closure situation is faring much better, in comparison with other provinces.
According to statistics from the Canadian Forest Service, between January 2003 and January 2010, British Columbia saw 75 mill closures and Quebec saw 83. In Ontario, we saw 52 forest products mills closed either permanently or indefinitely. While these losses are still devastating, they are relatively better than other provincial jurisdictions.
Another more recent example: Ontario just saw Terrace Bay Pulp emerge from creditor protection, reinstating almost 350 jobs in the North. On top of that, the re-opening of St. Mary’s Paper in Sault Ste. Marie will see almost 170 people back to work. By comparison, Quebec recently lost two more large newsprint mills owned by AbitibiBowater in Dolbea and Gatineau, resulting in 570 lost jobs.
As for the future of our forestry sector, there is growing optimism that new products can be produced from our forest resources. A bioeconomy is emerging in the agricultural sector, and experts see opportunities for the forest sector to participate in the bioeconomy. This is why our government recently opened the Centre for Research in the Bioeconomy in Thunder Bay, to ensure we are the leaders in this developing industry.
The road ahead is still a difficult one. In the meantime, our government can stand proudly behind our accomplishments to date: re-opening mills and creating jobs in the North, creating the largest wood supply competition in the history of this province, reforming our tenure and timber pricing system, extending our energy rebate program and more.
Ontario’s forestry industry is one in the midst of an historic transformation. We will continue to do what we can to support that transformation.
Hon. Michael Gravelle MPP
Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry