Ontario’s forestry sector has the full support of the provincial government behind it.

During an announcement at Columbia Forestry Products in Rutherglen, John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Vic Fedeli, Nipissing MPP, and Jamie Lim, President and CEO of Ontario Forest Industries Association (OFIA), unveiled Ontario’s Forest Sector Strategy.

“Our government has developed a strategy that will help create more good-paying jobs for Ontarians and provide greater opportunity in communities that depend on the forestry sector,” said Yakabuski. “At the same time, we are taking steps to protect our forests. Ontario’s sustainable forest management practices are based on the most up-to-date science and are continuously reviewed and improved to ensure the long-term health of our forests while providing social, economic and environmental benefits for everyone across the province.”

The Ontario Forestry Sector Strategy aims to:

  • Promote stewardship and sustainability
  • Put more wood to work
  • Improve Ontario’s cost competitiveness
  • Foster innovation, markets and talent

A United Nations study has found that the demand for forestry products will increase by 30 percent over the next decade. Ontario has around 71 million hectares of forests, which accounts for two percent of the world’s total.

There was also an increased demand for forestry products with the pandemic, with personal protective equipment being produced through forestry.

Of the 71 million hectares, 27.7 million are managed Crown forests. Forestry production took a decline in the 2000s, producing half the amount of timber products now as it did in 2000.

Yakabuski is hoping that the Ontario forestry sector will be able to utilize more of its potential.

“We’re looking to harvest about 30 million cubic metres of forests, which is up from about 15 million cubic metres. So, the tremendous potential that we have, and still coming underneath the amount of new forest growth speaks to how sustainable and continuous we can be in managing this forest,” he said.

Jamie Lim says that the members of the OFIA will be able to move ahead with more certainty now that the sector has government support.

“If you know that you’re investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in new facilities but you have some guarantees, you have some business certainty that the wood is going to be there…that’s what this strategy is addressing,” she said, adding that forestry companies continue to be sustainable, using every part of the trees which are harvested.

Dan Bowes, Ontario Woodlands Manager for Columbia Forestry Products, says that the strategy will help his company grow.

“We’re forecasting to grow our company. We’re looking for opportunities at all times and if we can demonstrate a sustainable, successful business here with additional wood supply, it certainly leads us in the direction to expand,” Bowes said, adding that he hopes that the government support will bring more young people into the forestry sector.

Yakabuski says that he has sat with groups across northern Ontario to gather input on how to best serve the forestry sector, including talks with Indigenous communities who rely on the industry.

The province’s plan is to ramp up sustainable production over the next decade, revitalizing an industry that contributes over $4 billion to the provincial GDP.