Ottawa may extend programs designed to help the forest products industry innovate and adjust to challenges that have eliminated thousands of jobs.
MONTREAL: Ottawa may extend programs designed to help the forest products industry innovate and adjust to challenges that have eliminated thousands of jobs, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said.
“There may be continuation of some programs that currently exist,” the Toronto MP told reporters during Paper Week in Montreal.
The Conservative government has spent more than $1.5 billion on the industry over the last five years, mainly by encouraging renewable energy projects that have created more than 200 megawatts of electricity.
Oliver said additional support could be provided, but declined to identify programs or say if any money will be included in the coming budget, expected in March.
He said the government has to balance any support with its goal of reducing its deficit.
“We will continue to be supportive in a concrete financial way (but) we have to balance the support with the need for a responsible fiscal approach.”
Some delegates to the convention said the industry needs tax credits and other forms of financial assistance to support private investment in new technologies.
The minister said the forestry industry is important to Canada, contributing $22.5 billion to the country’s gross domestic product in 2010.
He said exports have almost recovered from a 25% decline between 2008 and 2009.
“We should not underestimate the sector’s resilience, the excellence of our forest products and the continuing importance for Canada’s economy,” he said.
The forest industry has been battered by declining demand for paper, the crash of the US housing market and the rise of the Canadian dollar.
China has absorbed some of the demand, increasing its wood imports five-fold since 2007. Increasing Asian demand is a way to reduce the dependence on the US market, which consumes about two-thirds of Canadian forestry output.
© 2012 The Canadian Press