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WHEREAS the forest products industry is an important sector of the Alberta economy and plays a vital role in the economic and social sustainability of many communities in Alberta; and
WHEREAS the forest products industry directly employs more than 44 000 Albertans; and
WHEREAS the forest products industry is a primary industry in up to 50 communities in Alberta of which 12 communities are deemed forestry dependent; and
WHEREAS the forest products industry in Alberta has a production value of over 11 billion dollars annually; and
WHEREAS there exist serious impediments in the Alberta forest products sector in relation to transportation and electrical utility services; and
WHEREAS research and development is required in terms of bio-mass products (bio-fuels, bio-chemicals, bio-products), alternative energy generation, and nano-cellulose technologies; and
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties encourages the Government of Alberta to:
1. Take immediate action on the key recommendations contained in the Forest Industry Sustainability Committee (FISC) report specific to supporting business competiveness (labour, inflation, etc.) transportation choices & support, power costs and power supply, and protection fees; and further,
2. Allocate transformative technology funding to diversify the industry’s product offerings that contribute to the province’s energy, employment, environmental, and rural diversification strategies; and further,
3. Align its policies with federal government actions, such as the green transformative program, to augment industry specific energy / fuel programs, investments, and R & D efforts.
The economic cornerstone of many of Alberta’s communities is the forest products industry. Over 44,000 Albertan’s are directly employed in the industry. This employment contributes more than $1.6 billion in household income. The forest products industry is the primary economic engine in 50 Alberta communities. Of those, 12 communities are deemed forestry dependent.
The industry is in trouble in Alberta. Since 2006 the industry has lost 50,000 jobs nationwide. Forestry mills in a number of Alberta communities have closed, are likely to close, or have severely cut production. Some of the specific challenges facing the industry are:
– A transportation system (road and rail) that hinders an export based industry to ship products to distant markets expeditiously.
– Transportation monopolies that control price and service levels.
– Slow and complicated approval processes and implementation procedures that hampers the industry, a generator of renewable energy, in exporting surplus electrical power.
– Limitations in the electrical transmission system hindering industry expansion.
– Limited investment in research and development to create new products and product lines.
– Conflict between Federal and Provincial rules, regulations, and initiatives.
These hindrances could be addressed at the provincial level in a way that propels the forest products industry into an economic power house for the benefit of Alberta.
The AAMDC has no current resolutions directly related to this issue.
Sustainable Resource Development:
The Government of Alberta has accepted and is working to implement 54 of the 60 recommendations in the two Forest Industry Sustainability Committee (FISC) reports. For example, Alberta is encouraging investments in the bio-economy that uses wood fibre and is working to reduce transportation red tape.
Implementation requires the ongoing involvement of several provincial government ministries.
Alberta is also encouraging the province’s forest products companies to innovate in order to gain competitive advantages. Examples include:
• supporting investments in new technology to convert beetle-killed wood to marketable newsprint;
• helping to fund the new Alberta Biomaterials Development Centre, created in 2009, to develop new ways to make products from bio-based feedstock; and
• providing approximately $50 million in grants to forest companies to help develop bioenergy projects, with a total potential investment of $822 million.
In responding to this resolution, the Government of Alberta committed to supporting the competitiveness of the forestry sector through the implementation of most FISC report recommendations. However, the response did not address alignment of provincial policies with federal government actions. In October 2011, it was announced that two Alberta pulp mills would receive $9.6 million under the federal pulp-and-paper green transformation program. This money, awarded to plans in Slave Lake and near Boyle, is designed to enhance environmental performance and economic competitiveness, and as such speaks to the intent of this resolution. The association will continue to stress the importance of a healthy forestry sector at future meetings with the Minister of Sustainable Resource Development.