In the run-up to the 2020 census, the government will spend $6.2 billion in new funding to incentivise forestry workers to leave the industry.
The federal government says the initiative will help boost the number of forestry workers in the country by 25 per cent.
The Department of Finance says forestry jobs are expected to be “expanded in the next few years”.
But critics say the move amounts to a government-backed, taxpayer-funded incentive to forest workers to work in the bush.
The federal government is planning to increase the amount of federal forestry funds that forestry companies can receive.
In 2019, the Forestry Industry Association of Canada (FICA) called for the government to use its $1 billion in funding to pay forestry workers more and to make the industry’s work more attractive to potential workers.
FICA president Paul Martin said the government was doing “nothing more than subsidising the extraction of timber in the Canadian bush.”
In December, forestry workers across Canada were warned to stay away from federal land and refuse to sign a contract in exchange for their jobs.
“We have been told we are not welcome to return to the forestry industry, that we will not be paid,” said John Withers, a Calgary-based forestry worker.
Martin says that’s not true.
“I’ve been told many times, ‘if you don’t want to come back to the industry, then you are not going to come to Canada,'” he said.
FICA wants to see a fair wage for all forestry workers.
If the government can’t find the funding to support a forestry job, the organization says, it will hold a campaign of protests in cities across Canada to highlight the unfair treatment of forestry jobs.
In 2018, the forestry union representing workers in Alberta told CBC News the government should stop funding forestry.
“We’re just saying it’s not fair,” said Chris Bock, president of the Alberta Forestry Association.
“This is not fair to the workers, it’s just not fair.”
Martin says forestry companies in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland will also be on notice that the government isn’t interested in their labour.
“They are not receiving a fair deal.
We are not getting a fair rate of return,” Martin said.
“There is no money for the work.”