NORTH BAY — The Ontario government released Sustainable Growth: Ontario’s Forest Sector Strategy, the province’s plan to create jobs and encourage economic growth in the forest industry. The strategy will support the Indigenous, northern and rural communities that depend on the sector, while ensuring the province’s forests stay healthy for generations to come. The announcement was made today by John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.

“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 Minister 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 fundamental pillar of the strategy is the promotion of stewardship and sustainability, recognizing the importance of keeping Crown forests healthy, diverse, and productive so Ontario’s forest industry can remain viable over the long term. The strategy also focusses on the importance of putting more wood to work, improving cost competitiveness, and fostering innovation, new markets and talent.

Since announcing the intention to create a strategy in late 2018, and following the launch of the draft strategy in December 2019, the government has held comprehensive consultations, hosting 27 engagement sessions with Indigenous leaders, municipalities and industry, as well as collecting feedback from the public through multiple Environmental Registry postings.

The new 10-year forestry strategy is deeply rooted in Ontario’s sustainable forest policy framework, which is among the most rigorously regulated systems in the world. Ontario’s forest sector plants approximately 73 million trees annually and drops an additional 365 million seeds aerially on harvested Crown lands to help regenerate forests. The province has 71 million hectares of forest, of which 27.7 million hectares are managed Crown forests. Less than half of one per cent of managed Crown forests is harvested each year.

“As we saw during the COVID-19 outbreak, the forest sector and its products are not only critical to the economy, but to the lives of all Ontarians, providing essential forest products for hygiene, food and medical supplies, as well as packaging and shipping products,” said Minister Yakabuski. “In many Ontario communities, forestry jobs are the heart of the economy, and this strategy is part of our plan to build Ontario together with a better quality of life and a higher standard of living in every region of the province in a sustainable and responsible way.”

“We recognize a strong forest sector is essential to creating good jobs and opportunities in every region of the province — especially for people in northern and rural Ontario. The Forest Sector Strategy is about helping the sector reach its full potential while ensuring forests are managed sustainably now and for future generations,” said Mike Harris, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.

“Ontario’s forestry industry is among the best in the world, and it employs about 147,000 people in the province. This strategy will strengthen the sector even further so it can continue to grow and create good jobs for years to come,” said Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade.

“Today’s final strategy will bring stability and opportunity to the many people and communities across Northern Ontario who benefit from good-paying jobs in the forestry sector. Our government is making targeted investments in the forest sector, creating jobs and stimulating economic growth and prosperity for the people of Northern Ontario today and into the future,” said Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and Minister of Indigenous Affairs.

“Our goal is to support a strong forestry sector and the many communities that rely on this industry, while protecting the environment through sustainable management of Ontario’s Crown forests. That is why, as part of our efforts to modernize Ontario’s 50-year-old environmental assessment program, we are improving coordination with existing processes to deliver that same, strong environmental oversight for forestry activities while removing the duplicative requirements of the Declaration Order under the Environmental Assessment Act,” said Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.

“Investing in Ontario’s forestry sector will stimulate growth, create opportunities and continue to develop the skilled workforce that propels Ontario forward. This strategy will ensure that our local economies thrive and that our forests can be enjoyed for years to come,” said Ross Romano, Minister of Colleges and Universities.

“On March 23rd, during the early stages of the pandemic, Ontario was the first jurisdiction in Canada to declare the forest sector as essential. We want to thank the government for recognizing the critical role Ontario’s innovative forest sector plays in our province’s recovery and we are pleased that today, the Ontario government has committed to unleashing the full potential of Ontario’s forest sector. We look forward to working with Minister Yakabuski to implement a bold and ambitious Forest Sector Strategy, aimed at making Ontario a leading international jurisdiction. Collaboration between government, rural communities and other rightsholders has facilitated productive dialogue to ensure that everyone dependent on the forest sector will benefit from this strategy. We look forward to continuing this conversation and building Ontario together,” said Jamie Lim, President and CEO, Ontario Forest Industries Association.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors for the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association and our membership, we congratulate Minister Yakabuski and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry on the creation of Sustainable Growth: Ontario’s Forest Sector Strategy. Northwestern Ontario relies on a robust forest industry to support our economy. By working with leaders from municipalities, Indigenous communities and environmental organizations, the Government of Ontario has delivered a framework poised to lead the next generation of the forestry sector to success,” said Wendy Landry, President, Northwestern Ontario Municipalities Association.

“The Board of Directors for The Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities wishes to recognize the north’s efforts and dedication, as shown by Minister Yakabuski and his ministerial staff on the development of Sustainable Growth: Ontario’s Forest Sector Strategy. Northern Ontario residents take pride in the forest sector’s economic impact and the importance of the sustainable, well-managed forest industry,” said Danny Whalen, President, Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities.

“Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek is looking forward to working with Minister Yakabuski and his staff to implement many of the key actions outlined in the Forest Sector Strategy. We feel that this will help us grow and strengthen our sawmill, which operates on our reserve lands, employing First Nation members, as well as Lake Nipigon Forest Management Inc. and our contracting company Four Nations Forestry, which we run with our First Nation neighbours. The Minister’s commitment that the strategy will help build strong, mutually beneficial relationships and partnerships with Indigenous communities is essential to our forestry-dependent community to create jobs, economic opportunities and prosperity for future generations. We look forward to working with the ministry on the implementation of this strategy,” said Chief Joe Ladouceur, Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek .

“Anishinabek Nation supports Ontario’s Forest Sector Strategy and the commitments made. The strategy will position Ontario to be the leading jurisdiction within Canada in creating a healthy and sustainable forestry industry. The strategy will provide many opportunities for the member Anishinabek First Nations that will strengthen their economies that are critical for their economic and social well-being for prosperity,” said Northern Superior Regional Deputy Grand Council Chief Edward Wawia, Anishinabek Nation.

An Advisory Committee will be tasked with developing and overseeing an implementation plan, including providing input on proposed key performance indicators in the short, medium and long term.