The Leader-Post (Regina)


Dave Deibert


Calvert raises issue of Weyerhaeuser's timber rights

PRINCE ALBERT -- Premier Lorne Calvert raised the issue of timber rights in Saskatchewan on Thursday, following the release here of a report on the survival of the province's forestry industry.

The Premier's Task Force Report on Forest Development, which was one year in the making, offers 17 recommendations on how to lead a resurgence of a sector that has suffered blow after blow in the past 12 months.

Weyerhaeuser closed its pulp and paper mill in Prince Albert earlier this year, putting about 700 people out of work.

On Monday, the international forestry giant announced plans to close two more mills in the province.

Indefinite layoff notices effective Jan. 3 have been sent out to about 300 employees in Hudson Bay and Carrot River.

The United Steelworkers suggested Thursday that Calvert remove Weyerhaeuser's timber rights in northern Saskatchewan.

Calvert told reporters the union's argument had merit.

"It is clear to me if you're not doing business in our province, why would you have a right to our timber?" Calvert said.

However, Calvert did not threaten to cancel Weyerhaeuser's forestry management agreement, which will run for another two years. The task force released a 107-page report that offered four key conclusions:

- The P.A. mill is the lynch pin of the sector, and reopening it is the most viable way to restart the sector;

- Sustainable use of the forest is a must, and that requires active management;

- The sector needs to become competitive and focus on value-added products;

- Programs, research and development, along with government focus, are required to achieve the vision. The report made 17 recommendations, including moving from commodity-based products to the production of higher-valued, more technical products, such as the paper used in magazines.

It suggests establishing a panel to oversee the recommendations from the report, establishing a new forest sector through strategic government investment, soliciting and maintaining community and aboriginal involvement and establishing a new provincial department mandated to deliver renewable resource development, separate from current departments.