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Loggers get tax break, bailout fund

Truck Loggers
Truck Loggers' Association president Bill Markvoort greets Premier Christy Clark at the TLA convention in Victoria Friday.
— image credit: Tom Fletcher/Black Press

VICTORIA – Logging contractors compensated for loss of work when the B.C. government bought back forest tenure from big timber companies 10 years ago will get nearly $10 million in federal tax repaid to them, Premier Christy Clark announced Friday.

Speaking to the Truck Loggers' Association convention, Clark said the tax break was agreed to by federal finance officials after the latest plea from B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong.

The tax bill for 300 logging contractors has been a sore point for the industry since the B.C. government undertook a sweeping reorganization of Crown timber licences in 2003. A trust fund paid out $71 million after harvest licences were taken back from large companies to offer community and aboriginal logging projects.

The B.C. government later moved to exempt the compensation payments from provincial income tax, but Ottawa continued to treat the money as taxable income until now.

Clark also updated the audience on her pledge from last year to establish a fund to protect logging contractors who supply timber and don't get paid when a mill operator goes broke. She said the $5 million announced last year is now available for payments if required, and more money will be added as the government can afford to

Clark's speech had a campaign flavour, starting when she was introduced to a packed house of logging company executives with an invitation to come back again next year. It was the 70th annual TLA convention, which is traditionally closed with an address by the premier of the day.

The enthusiastic response came after Thursday's unpopular announcement by Forests Minister Steve Thomson that the government is increasing its log export fees for south coast and Vancouver Island logs by 20 per cent.

Much of B.C.'s growing log export trade comes from that region. Loggers argue that export revenues from coastal forests allow them to bring out a larger volume of other logs to deliver to domestic mills.

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