Last week, the Government of Alberta announced that they were making changes to the Forestry Act. I thought I’d go through the new Act, compare it with the previous version, and highlight some of the more significant changes being made.
Let’s start with section 8.1:
8.1 The Minister may, by order, prescribe or provide for the method of prescribing
(a) fees and other charges to be paid in connection with the submission of anything to the Crown or for any service or thing provided by the Crown under this Act and the regulations
(b) rates to be charged for the use of employees and equipment
and facilities of the Minister’s department.
This is a brand new section. And it seems as though it’s giving the minister over forestry broad powers to unilaterally change the fees that the government charges those who harvest trees on public land.
Under section 17 on quotas, the following were added:
17(5) Notwithstanding section 18(4), the director may authorize a timber quota holder to harvest Crown timber under the quota holder’s timber quota without obtaining a timber licence.
17(6) With the exception of section 25(6), every provision under the At or regulations that applies in respect of a timber licence applies, with any necessary modifications, in respect of a timber quota referred to in subsection (5).
What is section 18(4)? Well, I’m glad you asked.
18(4) A timber quota holder shall not commence harvesting timber
until the quota holder has obtained a timber licence.
This section literally says you can’t harvest timber—even if you’re a quota holder—unless you have a licence first. The new section 17(5) says that the director can waive that requirement, allowing anyone to forgo needing a licence to harvest timber.
And what about section 25(6) mentioned in section 17(6)?
25(6) The Minister may reinstate a suspended or cancelled timber licence or timber permit on application by the holder within 60 days after the date of suspension or cancellation if the Minister is satisfied that the holder has reasonably complied with any order that the Minister has made for the purpose of reinstating the timber licence or timber permit.
Not only can the minister decide who gets to harvest without a licence, but they get to personally decide who gets to have their suspended license reinstated. All the person has to do is convince the minister that they’ve “reasonably complied” with any reinstatement requirements that the minister has set.
So, the minister sets the reinstatement requirements then personally decides whether the person or entity meets those requirements.
Another changesis a slight modification to section 18(5):
18(5) The harvesting of timber under the authority of a quota certificate must be carried out, subject to section 19, in consecutive 5- or 10-year harvest periods, each called a quadrant.
Previously, this section limited harvest periods to just 5 years. The new act added 10-year harvest periods.
The new act completely removed section 23:
23 No timber licence or timber permit, except for non-commercial use, may be issued until the applicant has satisfied the director that the applicant has complied with the Workers’ Compensation Act.
So, I guess you can get a timber licence without complying with workers’ compensation?
It also changed section 25(3) to remove the previous requirement of the minister to obtain cabinet approval before cancel a forest management agreement. Likewise, the minister no longer needs cabinet approval for reinstating a suspended or cancelled forest management agreement, as of the new section 25(5).
The government has changed timber dues as well.
Here are 4 charts showing not only the new dues, but what the dues looked like over the past 5 years.
As you can see, dues have been raised significantly by the UCP, particularly over the last 5 years. In fact, all but deciduous pulpwood dues are at their highest levels in the last 5 years.