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Logs are piled up at West Fraser Timber in Quesnel, B.C., Tuesday, April 21, 2009.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

The B.C. government says it wants to put more people to work in the coastal forest industry by allowing more timber to hit the market and boosting the export fee on some raw logs.

Forests Minister Steve Thomson told members gathered for the Truck Loggers Convention on Thursday that government was increasing the coastal timber available by an extra 500,000 cubic metres and would hike fees up to 20 per cent on some logs bound for overseas markets.

"Our focus and our goal is to increase jobs and increase economic activity and opportunities for coastal communities and first nations, and we believe the steps we've taken today will assist in that," Mr. Thomson told reporters following his convention speech.

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"We believe … that will result in more wood moving to the domestic market," he said.

Mr. Thomson said the added fees for raw logs will be based on the difference between the domestic and export prices of timber, which represents about a 20-per-cent jump for those wanting to export a raw log.

The minister said the government is attempting to reach a balance between both the domestic and export markets. But he said the ministry remains steadfast that the coastal forest industry requires some raw log exports to remain viable.

He said the government is also chopping the fee for low- and mid-grade logs on the mid-coast in order to increase logging in areas where less valuable timber is growing.

Coast Forest Association President Rick Jeffery said the government changes could result in the creation of up to 4,000 jobs in the coastal industry.

But opposition New Democrat critic Norm Macdonald believes the changes will increase raw log exports and kill jobs at home.

Mr. Macdonald said the increased export fees aren't enough to reduce raw log exports.

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