Bridging to Retirement Program

On November 2, 2021, Government announced an updated Bridging to Retirement program as part of a suite of forest industry supports for workers impacted by old growth deferral decisions across B.C.

The Bridging to Retirement program is open for impacted and voluntary full-time workers at least 55 years old – who are B.C. forestry mill workers, forestry-dependent contractors and their employees – to transition to retirement. Forestry workers could be eligible for up to $75,000 in combined retirement bridging funding, depending on individual factors including years of experience, age at retirement and employer contribution.

The voluntary Bridging to Retirement program option will have specified intakes. The current intake is now open for a maximum of 200 voluntary retirees. There will be other voluntary intake windows in the future and you are encouraged to visit the website for updates.

On this page:

All applicants

The Province is committed to supporting workers affected by old growth deferral decisions in B.C.’s forest industry. The updated Bridging to Retirement program is designed to support full time mill workers, forestry-dependent contractors and their employees aged 55 and older who are impacted by the old growth deferral process. This will help these workers transition to retirement and keep their communities strong.

The Bridging to Retirement program is open for impacted and voluntary workers of B.C. forestry mills, forestry-dependent contractors and their employees. In this voluntary intake, a maximum of 200 voluntary applications will be accepted.

Eligibility

If you work full time for a B.C. forest industry mill or are a B.C. forestry-dependent contractor or an employee of a forestry-dependent contractor and have been impacted by old growth deferral decisions, you may be eligible for early retirement bridging benefits.

To be eligible for support through the Bridging to Retirement program, workers must:

  • Work full time in a B.C. mill or be a forestry-dependent contractor or their full-time employee
  • Be at least 55 years old
  • Have worked for the last 2 consecutive years in the mill or business
  • Are either:
    1. Displaced on or after Nov. 2, 2021 due to an old growth deferral decision, fiber supply shortages or pause in BC Timber Sales, resulting in a permanent or indefinite closure, or a curtailment of at least four months, or:
    2. Willing to voluntarily retire, have an employer who supports participation in the program and the retirement creates a vacancy for an impacted worker

Then:

  • If an applicant receives a confirmation of eligibility letter from the Bridging to Retirement program, they must agree to permanently vacate their position and relinquish seniority with the employer
  • To receive retirement bridge funding, the applicant must agree to not work as an employee in any industry for 18 months
    • However, they are able to start or run their own business during that time

Forestry-Dependent Contractors/Business Owners

Eligibility Criteria for a forest-dependent contractor/business owners in B.C. who is impacted by old growth deferral decision, a fiber supply shortage or a pause in BC Timber Sales, and:

  • Are at least 55 years old
  • Are a B.C. resident
  • Operate a B.C.-based business 
  • Worked as a contractor in the forestry sector for at least the last 2 consecutive years
  • Received 60% of business income from contracts dependent on old growth deferral areas and business relocation is not viable
  • Demonstrate that there has been a reduction in business income from contracts dependent on old growth deferral areas
  • For forestry-dependent contractors with 1-2 employees, have net business equipment asset worth less than 1 million dollars
  • For contractors with 3 or more employees, have net business equipment assets worth less than 3 million dollars
  • Agree to close their business and not work as an employee in any industry for 18 months
    • The owner can start and run a new business

What you need to apply

To submit a complete application, please provide the following documents (copies are acceptable):

  • One of the following pieces of identification: birth certificate, driver's license, Canadian Citizenship Certificate, Permanent Resident Card, or passport
  • Income tax returns for the last 2 years
  • Two most recent pay stubs (if an employee)
  • A T4 slip
  • A Record of Employment or a letter from employer confirming employment (if an employee)
    • Copies of Records of Employment (ROI) and T4 slips can be obtained through the Government of Canada’s My Service Canada Account webpage
  • The program must receive written approval from your employer agreeing to your participation in the program before program eligibility can be confirmed

If you are a contracting business owner you will be required to provide these additional documents:

  • Business income tax returns (showing your legal business name) for the last 2 years
  • A documented list of net business equipment assets
  • Confirmation/proof of contracts for each of the last 2 years
  • Letter(s) of termination for contracts that have been terminated or impacted due to old growth deferral decisions
  • Written confirmation that relocation of the business within the region is not viable

For more information, phone toll free: 1-844-478-0822, or email LBR.ForestryWorker@gov.bc.ca.

Questions about the collection of this information should be directed to the Manager of the Bridging to Retirement Program at 1-844-478-0822 or by mail:

Manager, Bridging to Retirement Program
PO Box 9594
Stn Prov Govt
Victoria B.C. V8W 9K4

How to apply

Please check the Bridging to Retirement eligibility criteria prior to submitting your application.

Submit your application

In-person:

Please visit a Service BC office to use a computer to apply online.

By phone, email or mail:

If you do not have a computer, wish to fill out a paper application or need assistance applying online, please visit, phone, email or mail Service BC:

After completing the online application, please mail supporting documents to:

Bridging to Retirement Program
Ministry of Labour
PO Box 9594
Stn Prov Govt
Victoria B.C. V8W 9K4

Frequently asked questions

Eligibility information

Eligibility Criteria for a B.C. mill worker or employee of a forest dependent contractor in B.C. who is impacted by an old growth deferral decision, a fiber supply shortage or pause on BC Timber Sales, and:

  • You are a full-time worker in any B.C. mill or an employee of a forest-dependent contractor
  • You are 55 years of age or older when you apply
  • You worked at a B.C. mill or for a forest-dependent contractor for the last 2 consecutive years
  • You were displaced on or after Nov 2, 2021, due to an old growth deferral decision, a pause in BC Timber Sales or a fiber supply shortage resulting in a permanent or indefinite closure or a curtailment of at least 4 months

Forestry-Dependent Contractor Owners are eligible to apply if they:

  • Are at least 55 years old
  • Are a B.C. resident
  • They are a forestry-dependent contractor who operates a B.C.-based business 
  • Worked as a contractor in the forestry sector for at least the last 2 consecutive years
  • At least 60% of business income comes from contracts dependent on old growth deferral areas. Value-added and remanufacturing businesses are included.
  • Demonstrate that there has been reduction in business income from contracts dependent on old growth deferral areas
  • For forest-dependent contractors with 1-2 employees, net business equipment asset ownership cannot exceed $1 million
  • For contractors with 3 or more employees, net business equipment asset ownership cannot exceed $3 million
  • Owner agrees to close their business and not work as an employee in any industry for at least 18 months
    • The owner may be able to start a new business

A forest dependent contractor is a business that derives 60% or more of its business income/revenue from work in the forest industry. All employees of a forest dependent contractor can apply if they are impacted by an old growth deferral decision.

 

3. How much of an Old Growth Deferral Bridging Benefit am I eligible for? What if I'm 65+?

The maximum amount available for 55-year-old employees with 15 or more years of experience is $75,000. The maximum amount available declines by $5,000 per year until age 65. To receive the maximum amount, you must have 15 years or more of experience in the forestry sector. The actual benefit amount will be determined based on the eligibility criteria, your age and specific individual history and any employer contribution for compensation for length of service under the Employment Standards Act.

 

4. Will workers impacted by a pause put on BC Timber Sales resulting in Fiber Supply Shortages be eligible?

Yes, workers and contractor owners are eligible if they were displaced or lost contracts on or after Nov 2, 2021, due to an old growth deferral decision or pause on BC Timber Sales resulting in Fiber Supply Shortages leading to permanent or indefinite closure or a curtailment of at least 4 months.

This program is designed to support full-time forest mill workers or employees or owners of a forestry dependent contractor in B.C. who are impacted because of an old growth deferral decision, resulting in job loss, indefinite curtailment, or shift reduction on or after Nov 2, 2021.

The Bridging to Retirement Program is designed to help support forestry mill workers or employees of forestry dependent contractors and communities impacted by the old growth deferral process leading to job loss, indefinite curtailments and permanent mill closures or work reduction. 

In 2022, there will be new intake windows opened for specified periods specifically for voluntary retirees to apply. When a voluntary window opens for applications, your target retirement date must be within 6 months in the future.

 

7. My last two years of employment were not consecutive, as I worked for different forest dependent contractors over 2 years and had one or more breaks in employment or I was laid off a few months during a temporary closure. Am I eligible to apply?

You may still be eligible if you had gaps in work during those two years, depending on whether you were attached to the forestry sector in BC and the reason for those gaps. Collecting Employment Insurance is an acceptable reason for a gap in consecutive employment. Other acceptable reasons include, but are not necessarily limited to medical leave, maternity/paternity leave and jury duty.  The program will evaluate reasons for gaps on a case-by-case basis, so you are encouraged to apply and provide as much supporting documentation as possible.

 

Application process information 

The Bridging to Retirement Program is intended, over the next 4 years, to support impacted forest mill workers and employees of forest dependent contractors who, because of an old growth deferral decision, experienced job loss, indefinite curtailment, or shift reduction. 

The application intake is open for impacted workers and those who are willing to voluntarily retire from B.C. forestry mills, forestry dependent contractors, and their employees. 

Those workers who wish to apply to retire voluntarily will have an opportunity to do so during specific intake windows during each year that the program is open. Voluntary intake windows will be announced closer to opening dates and you are encouraged to visit the website for updates.

While the process is intended to be as quick as possible, the length of time may vary for each person depending on the completeness of the information provided and any information that may be needed from you or your employer. 

Please be aware that any benefit you may be eligible for will not be paid until after application approval and payment information is confirmed. If you have not yet retired, payment is not made until after your retirement date.

 

10. The application requires income tax returns to be provided. Is the entire income tax return, including schedules and worksheets required? Can I just provide a notice assessment?

The program requires a recent T4 slip and 2 years of income tax returns to show all income sources and verify as an employee that your primary income is from a B.C. Forestry Mill or from a forest dependent contractor. This cannot be determined from just a Notice of Assessment and T4. The program requires a copy of your return, also called an “Income Tax and Benefit Return” by the CRA, which is usually 3-4 pages (example) but does not require the supporting schedules and worksheets. A copy of the electronic filing of your return is also acceptable.

Please note: if you have already provided a Notice of Assessment, it may be used later by the program to confirm RRSP confirmation room if your application is approved, and you want your benefit to go towards your RRSP.

 

11. What are the steps after the application has been submitted?

The program will send you a confirmation letter of approval or decline of eligibility by email or mail once your application is received. The program will contact you if there is any missing information to ensure your application is complete. Completed applications will be reviewed to determine whether you are eligible. A letter will be sent to inform you of your eligibility and if there is funding available. If you are eligible, the letter will include the eligible benefit amount and describe next steps. 

 

12. If my application is approved, will I be informed of the amount before I make my final decision to receive the funding?

Yes, the program will calculate the bridging benefit and send a letter to inform you of the bridging amount. You will be required to provide written, signed confirmation of your retirement date and acceptance of your obligations for receiving the benefit.

  1. After you have applied and you receive confirmation of your eligibility from the program, you must agree to permanently vacate your position and relinquish all seniority with the employer
  2. To receive retirement bridge funding, you must agree to not work as an employee in B.C. for a period of 18 months
  3. You can start or run your own business during those 18 months

 

Payment and RRSP information

The timing of the benefit payment depends on your retirement date and when the program receives your direction for the payment. If you are approved, you will be provided with a Direction to Pay form so you can direct the bridging benefit portion to be paid via cheque, direct deposit and/or as an RRSP contribution. Payments cannot be made until the Program receives both your completed form and confirmation that you have retired. You can cancel your application any time prior to the program receiving your completed Direction to Pay form.

Once your eligibility has been confirmed and the benefit amount calculated, you can direct the bridging benefit portion to be paid via cheque, direct deposit and/or as a contribution to your RRSP.

  • To receive funds by direct deposit, you will need to provide banking information to the program.
  • To make contributions to your RRSP, you will be required to provide RRSP transfer information, along with the most recent income tax Notice of Assessment for you, prior to receiving the payment. The Notice of Assessment is mailed each year after submitting your income tax return. On the Assessment, the ‘Available Contribution Room’ section shows the available RRSP contribution amount for the next year.
  • When your application is processed there may be other options to direct how you receive your benefit.
 

16. Will I have to pay taxes on the bridging benefit amount that I receive?

The bridging benefit is a taxable benefit; the taxes to be paid will depend on how you choose to direct the payment between a cheque, direct deposit or as a contribution to your RRSP.  You may be able to add it to your or your spousal RRSP if contribution space is available, however it is recommended that you seek tax advice to understand any tax impact in your situation.

No, receiving the bridging benefit does not require that you start taking your pension. The Bridging to Retirement Program is intended to support you in your transition to retirement.

A forest dependent contractor is a business that derives 60% or more of its business income/revenue from work in the forest industry.

All employees of forest dependent contractors can apply if they are impacted by an old growth deferral decision.