Giant tree crusher left behind after the construction of the W.A.C. Bennett Dam is landmark that greets visitors coming into Mackenzie, a community north of Prince George established in the 1960s as a forest industry centre. (Wikimedia Commons)

Forests minister visits B.C. town rocked by multiple mill shutdowns

A third of Mackenzie turns out for rally, not much to cheer about

B.C. Forests Minister Doug Donaldson spoke to a forest industry rally in Mackenzie Thursday, where all three three sawmills are shut down and the pulp mill may soon have to follow.

The community north of Prince George has seen hard times before, when most of two sawmills and the pulp mill went down with the 2008 bankruptcy of Oregon-based Pope and Talbot. Conifex restarted the pulp mill and one sawmill, Canfor ran another one until July, when it shut it down indefinitely due to high costs, low lumber prices and what the company called “challenging operating conditions.”

That leaves the pulp mill, now owned by Paper Excellence, as the only operation still running, and it depends on sawmill waste. East Fraser Fibre’s remanufacturing mill uses trim blocks from local sawmills, so it is down too, Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Mike Morris says.

Morris said there are 3,000 people still living in Mackenzie, down by half since before the last downturn in 2008, and about a third of them came out to the rally. They didn’t have much to cheer about.

Donaldson told the rally that he has met with players looking for solutions, and the provincial agency B.C. Timber Sales is in discussions with Conifex to provide enough timber to restart its sawmill in September.

“We know restarting the Conifex sawmill would provide support, not only for mill workers, but also downstream businesses in the area that rely on the mill residuals, including Conifex Power, Fraser Power and Paper Excellence,” Donaldson told the rally.

He warned that while reducing provincial stumpage is often suggested, that’s an action sure to spark further trade actions from U.S. lumber producers who have already convinced their government to impose border duties of about 20 per cent.

Donaldson said the province is working on efforts including job fairs, skills training and career counselling for laid-off workers, similar to efforts in Fort St. James, where the Conifex sawmill has been shut down and sold, and other communities that have seen temporary or permanent shutdowns.

RELATED: Fort St. James employees uncertain about mill sale

RELATED: 172 layoffs as Canfor closes Vavenby sawmill

Morris said the NDP government should be looking at the “cumulative tax structure” for mill operations and give them some temporary relief.

“The frustrating part for locals is watching all these logs that have been harvested in the Mackenzie area transported out of town every day on trucks down to Canfor operations, West Fraser operations, Dunkley Lumber operations that are operating today in other parts of the country, and nobody’s milling logs here,” Morris said in an interview.

Donaldson said he has called on the federal government to provide additional worker support, and to “press the gas pedal” on a resolution to the U.S. lumber dispute.

Morris and Donaldson agree on the community’s ability to bounce back from hard times.

“From what you’ve shown today and in the past, your resiliency, your creativity, your determination, I’m confident Mackenzie has a solid future,” Donaldson told the rally.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Here’s your chance to hear the federal candidates in Sicamous and Salmon Arm

All-candidates forums upcoming in Salmon Arm and Sicamous

Survey to help update evacuation plans for Shuswap communities

The CSRD wants to hear from the public about evacuation preparedness in their areas

Salmon Arm council to lobby for highway improvements, police officers and more

Mayor and councillors to have the ear of provincial politicians at UBCM convention

Salmon Arm’s Hillcrest Elementary shocked, saddened by death of teacher

Well-loved Grade 4 teacher passed away suddenly over weekend

‘I shouldn’t have done it,’ Trudeau says of brownface photo

Trudeau says he also wore makeup while performing a version of a Harry Belafonte song

35 of 87 dogs in 2018 Williams Lake seizure were euthanized due to behavioural issues, BCSPCA confirm

The dogs did not respond to the behaviour modification and remained terrified of humans

Vernon race organizer head-butted by homeless man won’t be stopped

Man arrested after allegedly stealing race flags, assaulting woman in Kalamalka Lake park

B.C. ‘tent city’ disputes spark call for local government autonomy

UBCM backs Maple Ridge after province overrules city

WHL action returns to Okanagan, Rockets GM anxious for season’s start

Big off-season changes, the Memorial Cup; it’s all coming together for Bruce Hamilton

B.C. drug dealers arrested after traffic stop near Banff turns into helicopter pursuit

Antonio Nolasco-Padia, 23, and Dina Anthony, 55, both well-known to Chilliwack law enforcement

Lake Country aims to find happy-medium in Airport Inn shutdown

Airport Inn residents will have until Oct. 5. to find a new home unless an appeal is approved

Most Read