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.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey RCMP not seeing ‘significant loss’ in ranks because of COVID-19

Surrey Mounties say they have a good tracking system to keep tabs on police officers experiencing an illness

COVID-19: Daily update on the pandemic in Surrey, White Rock and beyond

APRIL 1: B.C.’s state of emergency extended, provincial health officer to provide update at 3 p.m.

Supreme Court upholds White Rock council decision on Lady Alexandra development

Planned 12-storey highrise on lower Johnston Road was stalled in 2018

No final high school game for Surrey all-stars; six scholarship winners named

COVID-19 forces cancellation of all-star games for boys and girls at Enver Creek gym April 3

B.C. records five new COVID-19 deaths, ‘zero chance’ life will return to normal in April

Province continue to have a recovery rate of about 50 per cent

Liberals delay release of 75% wage subsidy details, costs: Morneau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

World COVID-19 update: NATO suspicious of Russian military drills; Cruise ships ordered to stay at sea

Comprehensive update of coronavirus news from around the world for Wednesday, April 1

John Horgan extends B.C.’s state of emergency for COVID-19

Premier urges everyone to follow Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice

UPDATE: 6.5-magnitude earthquake in Idaho shakes B.C. Interior

An earthquake was reportedly felt just before 5 p.m. throughout the Okanagan

Two inmates at prison housing Robert Pickton test positive for COVID-19

Correctional Service of Canada did not release any details on the identities of the inmates

B.C. heart surgery patient rarely leaves home

James Jepson is especially vulnerable to the novel coronavirus

BC SPCA launches matching campaign to help vulnerable animals after big donations

Two BC SPCA donors have offered up to $65,000 in matching donations

Anti-tax group calls for MPs, senators to donate scheduled pay raises to charity

Bill C-30, adopted 15 years ago, mandates the salary and allowance increases each calendar year

Most Read