The news that Canfor is permanently closing their Canal Flats operation indicates just how little the BC Liberals care about forest dependent communities, says Columbia River Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald.
Macdonald points to the Canal Flats closure as one in a long line of mill closures since the BC Liberal government changed the rules around “appurtenancy obligation” in the Forest Act agreement.
“The way it was set up prior to 2003 by the Social Credit government was that wood from an area needed to be milled in that area,” Macdonald said.
“The BC Liberals removed that obligation in 2003 and since then there has been a consolidation of milling. It makes sense for the companies of course, but for rural BC it leads to removal of industry. 200 mills have closed since the BC Liwberals changed that policy.”
Macdonald will be in Canal Flats on Monday to meet with Mayor Ute Juras and discuss the impact on her community.
He feels particularly frustrated about the Canal Flats closure because the economy for timber right now is favourable.
“In our area we have plentiful supplies of green wood and the low Canadian dollar is a huge advantage for the export of timber. It should be good times.
“But instead the BC Liberal government prefers to focus on fantasy LNG projects. They should be dealing with things that are real. The situation in Canal Flats was set up when the BC Liberals changed the rules. This government is controlled by industry, and equate the good of industry with the good of the public. But since that change in 2003 we have lost 30,000 jobs and 200 mills. There is no value added policy and exports of raw logs to China has increased eight or nine times.
“Canal Flats is just one more community in a very long list but it’s our community and our workers in Canal Flats and Kimberley that will be affected.”
Kootenay East MLA and Ministry of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett says his government will be there for the people of Canal Flats.
“There’s actually a program we have within the jobs ministry to help with transitions in communities where you have a major layoff like this, whether it’s a mine, saw mill, pulp mill or whatever it is.
“We have a swat team of people within the jobs ministry—it’s not a huge team of people—but it’s a very experienced and skilled group that goes into communities like Canal Flats and surrounding communities like Cranbrook and up the Columbia Valley where the workers live and work with the workers and try to help them through the transition to another job.
“So that is happening today, those folks mobilized yesterday as soon as we got word about this.
“It’s terrible news, obviously, to the community of Canal Flats. It’s their major employer, their major economic driver and it’s going to spell big challenges for the municipality.”
Meanwhile the local Steelworkers Union continues to express disappointment in how it all came down.
“We’re very disappointed,” said Local President Doug Singer. “Four months after a massive layoff, that they’ve now announced a closure of the Canal Flats operation. We’re extremely disappointed the company didn’t give it more time to see if it could be a success.
“There’s actually been a mill on that site or in that area for over 100 years, so the impact to the employees and the community and the families was bad enough with the layoffs, now this really is a huge impact all the way around.”
“We understand there are lots of pressures on the market, but four months is not a lot of time to see whether this is a workable solution or not, and things at the plant level seemed to be going fairly well.”