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.

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

Just Posted

B.C. premier talks forestry, service needs with handful of northern mayors in Prince George

Prince George meeting completes premier’s tour of Kitimat, Terrace, Fort St. James and Quesnel

PHOTOS: Roos go 1-1 over the weekend

Roos dominated the River Kings 8-3 on Saturday and lost a 4-3 heartbreaker to the Rampage on Sunday

Ulkatcho, Lhoosk’uz Dené sign agreements in support of Blackwater Mine project

Agreements commit to share portion of provincial mineral tax revenue collected from planned mine

B.C. Premier calls Quesnel a ‘hub of innovation’ in face of forestry downturn

Premier John Horgan tours Forestry Innovation Centre and meets with mayor, community representatives

Up to 45 exhibitors will be at Quesnel Job and Information Fair

Bring your resumé and meet representatives from the RCMP, Northern Health and many more

VIDEO: Nickelback gears up for nostalgia tour

Canadian band joins Stone Temple Pilots for a summer tour that includes just one stop in Canada

Province asks health-care staff to be ‘vigilant’ in screening for possible coronavirus cases

This comes after U.S. health officials confirmed a case of the virus in Washington State

Boy, 13, arrested after alleged assault involving girl at B.C. middle school

Boy alleged to have used ‘inappropriate levels of force’ to injure the girl

B.C. player becomes only second Canadian to enter Hall of Fame of Baseball

Walker received 76.6 percent of the Baseball Writers of America Association vote

PHOTOS: Heavy snowfall breaks window, causing avalanche into B.C. newsroom office

It was a chaotic start to the week for the Kitimat Northern Sentinel

Canadian law firm launches class action on behalf of Iran flight victims

Flight 752 was shot down by Iran shortly after take off

Mission Hill cellarman fired after mistakenly dumping $162K of wine down the drain

The former employee filed a grievance with the West Kelowna winery but was unsuccesful

Protesters block B.C. government building entrance to support Wet’suwet’en First Nation

A letter with four demands was delivered to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources

Most Read