(Black Press file photo)

21 Northern B.C. mayors urge Ottawa to help struggling forest industry

Letter aims to seek assistance through federal programs to deal with the crisis

Twenty-one northern B.C. mayors have sent a letter to the federal government in regard to the crisis in the province’s forest industry and are urgently seeking help.

“We’re urging them to come to the table with support for communities and employees bearing the brunt of mill closures. Hoping for a prompt and positive response,” wrote Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach in a tweet on Aug. 1.

The letter is addressed to Amarjeet Sohi, minister of natural resources, Chrystia Freeland, minister of foreign affairs, Patricia A. Hajdu, minister of employment, workforce development and labour, and Jeffrey Biggs, director of Natural Resources Canada.

The mayors write that the forest industry is one of the largest employers in the province, supporting 140,000 jobs, but that, since May 1, there have been 45 announcements of curtailments or closures of B.C. forestry operations, most of them due to the high cost of lumber and current market conditions.

READ MORE: Conifex employees uncertain about sale agreement

“Under current conditions, many operations are simply not viable, which is forcing difficult decisions to close, or curtail production to re-balance mill capacity with available timber supply,” states the letter.

As a result, communities and employees have been suffering, it says, and getting through the crisis would require a collective effort with industry, government at all levels, municipalities and workers.

In recent curtailments, Conifex in Fort St. James decided to close operations and sell the sawmill and forest license to Hampton Lumber in Burns Lake.

On Aug. 1, Sinclair Forests Group, which runs sawmills in Prince George, Vanderhoof and Fort St. James, said it was curtailing activity at three mills for two weeks starting Aug. 15.

The mayors who signed the letter include Mackenzie Mayor Joan Atkinson, Chair of the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George Art Kaehn, Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach, Terrace Mayor Carol Leclerc, Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb, Granisle Mayor Linda McGuire, Burns Lake Mayor Dolores Funk, Pouce Coupe Mayor Lorraine Michetti, Queen Charlotte Mayor Kris Olsen, Chair of the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine Phil Germuth, Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall, McBride Mayor Eugene Runtz, Chair of the Peace River Regional District Brad Sperling, Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen, Hazelton Mayor Dennis Sterritt, Valemount Mayor Owen M. Torgerson, Fraser Lake Mayor Sarrah Storey, Chair of the Cariboo Regional District Margo Wagner, Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead, Telkwa Mayor Brad Layton, Mayor of Northern Rockies regional municipality Gary Foster, President and Chief Executive Officer of the BC Council of Forest Industries Susan Yurkovich.

READ MORE: Sinclair Group announces temporary curtailment for sawmills

READ MORE: B.C. Liberals call for tax relief for struggling forest industry


Aman Parhar
Editor, Vanderhoof Omineca Express

aman.parhar@ominecaexpress.com

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