A few weeks ago, Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall reached out to mayors across Northern B.C. following the announcement of multiple curtailments impacting the forestry sector.

Just last week, Canfor announced the temporary curtailments at its Intercontinental and Northwood NBSK pulp mills in Prince George.

Earlier in June, it was announced that all sawmills in B.C., excluding WynnWood, will be curtailed for two weeks or the equivalent, with extended curtailments of four weeks at Houston and Plateau, and six weeks at Mackenzie.

The sudden changes in operations within the forest industry, as well as talk of potential closures, led Hall to wrangle together mayors, members of the Council of Forest Industries (COFI), as well as the Ministry of Forest, in order to talk about short-term and long-term plans in relation to the health of the industry, and the economic impact moving forward.

“I think there are things that we can do, and that’s the follow-up work that we need to do with those folks that were at the table. I think there are a few things impacting the industry right now, and one is certainly access to fibre; it’s the allowable cut, it’s the current market conditions worldwide for lumber. Those three things drastically impact operations.”

Hall stated that the future of the industry is up in the air so the continuing of meetings is important, especially when smaller communities are dependent on the industry.

“It’s important for the entire province to understand how important the forestry industry is to us,” stressed Hall. “You may not have a mill in your community, you may not have a major industry in your community that is forestry orientated, but at the end of the day it’s about the provincial economy, and it has a drastic impact on the provincial economy whenever anything begins to change within the forest industry.”

Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson says they also talked about what can’t be done to help out the forest industry, namely reducing stumpage or the carbon tax.

“Both the Council of Forest Industries and the government stated categorically that is not possible, and they will not be reducing any of the costs associated with the industry, because it would trigger a softwood lumber dispute and they would lose some upcoming appeals,” said Simpson.

Simpson said they received a commitment from the Deputy Forests Minister that the transition teams that are in place will receive additional resources.

He says they also all agreed that additional assistance was needed from the Federal Government.

“To look at the possibility of pension bridging and some additional resources through their Employment Insurance program. The Council of Forest Industries indicated that they would take the lead on drafting that on behalf of their member companies, because in many cases the companies usually have to initiate that dialogue with the Federal Government, and that we would look at a combined sign off between the province, local government, and COFI, for what those additional federal resources would be, so we’re waiting to see the draft of that letter sometime this week or next.”

Those in attendance from the Council of Forest Industries included President and CEO Susan Yurkovich, Chair Don Cain who is also the CEO of Canfor, West Fraser Vice-President James Gorman, and senior management from Carrier, Dunkley Lumber and Conifex.

With files from George Henderson, MyCaribooNow