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“It’s a dark day for Prince George,”: Union President, city councillor weigh in on Canfor closure

The President of the Public and Private Workers of Canada Len Shankel Local 9 is still in shock over Canfor’s decision to shut down its pulp line at the Pulp and Paper Mill in PG.

As a result, 300 people will be out of a job later this year.

Chuck LeBlanc told Vista Radio that changes to the Forest Practices Board, Old Growth logging deferrals, and changes to the annual allowable cut led us to this point.

“The concentration of fibre got into a small group of hands and they were able to dictate how things were working. And then more recently, with the Old Growth logging deferrals and the Caribou habitat deferrals that have really impacted the Canfor fibre basket.”

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He added the province still exports about five million cubic meters of timber each year – that equates to eight to ten decent-sized sawmills, which could support a couple of pulp mills.

“That’s the crux of it. Bad forest policy has led us here, it’s not an NDP problem, it’s not a BC Liberals problem, it’s our government’s problem and we need to stand up and protect jobs here in British Columbia.”

LeBlanc added the union will be working with Canfor and impacted members on severance options and available support programs through the province and WorkBC.

“A lot of us could see something happening in the Prince George-Quesnel area with pulp mills. There are five mills between the two cities that consume a lot of fibre from the sawmills and with the curtailments happening in the sawmill industry right now sooner or later it funnels to us. So, it was a big surprise you are always hoping its the other guy and not you but it is us and we are going to work our way now to support our members.”

“It’s a dark day for Prince George.”

Those were the exact words from city councillor Garth Frizzel following the gutting announcement by Canfor.

Frizzell added a move like this has been coming down the pipe for over three decades but it’s still quite a shock.

“Over the last 35 years, they (Canfor) have been expecting an impact from the 40% decrease in the annual allowable cut. I hope the province and other like the city have been actively taking steps to plan for this moment. We knew it would come someday, we just didn’t know it would be so sudden.”

This comes less than a week before the start of the BC Natural Resources Forum, which runs from January 17th to 19th where BC Premier David Eby will speak at the event.

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Frizzell stated the city has been focused on diversifying the economy amid the constant state of flux the forestry sector has been under the past few years.

In October of 2021, Hydra Energy delivered its first hydrogen-converted semi-truck in Prince George to Lodgewood Enterprises.

It was the first of 12 trucks supplied to Lodgewood.

Hydra noted the vehicle is capable of reducing emissions by up to 40%, it runs on a diesel-hydrogen mix, or it can run on diesel by itself.

About a year later (September 2022), a groundbreaking ceremony was held by the City of Prince George and Hydra Energy to begin construction on the world’s largest hydrogen refueling station.

The new station, located on five acres at 9048 Sintich Road, will produce 3,250 kilograms of hydrogen every day and can refuel up to 24 Hydra-converted trucks each hour.

It will also allow for diesel fueling, so drivers only have to make one stop.

Hydra’s Prince George station is expected to be operational in early 2024.

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“Things like that are what we have been actively pursuing. You have to go out and do the work even if you don’t have enough tools. There have been some successes but it’s a work in progress, you always have to be looking for industry, for higher-tech jobs and opportunities to come into the city,” added Frizzell.

with files from Darin Bain and staff


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