“It is going to take some time for the dust to settle, but man it is quite a cloud right now.”
That is according to Allan Courtoreille, the mayor of Chetwynd, after Canfor announced they will be winding down operations to a full and permanent halt in the northern community.
Courtoreille told Vista Radio the rumours of a mill shutdown were starting to fly around his town a year ago so was not blindsided by the decision, but “as for it hitting you in the face when they do tell you it is permanent, that is devastating.”
157 mill workers will be without jobs as a result, a huge economic hit to Chetwynd’s current population of about 3,100 people.
“Each one taking home approximately $2,500 every two weeks, that is quite the impact,” he said – by his estimate that is $785,000 a month that will no longer be in circulation.
“Those are just the immediate workers, we are talking about logging companies and haulers, that is another group that will be impacted,” Courtoreille said, thinking the actual number of people’s jobs impacted could be more than double the 157 people directly laid off.
“Devastating news to hear of the loss of hundreds more jobs,” Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond told Vista Radio.
“We know there is work to be done as we look at the forest sector in the future, but in the short term the number one priority has to be how we can support these families.”
Alongside Chetwynd, Canfor also announced the long-term shutdown of their mill in Houston, where approval for a site redevelopment is still pending.
“We have to have that discussion about the factors that need to be considered to make sure there is a viable option there,” Bond said.
“We know that the high cost of production is an issue, we know there are policy issues that need to be discussed.”
She continued to say it will be her job, as well as others who represent the province’s north, to make sure discussions are had with the government and Canfor to make sure logging is still viable.
“You need a government that understands there is a critical need to ensure there is a forestry industry moving forward,” Bond said.
“Do I believe there needs to be expertise brought to the table, people who understand the industry to look at the benefits and the downsides of current forest policy, of course I do. That is what it is going to take as we map out a vision of the forest sector in the future.”
For now, Bond said the government’s top priority needs to be “taking care of the people whose families have been impacted by another round of bad news.”
While this will hurt Chetwynd, Courtoreille does not think it will be the killing blow to the small town’s economy – mentioning the two other mills that are running, the Coastal GasLink pipeline, and coal mines in the Chetwynd area.