22 north B.C. mayors urge Ottawa to help forest industry

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

Burns Lake mayor Dolores Funk co-signed a letter to the federal government seeking assistance amid the difficulties facing the forestry industry.

Twenty-one other mayors and regional district chairs in northern British Columbia added their signatures to the letter addressed to four senior officials in Ottawa.

“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 was sent 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 in B.C. forestry operations, most of them due to the high cost of lumber and state of the market.

“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, which operates two mills 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.

In addition to Funk and Bachrach, the letter signees include the mayors of Granisle, Fraser Lake, Vanderhoof, Prince George, Telkwa, Terrace, Hazelton, Mackenzie, Williams Lake, Pouce Coupe, Queen Charlotte, McBride, Valemount, and Dawson Creek.

Chairs of several regional districts also signed it, as well as Susan Yurkovich, President and Chief Executive Officer of the BC Council of Forest Industries.

with files from Blair McBride

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