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Canfor looks for community support in bid to build mill

Wants letters sent to Premier David Eby and forests minister Bruce Ralston

Canfor is asking the community for help in persuading the provincial government to provide it with the wood it needs to replace its now-closed sawmill here with a new one.

In a widespread communication, company public relations official Michelle Ward said it has been approached by employees and contractors “asking what they can do to help Canfor make a positive investment decision”.

“All personnel can be encouraged to call/email/write to the Premier [David Eby] and [forests] minister [Bruce Ralston] to communicate ‘why’ a new mill in Houston is so important to them,” Ward wrote.

She said messages are needed as the company will be concluding its talks with the province in the coming weeks.

“Our discussions with government are continuing to progress well. Our employees have been asking how they can help and want to let government know how important a new facility in Houston is to them. We appreciate their support and desire to help,” said Ward.

She added that Canfor continues to speak to First Nations in the region about partnerships.

Canfor’s call for help to lobby the provincial government follows a delay in deciding whether or not it will build a new mill in Houston.

A decision had been expected when Canfor’s board of directors met July 27 to go over the company’s results for the second quarter of 2023.

But while the company said it had largely completed plans on what it wanted to build, a decision to do so remained unresolved.

“Work to assess the availability of an adequate supply of economic fibre to support an investment of this size and scope is continuing,” Canfor said July 27.

“This work includes discussions with the Government of BC to seek assurances on the long-term fibre supply outlook for the region. Management hopes to conclude these discussions within the coming weeks.”

Canfor first announced the end of January it was closing its Houston mill in April, saying the facility was out-dated, not nimble enough to respond to changing market conditions and vulnerable because of high costs and an uncertain fibre supply.

The closure affected more than 300 direct employees and other workers in the service and support sector.

A new mill would produce less finished product than the one now closed, require less fibre and employee fewer people.

Campaigns to persuade companies to build facilities in specific communities or to persuade governments to provide the means for companies to build facilities are not uncommon in the north.

The last extensive community-based campaign in the region took place in the long lead up to LNG Canada’s fall 2018 announcement it was going ahead with a multi-billion liquefied natural gas plant in Kitimat.

Rallies in both Terrace and Kitimat expressed support for the project and residents favouring the project were backed by local and provincial politicians.

The provincial government offered a break on the carbon tax and specific provincial sales tax exemptions as incentives to LNG Canada.

Canfor has said it cannot risk direct financial assistance for fear upsetting American manufacturers who believe Canadian mills are already being subsidized.

About the Author: Rod Link

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