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Smithers to feel effects of mill closure, says its mayor

Like Houston, Smithers wants province to share resource revenues
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Town of Smithers Mayor Gladys Atrill being sworn in following her election victory last fall. (Marisca Bakker photo)

The Town of Smithers will be making its own assessment of the impacts to its citizens and businesses from the upcoming closure of Canfor’s Houston sawmill, says Smithers mayor Gladys Atrill.

“When something like this happens to a community that’s so close to us, it will definitely have an effect,” said Atrill.

Canfor had employees living in Smithers and area and Smithers and area businesses will have economic ties to the mill, she added.

“We’re all stronger when our neighbours are stronger. We’re not better off when something like this happens,” Atrill said.

Canfor has cited weak markets, high logging costs and fibre supply challenges as reasons for the closure as of April.

It also says it wants to replace the mill with one that’s more efficient more suited to withstand market fluctuations but won’t be making that decision until June.

Atrill said Smithers will also want to know what Canfor intends to do with the wood it has under licence that it won’t be using.

“At the end of the day, that is a public resource and it should be extracted or logged as a benefit to that area and not be taken out of that area,” she said.

Smithers will be meeting with the District of Houston, Canfor, the Bulkley-Nechako regional district, the province, local businesses and agencies and local Indigenous governments to broaden its understanding of the impacts of the Canfor closure.

The Town of Smithers has also created what it calls an economic resiliency portal, a website containing a broad range of programs available for workers and businesses as well as press releases, statements and news articles concerning the Canfor closure.

It is also following along with the District of Houston in continuing to press the provincial government to share taxation revenue it receives from resource industries in the region by being members of the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance along with other local governments in the region.

“Announcements like this one in Houston make it so clear why we need this revenue sharing - to help us weather downturns and to ensure our communities remain liveable to our citizens even when a decision like this mill closure is made,” said Atrill.

Houston mayor Shane Brienen is one of three local government leaders from the region making up the benefits alliance steering committee and he’s been in Victoria this month to continue lobbying the province.