The Elko sawmill is part of the province-wide Canfor sawmill shutdowns. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Canfor adds Christmas closure to B.C. forestry curtailments

More Vancouver Island loggers laid off in industry downturn

As B.C. politicians argued in the legislature about the ongoing job losses in the forest industry Monday, Canfor Corp. announced its latest province-wide shutdown of sawmill operations from Christmas to after New Year’s Day.

The shutdown is expected to remove 58 million board feet of production, in addition to previously announced curtailments this year, said Stephen Mackie, Canfor’s senior vice president for Canadian operations.

“We deeply regret that our employees have been impacted by multiple curtailments in 2019,” Mackie said in a statement Monday afternoon. “We know it has been a difficult year for our employees, contractors, their families and local communities.”

All B.C. sawmills will be down from Dec. 23 to Jan. 3, except for the Wynwood specialty mill in the Central Kootenay region, which will close for five days, Mackie said.

The announcement came as Forests Minister Doug Donaldson was being questioned in the legislature about Mosaic Forest Management’s shutdown of contract logging on Vancouver Island, which took effect Monday. Mosaic began its annual winter shutdown early.

RELATED: Mosaic Forest announces indefinite logging shutdown

RELATED: B.C. Interior communities rocked by sawmill closures

“The temporary curtailment impacts contractors, both union and non-union workers – approximately 2,000 people – across the coast,” Mosaic spokesperson Pam Agnew said, citing “very challenging pricing and market conditions.”

Mosaic, a partnership of Island Timberlands and Timberwest formed in 2018, adds its curtailment to the five-month strike at Western Forest Products operations on Vancouver Island, which has idled many more logging contractors.

In the B.C. Interior, Tolko Industries announced that its Soda Creek sawmill in the Cariboo is going from four days a week down to three. That adds to a wave of curtailments and closures across the B.C. Interior, due to a combination of low lumber prices, high log costs and a reduction in allowable cut from Crown timber in the wake of beetle infestations.

Since the beginning of November, Tolko has announced the permanent closure of its Kelowna sawmill, and two-week closures at its Armstrong, Heffley Creek, Lake Country, Lavington and White Valley divisions, and its Armstrong plywood plant.

“I’m not sure how much more communities like Williams Lake can take,” said Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett, calling on the NDP government to increase assistance for laid-off workers.


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tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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