Northern B.C. town surprised by mill closure: mayor
Canfor failed to give the northern B.C. community of Mackenzie fair warning before announcing the closure of its sawmill, says Mayor Stephanie Killam.
"They just did not let anybody know this was coming. [We got a] phone call earlier on, just before they made the press release yesterday. We didn't have any warning other than that," Killam told CBC News Wednesday.
The company announced Tuesday that it's closing its mill "indefinitely" as part of a company-wide cost-cutting program.
When the mill closes in August, about 450 people will lose their jobs — about 10 per cent of the town's population. Mackenzie is about 190 kilometres north of Prince George,and relies heavily on forestry.
While residents understood not all was well at the mill, Tuesday's announcement caught everyone off guard, said Killam.
In March, Canfor temporarily shut five sawmills in northern B.C., including the Mackenzie mill, which was down for two weeks beginning in late March.
Its Chetwynd, Rustad, Plateau and Vavenby mills were also down for about one week each in March.
Previous to the March closures, Canfor had already cut production at its mills by 100 million board feet this year in reaction to poor markets, as well as transportation issues from the CN strike in February.
"We expected that everything was going, not well, because they were doing shutdowns, but we didn't expect anything like this," said Killam. "It will have a major effect on the town because it will affect our economics and it will affect the morale of the community."
Canfor said the cutbacks are due to a market downturn spurred by falling housing starts in the United States.
The company's interim president and CEO, James Shepard, said Tuesday he had been directed by the company's board to cut costs "and position the company to weather this market downturn, which is the worst this industry has seen in decades."
Shepard said the company would continue to monitor market conditions "for evidence of a sustained recovery that would enable us to revisit the situation."
Meanwhile, Killam said her office will work with federal and provincial partners to try to lessen the impact of the mill closure.
With files from the Canadian Press