British Columbia

Sale of 3 coastal pulp and paper mills hailed as win for 1,500 workers in B.C.

British Columbia-based Catalyst Paper Corp. has reached an agreement to sell its operations in Powell River, Crofton and Port Alberni to Paper Excellence Canada of Richmond, B.C.

Premier calls sale 'major vote of confidence in our province and people'

Catalyst's combined operations in B.C. generate more than $2 billion in annual economic activity, according to the provincial government. It's a key contributor to the local economies where it operates, including Powell River, above, on the northern Sunshine Coast. (Catalyst Paper)

Business leaders and the provincial government are hailing the sale of three coastal pulp and paper mills as a win for the 1,500 workers employed there.

British Columbia-based Catalyst Paper Corp. has reached an agreement to sell three coastal mills to Paper Excellence Canada of Richmond, B.C.  They are located at Crofton and Port Alberni on  Vancouver Island and Powell River on the northern Sunshine Coast.

Catalyst CEO Ned Dwyer says when the transaction is complete it will benefit customers, employees, suppliers, communities where it operates and B.C.'s forest products industry.

Details of the transaction have not been released and it will need the approval of the B.C. Supreme Court and at least two-thirds of Catalyst shareholders.

A sign outside of Catalyst Paper's mill in Crofton, B.C. (CBC)

Premier celebrates move

Paper Excellence has close to two million tonnes of pulp production capacity at its five mills in Canada and two in France.

In a statement, B.C. Premier John Horgan called the sale of Catalyst to Paper Excellence a "major vote of confidence in our province and people."

"More importantly, it will help keep families and communities strong as we continue to revitalize our coastal forest sector," Horgan said.

The province pledged to protect the pensions of retirees and workers at three three Catalyst mills in the face of possible U.S. tariffs.

Deal provides certainty

Paper Excellence CEO Brian Baarda told All Points West guest host Manusha Janakiram the deal would provide certainty to Catalyst employees and retirees.

He said there will be no changes to pensions or benefits for any current or former workers as a result of the deal.

"The initial feedback from all three communities has been that they're pleased to see that this transaction has been announced," Baarda said.

"They're pleased to see Paper Excellence … continues to make investments for the success of these three operations."

In August, the U.S. International Trade Commission overturned duties imposed on Canadian newsprint by the U.S. Commerce Department earlier this year. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

Baarda said Catalyst was an attractive purchase because its facilities are on tidewater for easier shipping.

Paper Excellence sells much of its products to Asia but said the overturning of American duties on Canadian newsprint could make the U.S. an attractive destination for the mills' products once again.

Listen to the full interview with Brian Baarda:

With files from The Canadian Press and CBC Radio One's All Points West