British Columbia

'We want to stay': Locals rally in Mackenzie, B.C., after mill closures

Nearly 1,000 people marched at a rally in Mackenzie, B.C. to draw attention to the devastating effects the downturn in the forestry sector have had on the community. 

'We just want a sustainable industry to continue our town,' says rally organizer

Mackenzie, B.C., residents rally after a summer of job losses. (Nicole Oud/CBC)

Nearly 1,000 people marched at a rally in Mackenzie, B.C. to draw attention to the devastating effects the downturn in the forestry sector have had on the community. 

The march was a display of support in the close-knit community of about 3,300 people.

"We love MacKenzie, we want to live here and we want to have jobs that sustain us," said Shannon Bezo, a member of the Mackenzie Matters rally committee.

"It's been a state of frustration, some states of anger. We've seen people [leave Mackenzie] immediately as the layoffs were put in," Bezo told Daybreak North reporter Nicole Oud.

An estimated 3,900 people across the province have been affected by mill shut downs and curtailments, including close to 400 in Mackenzie ⁠— nearly 10 per cent of the community's population

 

It's not the first time the small town, approximately 180 kilometres north of Prince George, has been affected by a forestry downturn, but residents are worried that without government intervention, they could be forced to leave town as job losses continue.

"Panic isn't full on, but it's starting," said Lynda Moreland, a rally organizer and local real estate business owner.

Ever since the local Conifex sawmill began its six-week curtailment, and Canfor announced its sawmill would be closing operations indefinitely, she's been getting calls from people asking what their homes are worth, she said. 

"People, they don't know what to do."

Government help

Moreland said Mackenzie was hit hard by mill closures in 2008. The town didn't fully recover after that, she said.

"We just want a sustainable industry to continue our town."

In particular, she wants more government intervention when it comes to stumpage prices.

Locals in Mackenzie say they fear people will leave in search of jobs elsewhere if there are more mill curtailments. (Nicole Oud/CBC)

"The government has to do something. They have to lower stumpage," she told Daybreak North's Andrew Kurjata. "We understand that the other towns need the wood as well. We're willing to share. That's not the issue. The problem is don't kill us in the process."

Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development said he's tried to secure funding from the federal government. However, he said he doesn't think the government should intervene in stumpage prices.

"Stumpage rates are at the very heart of one of the longest running trade disputes between Canada and the U.S.," Donaldson said.

"Panic isn't full on, but it's starting," said Lynda Moreland, a rally organizer. (Nicole Oud/CBC)

He added B.C. Timber Sales, a government agency that manages some of the province's allowable cut for Crown timber, has been working with Conifex to address some of the short-term fibre access issues and he hopes they will be resolved by the end of the month. 

Community support 

Mackenzie resident Michelle French came to the rally because her husband who worked at Canfor for 37 years is now unemployed.

French's husband wasn't able to attend the rally because he was at the mill with other longtime employees, cleaning up to shut it down, she said.

"I'd like to have the logs stay in Mackenzie here. It's kind of like they're ours and we need them," said French.

"We're a community and we want our jobs and we want to stay here."

An estimated 3,900 people across the province have been affected by mill shut downs and curtailments, including close to 400 in Mackenzie, B.C. ⁠— or roughly 10 per cent of the community's population. Lynda Moreland is one of the organizers of the Mackenzie Matters community rally. 9:47

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With files from Nicole Oud and Daybreak North

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