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Donaldson says province working to support laid off Isle Pierre mill workers

Forests Minister Doug Donaldson speaks at the Council of Forest Industries convention in Prince George Thursday. Bill Phillips photo
Forests Minister Doug Donaldson

Forest Minister Doug Donaldson is keeping his fingers crossed in hopes we’ve reached the end of permanent mill closures in the province.

Last week Canfor announced it will be permanently closing its Isle Pierre Mill west of Prince George and temporarily closing its tow pulp mills in the city. It is the latest in long line of permanent and temporary mill closures across B.C. over the past 18 months.

“Our thoughts are with the workers in both those situations,” Donaldson said, adding he will be contact with both the Steelworkers union and Mayor Lyn Hall to figure out where government supports are needed.

“As far as the future goes, we know that the end of the pine beetle epidemic has resulted in a lack of fibre for many interior mills,” he said. “… The market conditions are having an impact are having an influence as well.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has hurt the market in that housing starts in the U.S. have dropped.

“If they come back, they’ll come back slowly,” he said. “That has an impact on the mill capacity in the Interior. It’s hard to predict what we’ll see in the future. I’m hopeful the rush of permanent closures is over and that curtailments will slowly lift as markets come back. But it’s very much market-based as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope that consumer confidence and housing starts slowly increase.”

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