On June 11, our local forestry sector was once again hit with devastating news with the announcement that Paper Excellence Canada would be curtailing operations at its Mackenzie pulp mill.
First and foremost, my thoughts are with the 253 employees that will be affected by this closure. If any of you need assistance please do not hesitate to contact my office in Prince George at 250-561-7982 or Bob.Zimmer.C1@parl.gc.ca.
There is no doubt that British Columbia’s forestry industry was already in crisis prior to COVID-19. This latest closure in Mackenzie makes it clear that the global pandemic has only exacerbated things thanks to a lower demand for pulp and a shortage in the fibre supply.
Not only that but Derek Nighbor, President and CEO of Forest Products Association of Canada, recently testified before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance that many companies within the forestry sector haven’t been able to access the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy because they do not meet the Liberal’s revenue decrease criteria.
Even during a global pandemic, the Liberals can’t be bothered to support one of our nation’s vital industries and this flaw in the wage subsidy program is putting more forestry jobs at risk unnecessarily.
For well over a year my Conservative colleagues and I have been calling on the Liberal government to do more to support our forestry workers, including finalizing a new softwood lumber agreement.
While the U.S. Commerce Department did determine in a preliminary finding in February that softwood lumber duties should be reduced, this ruling will not be finalized until August. It also by no means replaces a softwood lumber agreement that would provide much needed stability and predictability for our forestry workers.
It is clear that strong leadership is needed to repair our trading relationship with the United States so that a softwood lumber agreement can finally be reached. So far, the Liberals have shown they are just not up to the task.
I know news of the pulp mill closure in Mackenzie has hit the community especially hard. How could it not? But, if there is one thing I know about Mackenzie, it’s that its residents will always rally around one another, especially during difficult times like these. I know this time will be no different and I am here to help in any way I can.
Bob Zimmer is Member of Parliament for Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies.