Smithers Interior News Editorial

Smithers Interior News Editorial

Houston mill closure heralds passing bell of forest industry

What’s bad for Houston is bad for Smithers.

In fact, Canfor closing its Houston mill, even if it is “temporary” as the company claims, is bad for B.C.

This is especially true because it is not an isolated occurrence.

The announcement last week also included the permanent closure of the company’s plant in Chetwynd and followed closely on the heels of Canfor announcing it was shutting down its Prince George pulp operation.

That closure was met with protests at the BC Natural Resources Forum two weeks ago in Prince George.

None of this should come as a surprise, however. While the death knell of B.C.’s forest industry may not be tolling quite yet, the current situation can certainly be characterized as its passing bell.

Examples of curtailments and closures just over the past six months, in Terrace, Vanderhoof and all over the north, are not hard to find and industry decline can be traced back at least 20 years with more than 40,000 direct jobs lost.

In 2021, Canfor and other forestry companies raked in record profits. For the year, Canfor reported $1.5 billion in net income. The government of B.C. also raked in record stumpage fees at $1.8 billion.

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Revenues in 2021 were an outlier, though, based on record lumber prices that are now in decline and a little-known credit program that allowed companies to cash in on additional old-growth logging for providing lesser-quality fibre to pulp and pellet mills.

The 2021 provincial revenues, which were 50 per cent higher than the previous best year (2018), were achieved on 20 per cent less logging.

Furthermore, the government’s own projections indicate logging volumes are going to continue to decline rapidly because B.C.’s primary forests have been largely tapped.

In short, the record income for companies and the Province was unsustainable,

So, it is not surprising Canfor would be taking its profits and running.

At the aforementioned resources conference, Premier David Eby announced $140 million in “investments” aimed at softening the fall for forestry workers such as the 300 or so Houstonites now directly facing unemployment not to mention all the contractors who will be affected.

With the drastic drop off in stumpage fees and ongoing mill closures, where exactly will we be getting that money? From healthcare? From housing? New taxes?

We don’t want to call the situation dire, but that is exactly what it is.

We need better answers as to how B.C. is going to survive the death of forestry.

MORE EDITORIAL: Council should tread carefully when it comes to awarding single-source contracts

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