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Mayor Yu weighs in on Prince George Pulp and Paper mill closure

Canfor closure will put 300 employees out of work; many more supply-chain jobs at risk
Canfor has announced the closure of its pulp division at Prince George Pulp and Paper mill, which will result in the loss of 300 jobs.

“The city is not going to take this lying down,” Prince George Mayor Simon Yu said Thursday in reaction to Canfor's plans to permanently close the pulp division of Prince George Pulp and Paper, with an anticipated 300 jobs being lost.

“I will be talking to potential investors in the country and beyond to see if there economic opportunities we can seize upon immediately,” he said. “We have no time to waste, if we do not have a program for these 300 families they will put up their houses for sale and move out of town and this will be devastating to the local economy and beyond.”

Yu shared his concerns about the closure Thursday morning with Brenda Bailey, B.C’s Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation, to find out more about bridging programs the province will roll out to help the 300 affected workers transition to new jobs.

Forests Minister Bruce Ralston promised those workers will be eligible for employment support programs supported by $185 million the province has set aside over the next three years to help forestry workers.

Recognizing the difficulty the province-wide shortage of skilled labour, Yu said there could be opportunities to work mining or transportation sectors. He said the City of Prince George has several unfilled positions for tradespeople who are about to lose their jobs at Canfor.

“We have a few initiatives on the go and some of the programs they might announce next week during the B.C. Natural Resources Forum here in Prince George. Of the 300 people, a lot of them should be able to find employment immediately in Prince George and within our region, so I hope the impact is not as great.”

Bailey, Ralston and Premier David Eby will be in the city next week for the three-day reources forum at the Prince George Civic and Convention Centre and Yu plans to meet with them to discuss the Canfor closure.

Some senior employees will be offered early retirement packages to help absorb the job losses. But with so many other businesses connected to the pulp mill supply chain there will be an obvious ripple effect.

“These are our friends and loved ones and it’s tough,” said Yu. “We all knew the beetle kill would one day affect the fibre supply. The warning signs were there but still it’s hard to take.”

The closure especially hits home with him because he knows so many of the mill workers and their families personally as longtime friends. He said his first project as a structural engineer in Prince George was to redesign the digester roof at Prince George Pulp.

“It’s a signal that we need to diversify the economy,” said Yu. “A lot of city fathers have recognized for quite some time now, with the climate-related natural disasters, the beetle kills and sawmill closures, some of the writing was on the wall, but still it’s hard to take when there are 300-some families involved.”