In recent years, numerous B.C. communities have been negatively impacted by forest sector closures. In January of this year, Canfor announced it would be permanently closing their sawmill and pellet operations in Chetwynd and would be shutting down their sawmill in Houston with a possibility of a future restructure and rebuild.
This news is devastating to our community. We have already endured the closure of two mines and one mill in recent times. Now we are facing uncertainty on the future of our last remaining major employer and local/regional economy. It is presently unclear on whether the mill will be shut down permanently, or whether it will be rebuilt in future years.
At the same time, we know this uncertainty exists in forestry and resource dependent communities across our province. It has impacted, and will continue to impact families from a diverse range of communities in B.C. But the question remains: why is the industry that built British Columbia being pushed to these extremes? Also, what is being done to support communities and families that are being impacted by drastic shifts in the forestry sector?
Over the last number of years, we’ve seen significant impacts to communities ranging from Fort Nelson to Port Alberni, from Valemount to Terrace, even larger communities like Prince George and Kelowna have been impacted. While the challenges aren’t new, we know that the solutions must be.
Through Houston’s local Morice Timber Supply Area (TSA), more than $1.2 billion in stumpage has been directed to provincial coffers since 1980. That’s just one TSA. What have the others provided to the province? Every day, the people in these communities work long shifts around the clock in the resource sector that make it all possible. Have they been forgotten? Our community like so many others have invested in the province for decades and now we need government to invest in us, especially during a time when many communities, like ours, are being told to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, diversify, and reinvent themselves in a changing world. Well, Houston is ready to do the work, however, we need support to get started.
Houston believes in standing up for our residents, our businesses, and an industry that has provided so much to so many. That’s why we believe the time is now for forestry communities throughout B.C. to join together, work collaboratively on solutions and ideas, strengthen our common goals, and deliver these important messages to the governments of B.C. and Canada.
Decisions made in Victoria and Ottawa, while well intentioned, may not fully consider the individuals, families, cities, and towns that they impact. As community leaders, we need to work together to share our stories and let our community needs be known to policy makers so that they can understand how decisions affect our communities.
It is with these sentiments that District of Houston Council is asking leaders from forestry communities from across B.C. to come together, share our experiences, and shape the future for our communities, so that our children can benefit from the same advantages that many of us experienced.
District of Houston Council
Mayor Shane Brienen
Coun. Tom Euverman
Coun. Rebecca Hougen
Coun. Lisa Mueller
Coun. Troy Reitsma
Coun. Tom Stringfellow
Coun. Jonathan Van Barneveld