Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, has issued the following statement:
“I am saddened by today’s news that Tolko will permanently close its Quest Wood sawmill in Quesnel and eliminate a shift at its Kelowna sawmill.
“The loss of jobs in resource communities is difficult, and my thoughts are with the workers.
“I understand that Tolko will provide support to employees at both mills throughout the transition and that representatives from Tolko’s Employee and Family Assistance Program will work to assist impacted employees. Staff from the regional economic development branch of my ministry and staff from the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction will work with Tolko and the community to co-ordinate the delivery of provincial support programs. We will also work with the federal government to ensure supports are made available to affected workers.
“I have spoken with the company and with Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson, and have offered our government’s support.
“Unfortunately, the problems facing Tolko are not new. They have been mounting for the past several years. Tolko has experienced increasing fibre supply shortages in Quesnel as the mountain pine beetle epidemic ended and the volume of beetle-killed timber declined. This fibre shortage was exacerbated by the impacts of the 2017 wildfire season and weakening lumber markets.
“While the most recent closure will most acutely impact Quesnel, the declining supply of beetle-killed wood has been a factor on the Interior timber supply for the last few years. Successive governments, the forest industry and most Interior communities have known for the past two decades that some impacts on Interior sawmilling capacity were inevitable in the wake of the mountain pine beetle epidemic. The industry accelerated harvesting to take advantage of beetle-killed forests, knowing full well that the newly available timber supply was finite. In fact, industry consultants Jim Girvan and Murray Hall predicted closures several years ago.
“It is for just that reason that last month our government invited forest company CEOs to come together to work collaboratively with other companies, First Nations, local governments and union executives to develop local visions –- unique visions for industry competitiveness in each timber supply area. Some companies, including Tolko, expressed a strong interest in doing so. We will be successful in addressing the challenges facing the forest industry only by working together and finding solutions that work for everyone.
“Our government is committed to supporting the tens of thousands of people that work in our forests and mills, and in the marketing and transportation sectors that deliver more than $14 billion annually to customers around the globe. Forest products are central to the economy and standard of living of every part of our province. I continue to believe that collaboration and transformation are the paths to ensuring a competitive forest industry that produces high-value products, good jobs, community economic stability and benefits for area First Nations.”