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$875K going to B.C. interior communities hurt by mill closures

Several pulp and saw mills have closed across the province this year, forcing thousands out of a job.
Several pulp and saw mills have closed across the province this year, forcing thousands out of a job. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

The B.C. government announced $875,000 in funding Monday for 11 communities where mills have shut down this year.

In a statement, the province says the Community Support Grants Program (CSGP) is for B.C. mill workers and their families affected by permanent or indefinite mill closures or shift reductions.

“The challenges facing Interior forest communities are unprecedented, and that’s why we are getting these resources where they are most urgently needed,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

“Funds from these community support grants are going directly to the local governments, as they have first-hand knowledge of what supports are most needed in their communities.”

READ MORE: After a devastating series of mill closures, can B.C.’s forestry industry recover?

But Clearwater Mayor Merlin Blackwell, whose district is getting $100,000 of that pot, says the community needs more money to create jobs for laid off workers.

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“It’s a good start to begin the process,” he said. “But we need the federal government and the province to come back with things like long-term projects in the area.”

He questioned why the federal government hasn’t stepped in.

“The federal government needs to step up, we’re done with the election games, that’s over,” he said.

“It’s time to get to work. If this was manufacturing in Ontario, or fisheries on the east coast, the federal government would have been here as a partner in the solution to this crisis.”

Meanwhile, Clinton’s Mayor Susan Swan says it’s more than enough.

READ MORE: B.C. forest industry facing uncertain future as mills close across province

“I think the $100,000 is sufficient for our needs. There’s communities who need it more than we do.”

Both say they’ll be putting the money toward support services for laid-off workers.

For example, Swan says Clinton will be creating a business directory for their website, so people can see what jobs are available in the area.

The B.C. government says Interior communities with permanent mill closures are eligible for $100,000, communities with indefinite mill closures are eligible for $75,000, and communities with permanent shift reductions are eligible for $50,000.

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READ MORE: Tolko announces province-wide holiday shutdown for all B.C. mills

Communities may use CSGP funding to provide transition and support services for affected forestry workers. The following communities are receiving community support grants:

  • Clinton, Clearwater, Quesnel and Kelowna are each receiving $100,000
  • Fort St. James, Fort St. John, Mackenzie, 100 Mile House and Regional District of East Kootenay Area B (Jaffray) are each receiving $75,000
  • Regional District of Fraser Fort George Area C (Isle Pierre) and Merritt are each receiving $50,000

Several pulp and sawmills have closed across B.C. over the past two years, forcing thousands out of a job.