Closure of Cariboo mill underscores valley’s resilience

The Echo's weekly editorial, penned by editor Greg Amos

Two recent events — one taking place in a courtroom, the other in a corporate boardroom — have served to illustrate how well-positioned the Columbia Valley is to have a prosperous future.

On October 25th in the B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, the biggest obstacle to progress on dealing with our deer problem — though that’s a suggestive phrase to some — officially came to an end. The legal challenge to Invermere’s deer cull was shot down, allowing the District of Invermere, and several other municipalities across B.C., to rest assured that they can in fact make a plan to deal with deer, and stick to it without fear of further legal roadblocks.

The deer issue is contentious and emotionally charged, but a bombshell dropped in another B.C. community served to make our deer dealings look like a comparative “First World Problem”.

Canfor’s long mulling over of the future of its Quesnel sawmill ended in the drastic decision to close the doors for good. Where  the debate in Invermere has centred around how to deal with about 100 deer munching our flowers and giving us intimidating glares, Quesnel is facing the loss of 209 jobs at their mill, in a region that’s not exactly as tourist-friendly as the Columbia Valley. (Canfor asked that we publish the letter that begins on this page so as to assure Columbia Valley residents that their jobs are not at risk.)

The people of the Cariboo Region of B.C. are likely finding their permanent sawmill closure quite a bit more difficult to deal with in the wake of the pine beetle epidemic than locals found the temporary closure of

Canfor’s Radium Hot Springs mill was a few short years ago. But the fact our forests are among the healthiest in B.C., with a guaranteed long-term timber supply that faces few serious threats, makes it much easier for us to be optimistic.

Where one community is out more than 200 jobs that support families, we still have positions to fill. As of late last week, Canfor’s Canal Flats mill has seven vacant positions, while the Radium mill has nine jobs to fill. Some of those positions may be filled by the former employees at Canfor’s Quesnel operation — and I’m sure this community would be glad to welcome those skilled workers and their families.