The number one issue on everybody’s mind in Canal Flats these days is, of course, the announcement by Canfor that it will reduce the Canal Flats mill operation from two shifts to one effective May 4, 2015. This difficult decision was made because the available fibre supply in the region is not sufficient to support the processing capacity. Preliminary estimates suggest that this will affect more than 80 employees. Canfor will be offering these employees the option to transfer to other facilities in British Columbia.
In addition, the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training (JTST) has already initiated steps under JTST Division’s Community Transition. This means that they will be working closely with the Human Resource Department of Canfor to ensure supports are in place and available to Canfor employees and the community.
JTST has established a Canfor Canal Flats Worker Transition Team which will be working with Canfor and the village to address worker and community needs by linking them to programs, services and resources. The group has met twice already and participants included representatives from Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, WorkBC, Steelworkers’ Union, Canfor, Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation, Ministry of Advanced Education, the Village of Canal Flats, Service Canada and College of the Rockies. The team will be working together to organize information sessions helping workers with applying for EI benefits, relocating options, resume writing, training and/or other employment opportunities.
Since the purchase of the Canal Flats mill in 2012, Canfor management and I have been working hard on establishing good communication, by trying to meet on a regular basis. At one of those meetings, I was assured that the village would be informed of any major announcements and changes. True to their word I was contacted just prior to the announcement and Canfor agreed without hesitation to attend the following council meeting on February 10th.
Although this is a big blow to our community, I strongly believe that by working together with Canfor and the other members of the Worker Transition Team, we will get through this. We are faced with a difficult situation, but we need to remember that everything is being done to make the transition easier.
We are a strong community that sticks together, especially in a time of need. and we will clear this hurdle by looking after each other and helping out wherever we can.
Ute Juras is the mayor of the Village of Canal Flats and a Regional District of East Kootenay director for the Upper Columbia Valley.