Houston mill closure a severe blow to community, Cullen says

HOUSTON  –  Calling yesterday’s announcement that Houston Forest Products will close next spring “a blow few people realistically expected,” MP Nathan Cullen today vowed to do all in his power to help the community adjust and move forward

“The most important thing right now is to support the many hundreds of people whose jobs are being affected by these cuts,” Cullen said.

“Then we’ll come together as community to begin planning for a solid future in the long term.”

Cullen is speaking with community, company and union leaders in Houston, and will meet with key federal ministers in Ottawa to explore possible aid from senior government.

Late yesterday West Fraser announced it will close sawmill operation in Houston in the spring of 2014 because of timber shortages caused by mountain pine beetle infestations.  The closures mean 225 direct mill jobs will be lost in Houston and 209 in Quesnel.

The move, part of what West Fraser terms its “mountain pine beetle plan,” also includes a forest tenure exchange that will see West Fraser acquire Canfor’s timber rights in Quesnel and Canfor take over West Fraser’s timber rights in Houston.  West Fraser says this plan will help to finance major mill upgrades at its sawmills in Smithers and 100 Mile House.  Canfor also announced yesterday that it will close its sawmill in Quesnel, affecting 209 jobs.

Cullen said the West Fraser and Canfor closures are further evidence of the need for modernized forest tenure reform in British Columbia.  He noted the irony of the closures so soon after the provincial Liberals’ spring election promise to bring in stronger area-based tenure requirements.

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Contact: Shelley Browne, nathan.cullen.c1@parl.gc.ca; 250-877-4140