LAST WEEK’S announcement of GM’s Oshawa plant made national news. Bad news for the 3,000 workers directly laid off. Bad news for their families, and for workers of other companies who relied on GM and their workers’ wages for their businesses.
Last week’s announcement garnered reactions from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Opposition Leader Conservative Andrew Scheer, and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. There was support for the workers from all the leaders. You can argue as to which leader provided the best support, but there is no doubt, there was support from all sides of the political spectrum.
Oshawa has about 150,000 people. Their losing 3,000 workers would be equivalent to Kamloops, with a population of 90,000, losing 1,800 jobs. Or Quesnel, with 10,000 people, losing 200 jobs. Or Fraser Lake, with a population of 1,000, losing 20 jobs.
While Kamloops has been in a bit of a boom, small mill towns across B.C. have been bleeding jobs. Small towns across B.C. are feeling as much pain as Oshawa.
Since the beginning of November one forestry company after another announced production slowdowns or shutdowns.
West Fraser permanently curtailed production of their third shifts at Fraser Lake and Quesnel sawmills, with a loss of jobs for 60 employees in Fraser Lake and 75 employees in Quesnel. Big numbers for such small towns. Along with this, four of Tolko’s other mills in Chasm, 100 Mile House, Williams Lake, and Chetwynd face temporary slowdowns and worker layoffs in the coming months.
Tolko announced a two month downtime at their Armstrong and Kelowna mills.
Conifex announced a temporary layoff of 70 workers at its Fort St. James mill.
Resolute Forsest Products is halting production for the last quarter at many of its mills.
Canfor is curtailing production by 10 percent at its B.C. mills in the fourth quarter. Interfor is also curtailing production for its 3 Interior mills.
And in Midway, Vaagen is cutting production from two shifts to one.
And back in October, West Fraser’s Ladysmith mill was shut indefinitely, with 80 workers laid off, in a town of 8,500.
These are not good times for forestry in B.C.
So, as I was apt to do, I went on to Twitter. I looked at all the tweets for the month of November of Premier Horgan, Opposition Leader Liberal Andrew Wilkinson, and Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver.
Trudeau, Scheer and Singh came out strongly when GM announced the Oshawa plant closure. I wondered what Horgan, Wilkinson and Weaver had to say about the shutdowns and slowdowns of forestry mills across B.C, but especially in the Interior.
And what I found, as someone who lives in the Interior, was disappointing. And that goes for all the provincial party leaders.
Not once over the entire month of November did any of the three leaders mention forestry in their tweets.
It was not that they weren’t tweeting. The number one topic for all the leaders was pending Proportional Representation referendum. Horgan and Weaver tweeted in favor, while Wilkinson tweeted for the status quo First Past the Post. After that, there was little if any commonality in tweets.
At the beginning of November Wilkinson tweeted about the BC Liberal convention. By the end of November, his topic of choice was ride hailing. In the middle of the month, it was mainly tweets on visits to chambers of commerce and mayors.
Horgan uses Twitter to roll out the BC NDP’s policy. He tweeted announcements such as on healthcare, childcare, affordable housing, gender-affirming surgery, climate change and the First Nations Leaders Gathering.
Weaver tweets out links to detailed legislation.
They’re all free to tweet what they like.
But to go an entire month with no mention of forestry, when scores of small towns are bleeding jobs, shows a complete disconnect on all three leaders’ part. Mill towns across the province, and especially in the Interior, are hurting.
The forestry industry in B.C. needs as much attention from our provincial leaders as the autoworkers in Oshawa have gotten from their federal counterparts.
Nancy Bepple is a former city councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.