Spirited March and Rally in Mackenzie, BC
Workers and Community Stand Up for Jobs and a New Direction in Forestry
A thousand people marched and held a spirited rally in
Mackenzie, British Columbia, concerned about the future of their
the wake of the downturn in the Interior forest industry.
Mackenzie, a town of about 3,300 people 180 km north of
Prince George, has been hit especially hard in the last few
months with Canfor closing its sawmill, citing high costs and
adverse market conditions, and with production being curtailed at the
Conifex sawmill and Parallel 55 fingerjoint mill.
All told, about 400 jobs
have been affected by these closures,
which amounts to about 20 per cent of the local workforce. In
addition, there are fears that the Mackenzie pulp mill could
close because of lack of access to residual fibre from the other
The rally was organized by the MackenzieMatters
support from the Public and Private Workers of Canada (PPWC), Unifor
and United Steelworkers (USW) unions, local businesses
and other volunteers. Participants carried signs through town
stating: Our logs, our jobs! Save
our jobs! United we stand! Keep
our logs in Mackenzie! Our voices need to be heard! and
The rally comes at a time when there have been many mill
closures and curtailments across the province in forestry-based
communities. Companies have blamed these shutdowns in large part
on a dwindling fibre supply as a result of the massive pine
beetle epidemic and recent catastrophic forest fires.
However, Mackenzie mayor Joan Atkinson explained that
not a fibre supply problem in the Mackenzie region, yet forest
companies are shipping logs out to other parts of the province
while mills in the town sit idle. She argued that forest policy
has to change in the province, that it is "time for all of us to
work collaboratively and identify what is not working and what is
needed to fix it," and that the people of Mackenzie were ready to
stick together and meet the challenges head on.
Kim Guthrie, a local realtor
and chair of the MackenzieMatters
Committee, said: "We would like our logs to stop leaving the
community. We would like our sawmills to be able to run and the
bottom line is we'd like them to change the legislation so logs
have to stay in the community and be milled here."
Chris Dixon, who chaired the rally, began by stating,
are here to let government know that forest practices must
change. The big corporations and the government of British
Columbia have to wake up and realize that small hardworking
communities matter, that Mackenzie matters."
Speakers at the rally included representatives from
provincial and federal governments in the region; local
businesses; unions, including PPWC, Unifor, United Food and Commercial
Workers (UFCW), and USW; and
community organizations, including Stand Up for the North
Committee and North Matters.
Common themes that emerged in the presentations and from
participants in the rally included criticism of forest practices
in the province and the need for a new direction in forestry,
criticism of runaway companies, the need for more processing and
getting more value out of the wood, utilizing wood waste,
economic diversification, transition support and retraining
services, economic development funding, concerns about the
mountain caribou program, and settlement of the Softwood Lumber
dispute with the U.S.
One overarching theme, palpable in the march, rally and
discussions among participants, was a call for more empowerment of
rural regions: to listen to the voices and expertise of forestry
workers and community members; and to develop policies based on
the needs of workers and communities rather than big corporations
and top government officials.
spokespersons and politicians representing
parties that form a cartel party system designed to keep people
out of power delivered their pro-forma messages which either
promise pie in the sky and/or blame others. These messages have
nothing to do with involving the workers and community in finding
concrete solutions to the problems they face. In his
presentation, BC Forests Minister Doug Donaldson talked about how
the BC government was engaged in a consultation process across
the province to develop a new vision for forestry. This is a
denial that the crisis in forestry is longstanding and the only
"new vision" forthcoming has been the one that exports raw logs
and serves the narrow interests of the oligopolies which
manipulate state policy. In addition, the Minister said, the
government is working to make sure that the Conifex mill opens in
September which would alleviate some of the
unemployment problem as well as make residual fibre available
for other mills. What this means remains to be seen.
He also made sure to point out that the current NDP
was "cleaning up a mess" from the previous Liberal government
"that wouldn't exist if action would have been taken ten or even
five years ago, to diversify and get more value from the trees
that are harvested." Such attempts to divide the people behind
one or another political party stops the problems being put on
the table for solution.
For their part, the Liberal MLAs who spoke, which
Morris, John Rustad and Donna Barnett, criticized what they
characterized as a slow response to the forestry crisis by the
Forests Minister and the need for action not more talk. They
pledged to keep "biting at the Forests Minister's ankles" to make
sure that worker and community support gets carried out. In other
words, the people should depend on condescending saviours and
remain at their mercy.
In closing, MackenzieMatters' Kim Guthrie, thanked all
speakers and participants in the rally and called for a longterm
forestry plan to be developed for community success and
sustainability. The people of Mackenzie are proud and determined,
she said, and will definitely not be going away.
This article was published in
Volume 49 Number 25 - August 31, 2019
Spirited March and Rally in Mackenzie, BC: Workers and Community Stand Up for Jobs and a New Direction in Forestry