Hundreds of jobs affected as Canfor makes cuts in northern B.C.

B.C. forestry giant Canfor has dealt a major blow to communities in northern B.C. with announcements affecting hundreds of jobs.

In a series of releases issued Thursday, the company said it is curtailing a production line at its Northwood pulp mill facility in Prince George, permanently closing its Polar sawmill in Bear Lake and suspending plans to reinvest in its facility in Houston, B.C.

Four-hundred existing and 200 anticipated replacement jobs are impacted by the decision.

One-hundred-eighty employees will lose their positions at the Polar sawmill in Bear Lake, an unincorporated community of roughly 150 people located 75 kilometres north of Prince George. Operations at the mill had been curtailed since January.

A sign that says Canfor.
Canfor’s head office is pictured in Vancouver in 2022. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A further 220 jobs will be impacted by the indefinite curtailment of a single production line at the Northwood pulp mill in Prince George, a processing plant that converts wood chips to pulp and paper products.

Approximately 450 people work at that facility.

And in Houston, about 300 kilometres west of Prince George, an anticipated 200 new jobs are now on hold as Canfor suspends its promise to build a new $200-million manufacturing facility after eliminating 300 jobs with the closure of the community’s sawmill last year.

Canfor will continue to operate Northwood at a reduced capacity, as well as Intercontinental and Pulp and Paper, also in Prince George.

A map of mill locations.
Two of Canfor’s pulp mills are located in the river valley of Prince George. (CBC News)

Series of reductions

In its announcements, posted online, the company blames a decline in the amount of available fibre in the region, as well as “policy changes and increased regulatory complexity” for the decisions.

In one of the written statements, Canfor Pulp CEO Kevin Edgson said the decision to cut back production is a direct result of reductions and closures of sawmills in the region. 

With less wood waste being produced, he said, there is less material available for the pulp mill to convert.

“Despite exhaustive efforts, including expanding well beyond our traditional operating region, there is simply not enough residual fibre to supply the current production capacity of all our operations.”

Those closures include Canfor-run sawmills in Chetwynd, about 300 kilometres north of Prince George, and Houston, one year ago, which resulted in more than 490 jobs being lost as part of a series of curtailments and closures across the industry.

Houston was supposed to recover some of those jobs with a new manufacturing facility being built over the next three years, but now Canfor is suspending that decision, citing an uncertain economic future.

It did not say if any form of operations will resume at the site, or if it will simply remain closed.


Posted in CBC