Bernier attends rally for forestry sector in Merritt

Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier attended a rally with forestry workers in Merritt amidst uncertainty surrounding the industry in B.C. 

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A late middle aged man in a blue suit with a grey beard.
Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier (Mike Bernier, Facebook)

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier attended a rally with forestry workers Friday morning in Merritt amidst uncertainty surrounding the industry in B.C. 

Bernier said he had been invited down to speak as the Official Opposition Shadow Minister for Forestry and met with members of the United Steelworkers and Aspen Planters before the rally began. 

“I was invited down to speak at this rally in support of the union and the workers that are struggling to keep their jobs right now,” Bernier said. 

According to the MLA, the rally was well attended, with support from across the community, including local government members, managers and owners of local mills, Indigenous representatives, and the workers themselves. 

“It was a huge group from all of those affected and involved showing a united voice,” Bernier said. 

“We need to work together to understand the impacts of the forestry sector [and] the positives that it brings to our communities. It was great to see all of the people working together in a united place trying to get the message out.” 

Bernier said he hoped the rally would help get the government’s attention as residents lose their jobs in the forestry sector across the province. 

“We’re seeing it firsthand in Chetwynd and Taylor up in the Peace region,” Bernier said. 

The announcement of Chetwynd’s Canfor mill closing, alongside the Houston mill, brought a lot of worries and uncertainty to the community. With the closing date of the mill slated for April, Bernier said he is concerned for the community but is also sure they will make it through.

“We have strong, hearty, resilient people in our region. We’ll get through this,” Bernier said. 

“There will be some impacts, but I know that people are going to roll up their sleeves and do what we have to [in order] to get our communities thriving again.”

As for Canfor’s announcement that it didn’t see a way forward with Taylor’s mill, Bernier said the disappointing announcement wasn’t surprising. 

“I’ve talked with a lot of people up in the Taylor Pulp Mill there, and a lot of them haven’t been working for quite a while. So they kind of expected that this announcement was coming from the company.” 

Bernier said these “heartbreaking” decisions from companies like Canfor weren’t because of a lack of business opportunity but uncertainty from the government. 

“Right now, pulp is selling on the open market for higher than it’s almost ever sold on the global market,” Bernier said.

“But the companies are not finding certainty right now. They’re not feeling confident that the governments, through the ministries, are going to be able to get the permits out.”

Bernier continued, stating that residents impacted by the forestry sector felt “disheartened” by what he called the government’s lack of leadership. 

“The government plays the major role in this, and that’s what I was hearing from all of the people at this rally today, and from all the companies, is they’re so disheartened in the lack of seriousness that’s coming from the provincial government on this issue. Because mills are closing, and people are losing their jobs, and the government just seems right now to not even care.” 

Bernier mentioned he has been invited to several forestry-related meetings and demonstrations across the province. 

“It’s great to get around the province and hear all these positives and negatives that are happening in the sector, so we can try to keep people working.” 

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