View from Labour, January 9, 2009

The Port Alberni and District Labour Council wishes you all a prosperous and happy new year. Unfortunately we’re starting out on the wrong foot.
Western Forest Company has just put 400 more people on the Unemployment Rolls. Locally our two Western Mills will keep running with logs from Gold River. The Duke Point Mill and Mid Island Reman will be among the downed mills. The former Franklin River Logging Division is also down. This announcement will put more families at risk and increase the potential for homelessness in our town as more people can’t keep up their mortgage payments (That’s real homelessness). We are fortunate to have other Forestry Companies in town such as the Coulson and McKay group of companies to alleviate some of the pain.
The Forest Industry has been going through tough economic times for several years, much of it brought on by the Softwood Lumber Deal. I can’t fathom the politicians who tell us it is good for us. Thousands of workers across the country are out of work because of the Harper/Campbell deal and companies are going bankrupt and those two still tell us it’s good for us. Remember how it was signed a day before Canada won the court case? Our wonderful leaders snatched defeat from the jaws of victory one more time. NAFTA has also played a part in the demise of the Forest Industry.
If the Feds are going to bail out the Auto Industry once again they can damn well assist companies like Western who have tried to keep running and employing our people in the face of economic collapse. Western Forest was started with a plan designed for failure by its the parent company, Brookfield Management.
When Premier Williams announced Newfoundland was going to cancel logging and water rights for Abitibi if they close their mill Abitibi immediately screamed foul and said they’d sue under NAFTA. The sad part is that they can try. NAFTA was signed by Mulroney and he still touts it as a good deal. Is it any wonder voters feel that they get sold out when our leaders negotiate with other governments using our rights as collateral? Considering all the allegations surrounding Mulroney it makes one wonder if NAFTA should be included in the list of corruption.
I still wish our Premier stood up for B.C. workers the way Danny Williams stands up for Nfld. workers---wouldn’t it be a nice feeling?