I was saddened today when Wayne Clement, Mill Manager for Tembec, phoned me with the official news that Tembec would be shutting down indefinitely in September. More than 200 jobs that have been here for years will be gone with no prospect of return any time soon. A rumor had come to me earlier but this news was direct, unequivocal, and seemingly final.
Two hundred jobs gone. Two hundred households now in a state of uncertainty. Two hundred mortgages still have to be paid. Dentist bills, clothing, college educations for two hundred households: these things can’t be put off indefinitely. And, maybe, that once-in-a-lifetime vacation that someone has been planning for months will have to be put off – indefinitely. I feel your pain as much as one is able to feel another’s pain. It hurts.
I am confident that many of you with millwrighting, welding, electrician, computer, or other technical skills will likely find work within reasonable time, perhaps not as close to home, but work. Truckers will be quick to fill opportunities in other industries. Contractors with payments coming due on tons of steel can’t remain idle for any length of time and, of course, they require their operators. Still, we didn’t need this blow just now. Some will berate themselves for not taking the last good opportunity that came by. Some will have emotional difficulty and maybe the greatest difficulty will be to deal with your own sense of inadequacy and failure. I’ve been assured that Chetwynd’s crew is very skilled and efficient. No, it’s not your failure, though you feel it, nevertheless.
Tembec is operating in a shrinking market, competing with giant mills in Brazil and elsewhere that can produce as much in a day as Tembec can produce in a week. The efficiencies for the Chetwynd mill just were not there. The market is not interested in job security for Joe of Chetwynd. It’s not your failure, though you feel it, nevertheless.
What can you do to ease the transition? You can be sure that District staff already are attempting to find answers to that question. Certainly, the District can’t find your job for you but there are some things that District staff might be able do to render your job search a little more effective. I’m sitting at home speculating tonight; I’m making no promises.
Indirectly, we all will feel the shutdown. Merchants will take in just a little less revenue; the Rec Centre might experience a little less traffic; though I don’t know the figures, I’m quite sure that this closure will be felt in District tax revenues in coming years. I believe the District is organizationally ready for the challenge and you are not likely to notice significant change in services or in your own tax burden.
Yes, it is sad to see a great industry close its doors but, not only is Chetwynd still a great place to live, Chetwynd, and each of you individually, are tough enough to rise above the challenge!
Merlin Nichols, Mayor