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Mill closure another blow to Squamish economy



Squamish is bracing for more economic misfortune following the announcement this week that Interfor will close its local lumber division for at least two weeks.

The move will throw as many as 175 employees out of work.

"It?s definitely not good for the morale," said Nick Doubinin, financial secretary for the International Woodworker?s Association local 2171.

"There are people looking elsewhere, I mean looking at moving to Alberta, I?ve heard people saying.

"The whole industry and the uncertainly around the whole industry is taxing on people?s resources."

The mill is the latest casualty in the softwood lumber dispute between Canada and the U.S. and a weakened market for lumber.

America recently slapped a 19.3 per cent countervailing duty on Canadian softwood imports after U.S lumber producers claimed that Ottawa unfairly subsidizes Canadian producers. Canada has consistently denied the allegation.

The duty is retroactive to shipments from around May 20.

On top of this duty the U.S is threatening to impose an anti-dumping duty on Oct. 15 which could raise the total imposed on Canadian companies to over 30 per cent.

And B.C just announced a large stumpage fee increase. Stumpage is the levy charged for crown timber.

Some industry analysts expect 30,000 people in forestry to be out of work by Christmas.

The Squamish mill diversified from Douglas fir to western red cedar some time ago in order to weather the downturn in the Asian markets.

Although cedar is a decorative wood used mainly for siding, window frames and other finished products it has been caught up in the softwood lumber dispute.

B.C. coastal producers have filed for an exemption from the 19.3 per cent duty, arguing the product is a finishing wood and does not compete directly with the U.S. construction lumber.

Even the U.S. Red Cedar Manufacturers Association is lobbying for the Canadian product to be exempt from the softwood lumber agreement.

This week the president and CEO of Interfor, Duncan Davies, travelled to the U.S to continue lobbying.

Ron Sander, manager of the Squamish Lumber Division, said everyone is hopeful something can be done so that the closure is a short one.

"We are optimistically saying two weeks (for the closure)," he said.

"But we are deeply concerned that the U.S is proposing to add a further anti-dumping duty on the 15 th and if that happens it is going to be very difficult for us to come to grips with sending them anything for a while."

Sander said the workers are very frustrated at this latest obstacle.

"They have gone through a really tough time here over the last couple of years," he said.

"And now we get slapped in the face with this, which is something we have absolutely no control over."

Sander said the trickle down effect is already being felt throughout the community.

"I know quite a few business people here and they are very concerned about it," he said.

Kate Hodson, manager of the Squamish Chamber of Commerce, said it?s definitely a worry.

"The downturn in the economy and specifically with the mill will have an effect on the community," she said.

"There is no doubt about it. People will not be as flush with their money and will be more cautious."

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