B.C. town bids farewell to paper mill
The arrival of the Olympic flag in Kitimat, B.C., on Monday promises to be bittersweet, as the community reels from the loss of one of its biggest employers.
Sunday marked the last day of production for Kitimat's Eurocan pulp and paper mill. In a town with a population of roughly 9,000, some 535 employees are now out of work.
"People are kind of regrouping," Mayor Joanne Monaghan said. "They are asking, ‘What now? Do we leave town, do we sell our houses? What's happening?'"
Gary Egge worked at the mill for 18 of its 40 years in operation, and was nearing retirement.
"Luckily, I am single. I can move on," Egge said. "A lot of people don't have that choice."
Mary Murphy is the president of the local paper workers union. She spent Sunday touring the mill to make sure employees had filed their EI papers, and were informed about education options.
"It just brings huge emotions to them, because they don't really know where their next paycheque is coming from," Murphy said.
Some families are preparing to leave town, others already have. But Murphy thinks the mill still has potential.
"We want to keep our community the way it is now, so we have to work hard to try and find some resources and utilize our community and keep these people employed," she said.
Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell will be sitting down with Mayor Monaghan and some local business leaders on Monday to discuss options.
The community lacks focus, Bell said, but could still be salvaged.
"I know the mayor is eager to look for opportunities, and I think with her leadership and with the province, I think we can stabilize Kitimat and provide a real, solid future," Bell said.
Kitimat is located roughly 50 kilometres south of Terrace.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Leah Hendry