It will be business as usual at Crofton mill, new owners say. (File photo)

New owners of Crofton, Alberni pulp and paper mills see bright future for industry

No layoffs or significant changes planned

Paper Excellence Canada sees forestry as a sunrise industry, rather than one that is on the decline, according to an official with the company.

The Richmond-based forest company bought Catalyst Paper and all its assets last week, including the pulp and paper mills in Crofton, Port Alberni and Powell River pending regulatory approvals of the acquisition.

RELATED STORY: CATALYST PAPER SOLD TO PAPER EXCELLENCE CANADA

Kathy Cloutier, director of corporate communications at Paper Excellence, assured the approximately 570 workers currently employed at the Crofton mill, as well as Catalyst’s 1,000 mill workers at its other two mills in Port Alberni and Powell River, that their jobs and benefits will continue untouched into the foreseeable future.

“Paper Excellence has been looking to buy Catalyst Paper for some time, and it all came together with the imposition of tariffs by the U.S. on the company, which allowed us and Catalyst the opportunity to consider our strategic options,” Cloutier said.

“The direct access to tide water at the Crofton mill is seen as giving us a competitive advantage. We intend to continue business as usual at our new mills, and there will be no impacts on the workers at Crofton and the other mills. We have also assumed the workers’ pension plans and all other contractual obligations.”

RELATED STORY: AMERICAN DUTIES AGAINST CATALYST PAPER DROPPED

Paper Excellence currently has close to two million tonnes of pulp production capacity through its five operating mills in Canada, located in B.C., Saskatchewan, and Nova Scotia, and two mills in France.

The acquisition of Catalyst Paper adds approximately 1,500 workers on top of the 2,300 that Paper Excellence currently has employed.

Cloutier said Paper Excellence is looking at expanding its markets globally, with a particular eye on Asia.

She said the middle class in many Asian countries continues to grow at a fast rate, leading to more demands for such luxury goods as paper tissue and towels that can be made from the company’s pulp and paper operations.

“We’re very excited about the opportunities for the pulp and paper industry in Canada, and we see a lot of growth here,” Cloutier said.

“That’s why we’re making these strategic investments. We believe pulp and paper is a sunrise industry in Canada and not a sunset one.”

As for investments in infrastructure at the Crofton mill and the possibility of more shifts and employment, Cloutier said those are decisions that will be made in the future.

“We’re still in the early stages here, but all of that will be reviewed down the road a little,” she said.

“Senior management from Paper Excellence will be on the ground in Crofton in a few weeks to take a look at the mill and meet our new employees. It’s an exiting time for the company.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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