NORTHERNERS NOT GIVING UP ON TOLKO MILL

Amanda Lathlin, the NDP MLA for The Pas, and Niki Ashton, the NDP MP for Churchill Keewatinook Aski, are jointly calling on the federal and provincial governments to support efforts to save the forestry industry and hundreds of jobs in northern Manitoba.                                          

"We need to send a clear message that the people in our communities and our region are not giving up. We have saved our paper mill in the past,” said Lathlin. “We can do it again. The key is for everyone to come together to find solutions that can save the mill and save these jobs," said Lathlin.

Lathlin and Ashton made the call following extensive consultations with key stakeholders and community representatives in The Pas area. There is a clear consensus in The Pas and OCN that it is important to fight to save the jobs that are at risk because of Tolko's announced closure of its operation.

"In the past, The NDP government took the initiative to join with workers, the community and the company to save the Tolko paper mill,” Lathlin noted. “It was successful in getting the company to find a way to keep operations going. We need that same willingness from the provincial and federal governments to finding a solution again." 

Ashton said the loss of more than 300 jobs in the mill and an equivalent number in the forestry side of the operation would be nothing short of devastating. 

"The Pas, OCN and communities in the surrounding area have given a lot to this province and a lot to this country,” Ashton said.  “It’s time for the province and the federal government to be there for the North and our northern jobs."

Ashton stressed that people are not giving up.

"Everyone we met with had a similar message. They don't underestimate the challenge that we are facing but they are not giving up. They want to be part of the solution and are asking everyone including the federal and provincial governments to step up," Ashton said. 

Lathlin and Ashton said northerners have numerous ideas about ways in which forestry jobs can be maintained and even expanded with the right plan. There is significant interest in First Nations ownership, the possibility of employee ownership participation, as well as working with new private partners. Northerners, Tolko employees and forestry workers also have numerous ideas about changes to the operation, including opening a sawmill and other possible forestry related opportunities.

Lathlin stressed that people are not looking for a bailout. "People are looking for solutions in the same way as 2006 when the Doer government worked with stakeholders to find solutions to keep the operation going."

Ashton pointed out that the potential loss of jobs comes at a time when there are very significant challenges across the country in terms of job losses." We simply can't afford to lose these jobs," she said.

Lathlin said her constituents are very clear about what they want. "This is not just about Tolko. These are our forestry resources and our jobs. We are determined to fight the save them."

Ashton and Lathlin will be working with the local community to fight to save the paper mill. Already local residents are mobilizing, using social media to get their message across. It’s also anticipated that there will be a community led delegation to both Winnipeg and Ottawa to save the mill.

"Our message is clear. We are not giving up on our mill. We are not giving up on an industry that has more than a century of history in our region. We are determined to be part of the solution. We are calling on everyone, including the federal and provincial governments to come to the table and to work to find solutions that will replicate the successful effort to save the operation in 2006."