The Tolko mill in Kelowna will be permanently shutting its doors on Jan. 8 (Kathy Michaels file) The Tolko mill in Kelowna will be permanently shutting its doors on Jan. 8 (Kathy Michaels file)

West Kelowna MLA speaks out after Tolko mill closure

Ben Stewart said increased taxes by the current government are partly to blame for the shutdown

Increased taxes implemented by the B.C. government are the main reason why the Tolko mill in Kelowna is shutting its doors early next year, according to West Kelowna MLA Ben Stewart.

He blamed the current NDP government’s tax policies for the mill’s early closure, which will permanently shut its doors on Jan. 8 after 87 years in operation. Approximately 120 workers are expected to lose their job.

READ MORE: Kelowna Tolko mill shut down for ‘indeterminate’ amount of time

“We’ve laid our points to the premier, including increased taxation on several fronts,” said Stewart, who represents the B.C. Liberal Party

“That includes increases to an employer health tax and increases to the carbon tax which happened last year.”

He also blamed the downturn in the lumber industry on changes to stumpage fees.

“Other provinces are more competitive because their stumpage fees are reflected on a monthly basis while ours only looks at a yearly basis,” said Stewart.

“Their stumpage system is able to better reflect low lumber prices in the United States.”

Stewart said mills in both Alberta and Saskatchewan have managed to remain open because their lumber prices have adjusted better to changing market conditions in other countries.

Stewart said the current B.C. government hasn’t done enough to consult with resource-dependent communities like Terrace, Lillooet and Merritt to see why their mills are closing and more mills will continue to shut down if nothing is done by the province.

“One we start to lose mills in critical mass, there won’t be people in the sector to help harvest logs,” said Stewart.

“What were going to see is an entire collapse of the forestry industry if we keep with it.”

Earlier this year, the B.C. government announced $69 million in funding to help support forestry workers adapt to mill closures across the province.

Stewart said he is now looking to create an all party committee with the B.C. government to help save the provincial lumber industry.


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