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'People have a little more hope': Port McNeill mayor says end of forestry strike is beginning of recovery

Last Updated Feb 16, 2020 at 8:06 pm PDT

(Courtesy town.portmcneill.bc.ca)
Summary

About 3,000 employees and contractors in several Vancouver Island communities have been off the job since July 1

Port McNeill's Mayor says it's still going to take weeks or months, for paycheques to roll in and the recovery to begin

PORT MCNEILL (NEWS 1130) — A marathon forestry strike on Vancouver Island has come to an end but one local mayor says she’s still fielding calls from workers who have had their hydro disconnected or lost their homes as a result.

About 3,000 employees and contractors in several Vancouver Island communities have been off the job since July 1. A deal was ratified Saturday between the United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 and Western Forest Products.

Port McNeill Mayor Gaby Wickstrom says it’s still going to take weeks, or even months, for paycheques to roll in and the recovery to begin.

“The mood definitely has shifted in the community. It’s a lot brighter. People have a little bit more hope,” she says, adding community relief efforts are ongoing.

“Some churches are doing monthly dinners. The Loonies for Loggers ladies are going to continue for at least another month or two. As a municipality we’re looking at ways to be able to alleviate the stress for people as well.”

Wilkinson says she would like to see some additional assistance from the provincial and federal governments in the interim.

She says she has heard from people in other Island communities affected by flooding who say the government should similarly step in and help out communities devastated by the strike.

“There should be something offered to people who were caught in the crossfire,” she explains.

One thing Wickstrom would like to see is an arrangement so that people who can’t immediately return to work will be able to collect Employment Insurance, something she has spoken to provincial and federal officials about.

“If there are people who need help and they haven’t been working in the last seven and a half months they should have some sort of special forgiveness to be able to access that.”

Wickstrom says people in the communities affected by the strike are worried that the province’s Old Growth Strategic Review could result in a ban on old-growth logging.

“This strike gave us a glimpse of what life could be like if there was a ban on old-growth logging. All of the municipalities are getting together and talking about what we can do to lobby the government and make sure that legislation is right and we’re not further affected.”

A rally is planned for Tuesday on the lawn of the Legislature.

“This gathering is not to berate the government, but rather to increase the awareness of the importance of forestry to our province, our communities and our way of life,” reads a description of the event on Facebook.