THUNDER BAY, Ontario (From news reports) - Premier Doug Ford arrived in Thunder Bay this morning to attend an announcement at Resolute Forest Products. The Company states the announcement, held at its Thunder Bay pulp and paper mill, will be about significant investments and projects underway at its Northwestern Ontario pulp, paper and sawmill operations located in Thunder Bay, Atikokan and Ignace.
The Premier was joined by Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry Jeff Yurek and Other Special Guests.
Premier Doug Ford and Jeff Yurek, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, announced that Resolute Forest Products will be investing $40 million into Ontario's Northwestern operations, and an additional $13.5 million into maintenance and job creation at the Thunder Bay pulp and paper mill.
"The forestry sector contributes $15.3 billion to Ontario's economy. That's more than 150,000 good jobs across rural and Northern Ontario," says Ford. "Our government was elected to create and protect good jobs like these for workers and their families, and bring prosperity to long-overlooked communities in the North. Resolute knows Northern Ontario is Open for Business."
"Resolute has a strong operating presence in the region, and we are committed to investing in our facilities to ensure their profitability and long-term competitiveness," stated Yves Laflamme, president and chief executive officer. "A secure fiber supply and sustainable business environment remain critical to future investments in the province. Today's investment builds on the momentum of Premier Ford's policies that have declared Ontario open for business. Minister Yurek's first words to me last July were that his ministry would be working with the forest industry and its workers -- Premier Ford's government will be a supporter of job creators like Resolute, not a barrier to jobs and growth."
The investment plan includes $14.7 million for the company's Thunder Bay pulp and paper mill to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as $14.3 million to improve pulp capacity, reduce costs and maintain assets. Resolute also expects to spend $13.5 million in major maintenance at the facility in 2018.
An additional $5.6 million is earmarked for the modernization of the planer line at the company's Thunder Bay sawmill, located on Fort William First Nation land, as well as $5.4 million to optimize its Atikokan, Ignace and Thunder Bay sawmills. These initiatives are expected to increase the annual production capacity of the facilities by a combined 50 million board feet of lumber. Twenty-five full-time jobs have been created.
The expansion of the Thunder Bay pulp and paper mill by Resolute Forest Products signals their confidence in Ontario's economy and will create an additional 25 new full-time jobs. In addition, the company's investment plan includes $14.7 million to improve energy efficiency at the mill and cut greenhouse gas emissions, $9 million for the pulp capacity expansion project, $5.3 million for facility upgrades, as well as $13.5 million for maintenance costs.
"Today is a great day for Resolute, and for the future of Ontario's forestry sector," said Yurek. "This investment not only emphasizes the opportunities in this sector but the real need for a Provincial Forestry Strategy -- and we are developing just that. I am confident we can grow our economy, create new jobs and encourage more investments across the province."
"The Fort William/Resolute sawmill partnership is a model of how an Indigenous community and a business can work together to create long-term benefits for both parties," stated Peter Collins, Chief of Fort William First Nation. "We had a vision and invested together to create a cornerstone business on our community lands."
Close to 90% of the new lumber and pulp capacity is destined for export markets. More than half of project expenditures are slated for the last quarter of 2018.
Resolute employs close to 900 workers across its Northwestern Ontario pulp, paper, wood products and woodlands operations. The company has invested approximately $200 million in the region over the past several years.
The Premier also had to get through a protest rally to get to the announcement. Cassie Thorton in a media statement says, "Protesters will greet Doug Ford's first visit to Thunder Bay as premier of Ontario to draw attention to the many ways his government is dramatically worsening the lives of poor and working class people in the province. This comes in a week when Ford's government has cancelled a planned increase in the minimum wage as well the paid sick day policy introduced by his predecessor. Many of the protesters will be individuals who were part of the Provincial government's Basic Income Pilot program, which Ford also abruptly cancelled shortly after being elected, leaving about a thousand citizens of Thunder Bay scrambling."
Thorton adds, "The protesters see all these decisions as coming from a government that is waging class warfare, protecting and coddling the rich and corporations with tax cuts, hand-outs and favours while not only abandoning our society's least fortunate people but also painting them as public enemies. Protesters are also concerned that Ford's cozy relationship with the rich will also pose a threat to the environment as his administration destroys regulations that reign in corporations engaged in deforestation, pollution, and hazardous extractive industries like mining.