WATCH: A struggling but vital economic engine on the Island got a big boost Monday. Richmond-based Paper Excellence completed its acquisition of Catalyst Paper mills in Crofton, Port Alberni and Powell River. After years of uncertainty, the move brings signs of hope for mill workers. Kendall Hanson reports.
They are turning the page at Vancouver Island’s only paper mills.
New ownership is now in place for the Crofton facility as well as ones in Port Alberni and Powell River as Paper Excellence is taking over from Catalyst.
“And they made a conscious decision to invest in you, to invest in workers and to invest in the BC economy. The consequences are positive today and will be positive going forward,” said Premier John Horgan.
It is a much needed fresh start, say many in Crofton.
Just last year, Catalyst said its mills were struggling under the weight of declining sales, cost increases and punitive U.S. duties but the new Richmond-based subsidiary of an Indonesian multinational sees opportunity.
“What we see in these facilities is really access to the pulp supply, the paper products that are already being made and we have some thoughts about how we might convert some facilities,” said Brian Baarda, Paper Excellence’s CEO.
Paper Excellence already owns five mills in Canada and two in France. It has a track record of investing in older mills to make them more efficient.
“We look at the natural markets which are Asia for these tidewater facilities and what we’re seeing is tremendous growth in packaging grades,” said Baarda.
The province says it is ready to help.
The Coast Revitalization plan to reduce the number of raw logs leaving B.C. and encourage value-added products should mean more much-needed fibre for the mills.
And the province is eliminating the PST on rising electricity costs. Catalyst Paper has been BC Hydro’s largest customer before the purchase.
“On behalf of our council and our 30,000 residents of North Cowichan, particularly the folks that live here in Crofton, I want to formally welcome Paper Excellence to our community.”
The mill is Crofton’s largest employer, part of the community for six decades and the new ownership is being welcomed with open arms.
“[I’m] super excited,” said Scott Sellars, a Crofton mill worker. “Can’t wait to be part of the company and looking forward to it.”
There are still challenges ahead for the mills but after years of uncertainty, the future suddenly looks much more promising.