OTTAWA – Thunder Bay – Rainy River Member of Parliament John Rafferty said the announced permanent closure of Resolute’s Fort Frances paper mill will be devastating to the local economy, but that he will work to secure the pensions and severance pay for affected workers and community assistance for the town if it requires it.
“This announcement is devastating for the affected workers and their families and our community,” Rafferty said. “My concern today is for the workers and families who are directly and immediately affected by this closure, but I am also very concerned about the long term economic well-being of the town of Fort Frances and for our regional economy.” As recently as 2012 the mill employed as many as 700 workers in the community of 8000 people.
In its announcement Resolute Forest Products said that the Fort Frances mill closure was the result of poor market conditions decreasing demand for some paper products, and promised to work with workers and their labour representatives to secure any pensions and severance that are owed. “The company has said they will assist workers who are affected in accessing their wages, severance, and pensions so I will be holding them to their word and assisting those workers in any way that I can,” Rafferty said.
While demand for paper products has been slipping for years Rafferty said Conservative indifference to the struggles of the forestry sector and the Northern Ontario economy has, and will, cost the region dearly. “I have consistently asked for three things from this government since I was first elected: a national forestry strategy, better security for the pensions and severance pay of workers, and a permanent adjustment fund to assist communities when they lose their primary employers,” he said. “The Conservatives have rejected these proposals and the results speak themselves; more than 195,000 jobs have been lost in the forestry sector since Stephen Harper became Prime Minister, and more than 28,000 of those job losses have occurred in small communities throughout Northern Ontario.”
Moving forward Rafferty said that constituents who are having difficulty accessing government benefits, or feel that they are not being treated properly by during the winding down process, can contact his office for assistance. “My constituents are always my highest priority, and my staff and I will do everything we can to assist them in collecting their wages and pensions, and accessing any benefits they may be entitled to.”