Dear Mayor Rob Douglas and council:
While applauding council’s wisely supportive role in talks about tragic job losses – and potential tax shortfalls – at Catalyst’s Crofton mill, this dire situation (Cowichan Valley Citizen Dec. 15, 2022) points, in part, to our dismal failure to diversify North Cowichan’s forest-based economy.
Forestry’s fickle fortunes could also reduce work at local Western Forest Products operations, council has learned.
In short, struggling taxpayers may face hefty tax hikes as many of our economic eggs sit in the basket of a mill owned by market-driven Paper Excellence.
With global paper markets down and production costs rising, the mill’s multi-national owners have announced curtailment of Crofton’s paper operations.
That from a mill dropping some $3 million annually into North Cowichan’s municipal coffers – with no reserve to cover at least a year’s worth of potential tax shortfalls given such mill cutbacks.
Indeed, Paper Excellence could announce the full closure of its local mill anytime, leaving taxpayers on the hook, workers on the street and citizens shouldering site clean-up costs.
Much of this dark forecast should have been tackled by council and Economic Development Cowichan decades ago. Foresight and planning were sorely lacking to direct diversification away from forestry alone, and into value-added industries, manufacturing, eco-tourism and other sunrise economic developments.
Heaven help us now if our golden goose croaks in Crofton.
Yours in smart economic growth,
Peter W. Rusland,