Vive Le Canada

Date: Thursday, January 12 2006

I find this interesting. (Article below)"Supermills." Again this brings the Youbou sawmill to mind. It was once a supermill. A fully self-sustaining mill also. We made, at one time, beveled siding, veneer, specialty cuts, and most important of all we value added. It was a volume mill, as well as a value added mill. I must also mention it had a power plant. Any waste, mulch, sawdust and so on, was sent to the power house, in turn the power generated, steam, ran the mill. Fully contained mill, it was.

At one time Youbou employed 1000 guys. I must also mention there were two other mills, Honeymoon Bay mill and Mesachie mill. All in total there were at least 2 to 3000 people employed. Of course one has to mention the loggers: probably another one to two thousand. I remember camp three, school, community hall, little store, and bunk houses to house the loggers, before that mills had bunk houses.(Before my time. All gone now.) Then there was Caycuse, laced with Company houses, bunk houses, stores, gas station and so on. (Again all gone.) We, and the Lake Cowichan area, were booming for years. Schools in every little town, and a,what is missing today, humongous tax base. I guess you could say a fully contained community, and other communities of course. People working, people paying taxes. Oh!! I must also mention Youbou had a theater, Bank, Police station with jails, Doctors office, and so on.

Contributors comments:

The stories' main piece is the letter that was written to me by a man, Mr. Darreld Rayner, who used to be employed at the Youbou Mill before it was shut down a few years ago. This man is full of information and he clearly shows what is happening here on the west Coast. I have received Mr. Rayner's permission to submit his writings. He can be contacted at

Thanks for your consideration!
June Ross
Nanaimo, BC

I remember loggers boasting about a 2-dollar-a-day charge for all you can eat, and I believe bunkhouses were about 50 bucks a month. I also remember, as a child, every year there were always a few more kids enrolled in our schools. In other words, young families moved here in hopes of settling down. Schools were busting at the seams, churches were well attended, Scouts, brownies, youth clubs and the list goes on. I guess you could say we lived in an almost perfect area. Good money, good way of life, and so on. I would have to believe one of the reasons for a perfect way of life, which we had, was because of the IWA. Which was formed in the 40's I believe. The IWA was born in the LakeCowihan area..

I've talked to the old boys, June. Stories, they told me, of when they walked ten miles in the middle of the night, no pay, meeting other union organizers. From other camps, mills and so on. They had to do this all in hiding, for if found out disciplinary action would be taken against the organizers.. It was also against the law to organize. I remember the old guys talking of baseball bats on picket lines. One woman remembers her father coming home on a regular basi all beat to hell from company thugs. His reward for fighting for the boys was the "blacklist." Nobody would hire him, yet he kept fighting. Organizing, and so on. Just a couple years ago a guy told me his father was also blacklisted, from Company and Union. The funny thing is, his father received a plaque from the union in recognition of his efforts of the past. He received this after he passed away. Weird, eh . . .

Anyway, here we are. 2006. Most of the old union boys of the past are all but gone. Still a few left, but the radicals have passed away. You know, the original organizers, the ones that took the bat beatings, the radicals, the ones that broke the laws in order guys like me, when I was a child, could enjoy the good life. The old guys that never gave up, just to make sure others were taken care of. The old guys that unions of today have forgotten about. Well, maybe not forgotten, but afraid to take on the role the old guys had. One of them being, "Standing with the members, instead of watching on TV, or writing nasty letters. Afraid of breaking corporate laws." OOOOPS . . . wandering off again..

Anyway, back to supermills. Our area was full of them. Mills built our communities, now they are all gone. Along with those mills going a whole culture moved out with them. Now I read in this article below, Supermills are a hot topic. "Bigger is better, is the message I get. Just like it was in our area at one time. Sure, bigger was better, but it was different back then compared to now. We made value added products. In the interior it's only about 2 x 4's. More lumber, millions of tree's will disappear, June. Gobbled up by multinationals. Squeezing out the smaller guy, companies, again. Something like what happened to Domans on the Island.

I know you don't understand much about mills, June, but it's like this. Supermills are good for the island. When one shoots for value, more saws are needed, more people for handling and so on.. Like Youbou was. The bigger the log, the longer it takes to saw. In order to make money value added was necessary. Making value out of peelers, perfect logs, takes time. The time a mill loses making value, the value makes up for the time lost. What the companies didn't like was it took more people, liabilities, to produce a value added piece of wood. Of course making value means one has to slow down, and make sure of his, or her cuts. Our mill made money by slowing down, June. Unfortunately if you export logs in volume, more money is made. In the short term of course. Less people handling it. Load it, haul it, export it. No mills, liabilities, in between. Something like getting rid of the middle man. "Cutting costs." Mind you if the government of the day really wanted to they could give tax incentives for jobs created, but the problem is companies see money after all of our high grade logs are gone. (Apparently we have the best fibre in the world, and the world wants it.) They, companies like Timberwest, see development. 250,000 bucks for a piece of dirt up here, June. I must also mention the fact they own the bottom of our lake.. "Freshwater," June. Our next biggest commodity. I honestly believe they will have control of the water systems, I also predict water tankers will be replacing logging trucks. Just a prediction,

Now!! You compare interior wood with Coastal wood, it's like comparing apples with oranges. Trees are so small up there thousands maybe millions, per day are needed in order to turn a profit, because there is very little value in them. The smaller the tree, the less value. More knots and so on.. Soooo, in order to turn a profit, and compete on a global scale, one has to cut more trees, in order to make more lumber. (Most often one tree is only good for one 2 x 4.) I see millions of trees, per day being logged. The sad thing is, it takes three times as long for a tree up north to grow. On the Island it takes 40 years.. Up north about a hundred, so they say. This is why we can not allow Supermills in the interior. It is predicted that in about five years there will be nothing left at the rate they are logging and milling today.. Supermills may shorten that prediction. Scary, eh . . .

Take care, June.

Supermill trend fires up lumber sector

But independent producers seek closer scrutiny

By Monte Stewart - Business Edge
Published: 12/22/2005 - Vol. 2, No. 26

Independent B.C. lumber producers are calling for closer scrutiny of the province's trend toward supermills as the industry grapples with increased global competition.

"If the people of this province really want big, monstrous mills all over the place, I would rather they tell me sooner than later, so I can go and do something else," says Ken Kalesnikoff, owner of the Kalesnikoff Lumber Co. Ltd. mill based near Castlegar in the Kootenays.

Supermills refer to facilities that can produce hundreds of millions of board feet of lumber per year.

But the trend toward supermills will not slow down anytime soon, predicts Craig Campbell, a partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. Campbell told a recent Vancouver Board of Trade forum on the future of the lumber industry that B.C.'s move to embrace large mills will continue as the province grapples with rising global competition for wood.

Large mills are becoming more prolific in the B.C. Interior and Cariboo regions near Prince George, Quesnel and Williams Lake.

Before it was defeated by a non-confidence motion, the federal Liberal government announced a $1.5-billion lumber industry aid program that included financial assistance for communities that face mill closures.

[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on January 12, 2006]


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