AbitibiBowater announced today that it will close the mill in my hometown before the end of March. The closure will put about 450 people out of work at the mill, my uncle and several in-laws and friends among them, and many more who work in forestry, shipping and other jobs that depend on the paper mill.
The town has grown up around that mill since 1905. My family really sprang forth from the opportunity that the papermill provided, my grandfather raised ten children on the salary he made there. They were never well off financially, but he provided well for them, he worked very hard. My dad too worked there a few years, and many summers- it enabled him to save money to go to university. My Uncle Bill works there still, I am not sure what there will be for him after the mill closes. And I am willing to bet he is wondering the same thing.
The mill allowed people to build a community where everyone knows everyone else, and cares about each other in a way that is simultaneoulsy loving, and smothering. The residents of Grandfalls-Windsor are connected to each other in a lot of ways, but the epicenter of those connections was the mill.
And now it is gone.
When I read the report I was hit first with a worry, it knotted in my belly and tighened there, a hard lump. And then came the anger, and boy there was a lot of that. I wondered how things got to this point? Why had Abitibi not kept the mill in pace with the times? How did the union fail to realize playing hard ball with a company already losing millions was not the best plan? How, especially given the current recesssion, could 88 per cent of the workers reject Abitibi's final offer knowing the company was looking for any excuse to close shop? I just don't get it.
I am not sure what is next for people home. I guess some could find work in Alberta, but even that wellspring is drying up. I know Rex says that the town has diversified, but I don't think it will make it for long without the mill, not without something to replace it.