(New Richmond) It is 10 years this morning, the Smurfit-Stone company was causing a commotion in the area of the Baie-des-Chaleurs announcing brutally, by press release, the permanent closure of its cartonboard New Richmond, leaving 300 people unemployed and many sawmills without markets for their by-products.
Gordon Duthie recovered pictures over the years, especially when the plant was in the process of demolition. They are on display until 25 August.
SPECIAL TO GILLES GAGNÉ
Gaspésie was losing its third largest industry in six years after the closure of Mines Gaspé in Murdochville and Gaspésia stationery Chandler. The crisis has affected to the Bas-Saint-Laurent and New Brunswick, where several mills were betting on the cardboard to sell less desirable byproducts that chips such as sawdust.
It is humans who cashed the hardest hit, evokes Gordon Duthie, hired the cardboard in December 1965, just four months after its inauguration, and was still employed 4 August 2005.
“My daughter was visiting us and she said that the factory was closed. She had just heard that. I did not believe her. I went to the hospital for blood tests and, meanwhile, I saw on the news the announcement of the closure. It fell like a big thunder. Everything was kept secret. The only one who knew, it was the plant manager, and he had not told his entourage, “recalls Mr. Duthie.
The firm had hired security guards. The employees were escorted one by one to collect their belongings.
“We had to make an appointment. I arrived two minutes late to my appointment and the guard refused me access. It took me to take another appointment, “recalls Mr. Duthie.
History buff, he tried to save documents and pictures of the factory in the offices of the cardboard. “So much has been simply wasted. There seemed to have no awareness of protecting anything, “he adds.
While the factory was demolished in 2009 and 2010, Duthie made numerous trips between his home and the former offices. He managed to save photos and documents. “I would have liked to be orderly,” he said.
On Friday, about 400 people attended a meeting of former employees of the board mill in New Richmond, meeting during which it conducted a photo vernissage by Gordon Duthie amassed over the years. These photos are on display in the Taylor points to the park trail until August 25.
Lena Carroll, who worked from 1970 to 2005 in the offices of the cardboard, also evokes the closing with a heavy heart. “We do not expect any permanent closure, perhaps a temporary closure of two or three weeks.”
Jean-Yves Bujold, who has spent nearly 30 years at the cardboard, also returns to the closing bitterly, although there spent beautiful years. “Smurfit-Stone closed a profitable plant, which had low production costs because they had succeeded in developing a recipe taking 80% of sawdust, which was cheaper than chips. The company protected its US plant. ”
The mayor of New Richmond, Éric Dubé believes that his city has managed its economic diversification and move on. “We started by creating a crisis unit, with Ms. Appleby [Nicole, mayor at the time]. It has focused on infrastructure and diversification, “he said.
“Since then, about 200 jobs have been created on the site of the Smurfit-Stone, for Fabrication Delta, GD Rail, Construction and Raymer PEC, or in the industrial park. The new jobs are not the same salary, but people have become used to buy more here whereas before they went hunting in Newfoundland, they were in the south, or shop in Quebec City. Almost all businesses have expanded or improved their facilities, “notes Mr. Dubé.
“These are the finances of the City who also ate a blow. We lost a quarter of our fiscal revenue […] Ten years later, was recovered more than what has been lost, with the last assessment roll, “he said.