Latest posts by Chris Marchand (see all)
- For Pete’s Sake – 2018 Come Together Concert a tribute to late local musician - January 9, 2019
- DREAM project marks progress - April 25, 2018
- Northern Lights impressive - April 25, 2018
Generations of Drydenites have grown up in awe of that looming grey superstructure on its western edge.
As a small child I imagined they were skyscrapers in the distance, an impressive city skyline that could trick those who rounded the Two-Mile Corner for the first time into believing for a moment they had arrived at the very seat of cosmopolitan sophistication in the Northwest.
Pride takes on strange forms sometimes and indeed local culture has found ways to embrace and celebrate the compromises we’ve made as a community in the name of commitment to forestry.
In the 50s the town mascot was a cartoon skunk called ‘Prosperity’ — a way of laughing off the smell that visitors still complain of when travelling through.
As a kid I remember the free car wash station, the mill’s solution to residents who complained of fallout ash from the mill stacks dissolving the paint on their cars.
We have also become particularly good at hiding from our children our community’s status as a textbook example of environmental disaster, re: Reed Paper’s dumping of 10 tons of mercury into the Wabigoon River from 1962 to 1970 — leaving the job to far-flung universities to inform our sons and daughters of the shameful local legacy.
Dryden made its bed a long time ago. We’ve chosen, at every turn in our history, the path of least resistance for the continued extraction of natural resources. In doing so, we’ve missed other opportunities to grow.
Traditionally, the rewards we’ve reaped for being a ‘company town’ have been significant, particularly in the boom times, the days of the 75-cent dollar and affordable electricity.
The forest industry works on an unspoken ‘social contract’ with its host communities and province. In exchange for the right to consume publicly-owned natural resources, they provide jobs and property tax income to the community.
These days, the local Walmart likely employs more people than the Dryden mill site and an industrial property tax assessment appeal has dropped the mill’s assessed value from $50 million to $14 million, creating a massive dearth in taxation revenue.
While this is certainly more the city’s problem than Domtar’s, it should be acknowledged that from this point forward the mill will not be pulling the same weight it traditionally has in Dryden. While it continues to consume Crown resources at the same rate, its contribution to the community, once as high as 20 per cent of the city’s tax rolls, drops well into the single digits.
The social contract between Dryden and its mill has been rather suddenly re-written. I’m interested to know how this might change the community’s view towards an industry we’ve traditionally let get away with just about everything over the past century.
If it’s no longer the smell of our prosperity, then it just stinks.