Port McNeill Mayor Gaby Wickstrom. (Supplied by Gaby Wickstrom, Facebook)
Port McNeill Mayor Gaby Wickstom is calling for help on behalf of small towns up and down Vancouver Island.
She said that she’s advocating for communities impacted by the recently resolved forestry workers strike.
Wickstrom said the COVID-19 crisis is yet another blow to a town still recovering from that.
“I asked today on a call if the government would have any extra funds for those communities affected by the crisis and affected by the strike,” Wickstrom said. “I really do think the sector needs some extra help.”
She made the same plea during last night’s town hall meeting with the BC Liberal Party.
Now, she said it feels like they are right back to square one.
“The mood is, I wouldn’t say similar, because at least we got to talk to each other before. We have to social distance, and that is making it harder,” Wickstrom said.
“A lot of the businesses… I really don’t know how they are going to survive this, I really don’t.”
Wickstrom said many of the businesses still open are deemed essential, including the hardware store, grocery store, and drug store.
“The coffee shop is now closed, the restaurants are doing takeout but if they are not having much takeout they are not having that much takeout they’re closing as well so there’s not a lot.”
She said Port McNeill didn’t have any time to recover from the nearly eight-month long strike.
“Other businesses all across the province are mentioning how difficult this is after three-and-a-half weeks,” Wickstrom said. “We have lived this for seven-and-a-half months. Interior forestry crisis: same thing. No buffer for them.”
Wickstrom said the novel coronavirus is a new storm cloud hovering over the town. “There was some lightness and some hope, and now, gosh, I don’t even know how the business community is surviving if they’re non-essential.”
At the same time, Wickstrom stressed that Port McNeill is one of many coastal communities hit hard first by the strike, and then by the crisis.
“Of course Port McNeill feels it, but this is island-wide,” she said. “Everybody in the forestry sector and businesses that had business off-shoots from those, they’re affected as well. So it’s not just us. It was amplified here but it wasn’t just us.”