the story of a mill town

The Project

Last Shift: The Story of a Mill Town was inspired by events that unfolded in late 2007 when Abitibi-Bowater announced its intention to close Dalhousie's pulp and paper mill.

From the time it opened in 1930, the paper mill had been the centre of life in Dalhousie, a vibrant town of 5000 in northern New Brunswick, a small province on Canada's east coast.

The mill provided jobs and futures to three generations of townsfolk, all of whom had been touched in personal ways by the mill.

The mill closed forever on 31 January 2008. For the people of Dalhousie, the reason for the closure was a mystery. Labour peace had been achieved in the mill, forward contracts were signed, and reliable customers were secured outside what had been a volatile North American market. The mill had also been a model of efficiency for a number of years.

For Abitibi, the reason for closing the mill was simpler, at least for locals: it was to create scarcity in a market already dominated by them. Abitibi bookkeepers saw in its demise (and the demise of other mills like it) an opportunity to raise the price of product by taking some of its own producers out of the market.

Last Shift is a response to that kind of corporate citizenship, and to the timidity of a Liberal government in New Brunswick that had no capacity or will to answer back in the way that other provincial governments did.

The film documents the history of the mill and the town, showing the reciprocal relationship they shared. The story told is one of hope, hardship, struggle, and loss – of incremental gains in a difficult work environment, mutual dependency of employer and town, and eventual betrayal by global economic forces and a provincial society that had grown fat on tax revenues from mill towns.

Based on interviews with mill employees, this 42-minute documentary is the poignant history of one town's way of life, and of how that town's horizons were shaped and altered by the pulsing industry at its heart.