Is N.B. a democracy; or an Irving-family fiefdom?Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Writer concerned provincial government, industry turning their backs on all-party wood-supply report
Bugle Observer Tuesday January 29th, 2008
Editors note: The following is an open letter to members of the former All-Party Select Committee on Wood Supply from Beth MacFarlane. On behalf of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, MacFarlane attended all the meetings held by the select committee. She is concerned the recommendations made by the committee are now being ignored.
Dear Select Committee on Wood Supply members,
Do we live in a democracy or are we living under the shadow of the wishes of the Irving family, one of the richest families in the world in one of the poorest provinces in Canada?
I am referring to what you listened to at the public meetings of the Select Committee on Wood Supply (on Crown Lands) of 2004, and the fact that what you did hear was reflected in your 24 recommendations to the government of the day.
The fact that, of all the public presentations, fully two-thirds of those presenters gave a long-term scenario and options which would fully benefit the people of the province of New Brunswick - the other third consisted of presentations of the economic benefits of the status quo (2004) by the industries, (most of them Irving controlled) by contractors, sawmill owners and representatives of pulp mills. The world was changing then and it has completely changed now.
The major concerns of the majority of the presenters were:
1) No to more cutting in the 30-metre buffer zones of rivers in streams and deer yards, those "protected areas" (as 1/3 of stems can be cut every 10 years)
2) No to a third-party evaluation of the harvesting by multinational forestry companies in any area
3) No to harvesting of over 75 per cent of Crown Lands by a single method: clearcutting
4) No to more tree farms or monoculture of Jack Pine and spruce for pulp mills, to double the wood supply, but a better management for the highest value of trees
5) Governance of our Crown Lands - people were very upset by the way not only the forests were being destroyed, but also by the treatment of small forestry companies beholden to the permit holders and the fact that we taxpayers underwrite the difference between what is paid in stumpage fees and what it costs New Brunswickers to build roads and pay for sylviculture. They also suggested dealing with the First Nations and settling matters.
6) No to guaranteed profits for the next decades, especially considering what disaster might befall the forests.
You might recall that you heard from the Creme de la Creme, forestry professors, other Ph.D.s in landscape preservation, in canopy covering for the maintenance of bird colonies and big game, botanists, foresters, business people, environmental businesses, economists and very concerned and forestry experienced persons.
We do have highly knowledgeable people in the province who took the time to exercise their civic duty and express ideas and options for the future of their province, for the future of their public resource, the Crown Lands of New Brunswick. All of those people made suggestions which were aimed at the benefit of all New Brunswickers, the economy, the environment and the social environment to keep well-educated New Brunswicker in the province. You, the members of the former All-Party Select Committee on Wood Supply (wood supply, an already limited short-term view of the subject of Crown Lands, by a company who already knew what the rest of the world was up to) did your job and did it well.
However, in the three years since your report and recommendations, each of those extremely contentious issues - first came the reduction of the number of forest guardians and wardens to ensure proper management is done (the very essence of the job of the Ministry of Natural Resources) and the allowance of a third-party review (as if an accountant is out in the bush, knowing how to evaluate forestry practices); second came no new decision to reduce the clear cutting on Crown Land, despite your recommendations. Third came as much planting of tree farms as ever.
The final straw came in the Spring of 2006 when the government allowed more harvesting and we cite in this press release: Annual Allowable Cut to be kept near existing levels, from Feb. 14, 2006.
"In order to help protect jobs in the forest sector, the Department of Natural Resources will find ways to keep the provincial softwood Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) close to existing levels during the 2007-12 forest management period. Minister of Natural Resources Keith Ashfield provided the details."
In the year and a half since that time, several pulp mills and sawmills have close. Though the high Canadian dollar is oft cited as the reason for these closures, rarely is it mentioned that our competition in Asia and South America (and Russia) can underbid the cost of paper compared to any pulp mill in Canada, including New Brunswick.
Rarely is it mentioned that those areas of the world can grow a tree for fibre in 10 years where it takes a minimum of 60-80 years here (not the 30 which Irving would have us believe - remember our botanists?)
The era of pulp is over - yet the government has recently announced a levy of $10 per cubic foot of Crown Land license to allow its transfer - when there is no justification for a transfer - the jobs have been reduced or eliminated, sawmills have closed up - what are you being told by Irving?
Who are the people really concerned with the overall future of New Brunswick?
Who are the people who have lots of knowledge, broad-based knowledge, scientific knowledge, and have nothing to gain for themselves? Who are the people who pay taxes, who pay taxes yearly rather than having them deferred, who live in NB - who are the people who have NOT asked for a tax reduction for their company because it would cost too much to do business and that we should be satisfied with job creation?
You all did a wonderful job representing New Brunswickers in 2004 with your report and recommendations. We all received a great education. Now I ask that you start to re-educate your fellow MLAs - especially the ones representing urban areas - take them out for lunch, brief them on the issues: pesticide and herbicide use to kill valuable hardwoods, forestry workers, need for better education, skilled wood workers, value-added products and diversified ownership and access to Crown Lands. Tell them about the governance issues, that New Brunswickers consider the management poor at best, that there are better ways to manage our Crown Forests which will provide real revenue to our provincial coffers.
You know these things now. Finally, it has been suggested that public hearings in the affected communities be a part of the way forestry issues be dealt with. After our experience with the citizens' presentations during our travels around the province, public hearings from the regions (including Fredericton) could prove invaluable to the political climate.
Kind regards, Beth McLaughlin, Moncton, N.B.
Published Tuesday January 29th, 2008, Woodstock Bugle Observer