July 3, 2020
The New Brunswick government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been lauded for its speed, decisiveness and effectiveness in the face of a real threat to the well-being of the people of this province.
“It’s reassuring to know that our government can act quickly.
It’s proof that when presented with potential catastrophe, we have a government that can act swiftly in our best interests.
It’s reassuring to know that our government can act quickly. We just have to look south of the border to see what happens when an administration drags its feet instead of acting immediately to head off disaster.
We know Premier Blaine Higgs and his government can respond decisively to an urgent situation, we remain hopeful that he will realize the importance of prompt legislative action to correct the imbalance and unfairness in our wood supply system.
PART OR ALL OF THEIR LIVELIHOODS
More than 42,000 New Brunswick woodlot owners and their families depend on private woodlots for part or all of their livelihoods, yet we feel we are continuing to lose ground, and money, because of government inaction.
“We are continuing to lose ground, and money, because of government inaction.
There’s an injustice being done to the woodlot owners and to all of the people of New Brunswick in terms of the pricing of wood from Crown land and access to it. The social contract that was struck in the 1980s in the Crown Lands and Forests Act, which guaranteed a fair deal for private woodlot owners, has been broken and altered by successive governments.
The first thing to go, under pressure from industry, were rules that established private wood as the primary source of supply with Crown timber a last resort. Along with that, the marketing board system, in place to protect private woodlot owners and guarantee fair market access, has been crippled. Not only were private woodlot owners relegated to residual suppliers, but our entire negotiating system was undermined. It was tantamount to rubbing salt in the wound.
Since then, we witnessed a further erosion when, in 2014, the government diminished the position of the private woodlot sector by making significantly more Crown forest available to forestry companies. As well, the shift away from marketing boards to direct purchases continued for industry.
NOT COMPLYING WITH THE CROWN LANDS AND FORESTS ACT
We have all seen the deleterious effects of this. In 2015, Auditor General Kim MacPherson wrote in a report that the provincial government was not complying with the Crown Lands and Forests Act. One of the subsequent consequences was the imposition by the United States of tariffs on New Brunswick’s softwood exports.
“There is hope for a better tomorrow – if this government acts.
But the impact has been felt by the private woodlot owners in the province and their families. They have watched as the value of their woodlots, their market share and their labour steadily declined. Now, it would seem, there is hope for a better tomorrow – if this government acts.
NO BETTER TIME
We are still awaiting details from Natural Resources and Energy Development Minister Mike Holland about the provincial government plan, announced late last year, to freeze the amount of wood the big mills can take from publicly owned Crown land and to give woodlot owners a larger share of the market supplying the mills.
We understand the last few months have been a tumultuous time but now that we are all emerging from the crisis intent on getting this province back on its feet economically, there seems no better time than for the government to act.
Without some action soon, we’re concerned the entire system will begin to suffer permanent damage. It’s time for the government to focus on the well-being of thousands of New Brunswickers and reinstate a fair deal in our woodlands.
Thank you for listening,
Rick Doucett President, New Brunswick Federation of Woodlot Owners