October 7, 2020
The provincial election is now behind us, producing a majority government that Progressive Conservative leader Blaine Higgs sought.
“The marketplace has yet to be fixed. Private wood still does not have fair access to the market.
Private woodlot owners are hopeful that the Premier and his government will adhere to the promises they made during their first term in office when they pledged to overhaul the Crown Lands and Forests Act and restore fairness in the forestry sector.
"If we don't have a fair marketplace, we will fix it," Higgs said in February, 2019.
The marketplace has yet to be fixed. Private wood still does not have fair access to the market; countervailing duties on softwood exported to the U.S. remain in place, costing in excess of $200 million, and there have been no legislated changes to the Crown Lands and Forests Act.
It is understandable, given that the Higgs minority government was overtaken by events beyond its control during the past two years. First of all, it was a minority government which made the Tories very cautious about the legislative agenda and, secondly, the government found itself navigating a pandemic.
A CLEAR PATH TO ACTION AND FAIRNESS
Now, the Tory government has a four-year mandate stretching ahead of it and New Brunswick’s 42,000 private woodlot owners and their families are expecting change for the better. It’s what we were promised during the previous election in 2018 and what we are still anticipating.
“Imagine a system that restores private wood as a primary source of supply, and the economic activity that that will create.
We need a stronger forestry sector, with a fair market with competitive pricing and practices. That’s not just good for woodlot owners, but for everyone in New Brunswick – a stronger forestry sector means more jobs, more investments in rural communities, increased tax revenues to pay for health care services and schools.
Transparent and fairly negotiated pricing would stand a good chance of putting an end to the punitive action by the U.S. that, as I noted already, has cost New Brunswick more than $200 million.
Imagine what could have been done with that money.
Imagine a system that restores private wood as a primary source of supply, and the economic activity that that will create.
Imagine that we have a flourishing market for our wood, with strong marketing boards focused on ensuring fair and competitive prices are restored.
Taking these steps will not only help the sector grow and thrive but are our strongest arguments to regaining an exemption from these punitive U.S. countervailing duties.
TIME TO RESPECT THE WORTH OF OUR CROWN FORESTS
Imagine a government that would stop seeing our Crown forests as a cheap source of wood supply for industry and restore royalty rates that respect the worth of a resource that belongs to all New Brunswickers. Taxpayers deserve that from their government.
In the 2018 election, all parties agreed that the system is broken and needed to change.
That’s a kind of political consensus you rarely see in this era. That speaks volumes. The election just past didn’t seem to be about policies or ideas at all – it was a referendum on leadership.
Elected members and their leaders are never universally loved in our province with its pockets of conservatism, liberalism and everything in between. But they do garner respect for doing the right things for the province and the people.
TIME TO CREATE A STRONGER FUTURE FOR NEW BRUNSWICK
It takes strong leadership and visionary policies to overcome differences and get everyone pulling together for a more prosperous future – including a more prosperous future for New Brunswick’s forestry sector.
“Imagine a government that would stop seeing our Crown forests as a cheap source of wood supply for industry and respect the worth of a resource that belongs to all New Brunswickers.
The Higgs government has the majority it so badly wanted. It has the power to heal division and create a stronger future. It has the chance to work with the citizens of New Brunswick as well as opposition parties, leveraging the ideas of others to improve upon their policies and actions.
It has the power to make the right legislative amendments required to restore balance and fairness in forestry. (For more detail on the changes required, see the previous post, Time For Our Politicians To Act For Fairness In Forestry.)
We look forward to working with the Conservative government, and the opposition parties, to bring positive change for woodlot owners, for the people of New Brunswick, and for the prosperity of the province.
Thank you for listening,
Rick Doucett President, New Brunswick Federation of Woodlot Owners