WE'RE AT A CRITICAL POINT: WILL INDUSTRY WIN AGAIN?
September 14, 2021
THE NAKED AMBITION OF THE FORESTRY INDUSTRY IN NEW BRUNSWICK HAS BEEN EXPOSED: THEY HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO THE RIGHT THING AND INSTEAD THEY DECIDED TO KEEP ALL THE MONEY FOR THEMSELVES.
This feels like a critical moment for New Brunswick’s forestry sector.
Premier Blaine Higgs has taken a personal interest in our efforts to restore fairness in forestry and to private woodlot owners in this province.
We met with him and with Natural Resources Minister Mike Holland in late August.
The members of the New Brunswick Federation of Woodlot Owners who attended the late August meeting, myself included, felt that our positions on current problems in the forestry sector were well heard. There will be a follow-up meeting on Nov. 5, again with the premier and the minister.
I must say, the personal involvement of the premier is a very good sign that we are being listened to and that at least some of our concerns finally may be addressed.
BLEATINGS OF INDUSTRY
Of course, it’s too early to say whether our voice, which represents more than 42,000 private woodlot owners, will be heard above the bleatings of industry and its constant warnings of economic catastrophe if it doesn’t get everything it wants from both the government and the province’s forests.
Over the past few years, we have watched with growing dismay as industrial players put pressure on successive New Brunswick governments to structure forestry policy for their benefit, undermining the role of private woodlots and marketing boards in order to ensure low costs for them and low prices for us.
Industry representatives said this would be best for everyone in the forestry sector and we all would profit from their success – a refrain that struck a chord with governments. However, this past year with its record high lumber prices has proved to everyone what we always knew: that giving industry everything it wants means it ultimately will take everything it can get.
FRUSTRATION OF WOODLOT OWNERS
I have written before about the frustration of woodlot owners across the province who saw none of the benefits from soaring prices for lumber and other wood products. A record high in Canada was hit in mid-May with lumber prices reaching more than $2000 for a thousand board feet.
“Forestry in New Brunswick currently is structured to give the lion’s share of benefits to big industry, and we saw that fact play out clearly over the past year.
Not only did New Brunswick forgo millions of dollars in revenue for itself by not raising royalty rates, it set a price ceiling for wood that blocked others from being able to get better prices for what they sell.
Forestry in New Brunswick currently is structured to give the lion’s share of benefits to big industry, and we saw that fact play out clearly over the past year. Hopefully, the government saw it as well and may now realize that the market system is tilted too far towards benefitting industry at the cost of taxpayers and woodlot owners.
INDUSTRY KEPT THE WEALTH
The record high prices for lumber presented an opportunity for industry to look at their suppliers and thank them for past sacrifices and support. The big companies had a chance to do the right thing and they failed. They kept the wealth for themselves and their shareholders.
“The forestry industry in New Brunswick has made it very clear they are primarily about themselves and their needs. They are not interested in sharing the wealth.
So the next time industry is standing in front of government officials asking for subsidies, tax cuts or changes in legislation to boost their profits, the government needs to remember what just happened and show them the door. The forestry industry in New Brunswick has made it very clear they are primarily about themselves and their needs. They are not interested in sharing the wealth.
The past year has underscored the need for legislative changes in this province. We need to restore private wood as a primary source of supply and we need to have marketing boards be the sole broker of private wood, as was originally intended when they were formed.
We now see that the emperor has no clothes. The naked ambition of the forestry industry in New Brunswick has been exposed: They had the opportunity to do the right thing and instead they decided to keep all the money for themselves.
Rick Doucett President, New Brunswick Federation of Woodlot Owners