Council calls for National Task force on the Future of Forestry

Continuous Cover Forestry in the Lake District Cumbria England

PICTOU, NS – The Municipality of Pictou County has unanimously supported a call for governments to establish a National Task force on the Future of Forestry.

District 7 Coun. David Parker, who put the motion forward Tuesday in front of a full council chambers that included a large number of forestry workers, said the forestry industry faces several critical challenges including the growing impact of softwood lumber, tariffs, ongoing crisis from insect damage, lingering effects of unfair duties on paper exports and ongoing trade uncertainty, unchecked raw log exports, the impact of species at risk measures and several other policies that negatively impact key forestry operations and sustainable harvest levels.

The resolution states, “Municipal Council calls on the federal government, in consultation with provincial forestry ministers, to establish a National Task force on the Future of Forestry with a clear mandate, resources and reporting requirements and that Municipal Council support efforts of forestry stakeholders to ensure a strong future for forestry- a vital industry and source of good jobs in our community”.

Coun. Parker said the resolution was produced by Unifor which represents unionized workers at Northern Pulp, but it specifically doesn’t mention the ongoing debate in the county involving Northern Pulp wanting to build a new effluent treatment plant that will pump treated effluent into the Northumberland Strait.   

“I didn’t write the resolution but there have been challenges to the forest industry including tariffs, job losses in mill closures and sawmills, particularly in BC, and that is what they are alluding to.  As these problems cost jobs and close mills, there needs to be a national program to transition those employees. We may have some here in this county. I hope and pray we don’t, but the premier said when we were there in January, he is looking at all probabilities as to what it might look like on Feb. 1.”

Northern Pulp is currently completing an environmental focus study for the Nova Scotia Department of Environment. There has been opposition from fishermen, members of Pictou Landing First Nations and environmentalists concerned about the effluent’s effect on local waters and fishing grounds.  The Province has established the Boat Harbour Act that will see the mill’s current treatment facility in Boat Harbour close on Jan. 31, 2020.   The Municipality of Pictou County passed a resolution this past winter supporting the closure of the treatment plant.

Coun. Parker said this resolution was brought forward in hopes of pressuring Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil and Central Nova MP Sean Fraser into finding a solution to this divide in the county while supporting the forestry industry as a whole.

“The message has to be we have to work on solutions. It is very easy to be critical, but it takes courage, respect and radical honesty to listen to all sides and it takes effort and goodwill to work towards a solution,” he said.

Warden Robert Parker said it was clear during a meeting with the premier in January that he is looking for a solution to come from the community regarding issues involving Northern Pulp, but there has been little movement from any of the stakeholders.

“We need to make sure this doesn’t get to the point of one side fighting the other,” said Warden Parker. “We can’t let that happen. If there is something we can do as municipal leaders in this county to speed (negotiations) up, I am all in favour of it.”

Council’s motion regarding the establishment of the National Forestry Taskforce will be send to provincial and federal governments as well as local MLAs.