New Brunswick – Apocolypse Now? When?

I have to admit since I started writing my blog in 2004, I am starting to see the themes that I have been promoting starting to get more prominence in the media in New Brunswick. I stake no claim to this – I just think that more and more people are wising up to the realities staring us right in the face.

Consider this Telegraph Journal article published yesterday. I don’t know if that link will work for you our not but I will summarize its content. It was penned by Rick Buckingham, president and CEO of 2 for 1 Pizza Inc. based in Fredericton. It was entitled The apocalyptic effect of the loonie on small-town N.B.

Mr. Buckingham almost correctly summarizes the lack of economic development in all of New Brunswick except Moncton and Fredericton:

Times are good in Moncton and Fredericton, two cities quite insulated from the vagaries of our economy. This is due to the fact that Fredericton is essentially a government and pseudo-government city with the likes of NB Power, two universities, and a smattering of engineering, call centres, and high-tech firms. Moncton’s economic growth is coming from call centres, software firms, a university, a new brewery and diaper factory and is increasingly becoming a travel hub for our province.

He than states his case:

The problems and solutions facing rural New Brunswick are enormous.

He then continues to talk about the crisis facing the forestry sector and its potential impacts on rural NB. Well framed work. He makes an interesting point that I haven’t heard before:

In Atlantic Canada, stumpage fees which are negotiated in five- to 25-year deals, are the highest in the world rivaled only by Japan. Although New Brunswick remains a successful forest product exporter, we are faced with the real threat of Latin America and South America with its huge, fast growing, eucalyptus plantations becoming the low cost producers on the planet. This will exasperate an already precarious situation.

Golly, wouldn’t it be neat to hear this from an actual government worker/elected official?

He concludes:

Our survival is at stake. We must either face the facts and find lower cost solutions, which in most cases are difficult choices, or the high Canadian dollar will do it for us. In effect, without change on the part of all stakeholders, it will make for a very unpleasant situation here in New Brunswick and abroad.

Sound familiar? I wonder why a pizza flipper even cares about this stuff but I am glad he does. If we can’t get straight talk from government and from journalists, maybe the pizza flippers will rise up and provide us with intelligent and relevant discourse.

I’ll take a large with extra pepperoni with a sprinkle of prosperity, please.

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0 Responses to New Brunswick – Apocolypse Now? When?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Heaven save us when we get our forestry information from Pizza vendors. Gee, could it be that the guys an idiot who gets an article because it’s in Irving’s best interest?!

    Come on, SURELY people know that we’ve had almost ten years and billions of dollars in duties taken in a softwood dispute because the US says that we cut wood so cheap it amounts to a subsidy. Not to mention the clear lack of ANY regulations, which the US has plenty of over the forest industry. In Canada its essentially ‘come and get it, send us a cheque when you sell it…whatever you can spare’

    Surely people realize that just months ago Lord announced that they were cutting the capital tax completely and reducing stumpage fees by 25%.

    Surely at least SOME people realize that in most of the world stumpage fees are set by market forces NOT by politicians (another complaint of the yanks). Stumpage fees in the US are the OPENING BID on lumber in public auctions, NOT the cost.

    Surely people know that stumpage fees are different for private than they are for public land. Not only that but because private companies manage public lands, it is THEIR numbers that are used for stumpage fees.

    What’s interesting is the tough time I had even FINDING exactly what stumpage fees are. I’d certainly like to see his sources, but the guy is CLEARLY talking out of his ass!

  2. Anonymous says:

    What YOU should worry about is why ‘economic development issues’ in the Irving papers are written by idiots who run businesses and have no experience in economic development (or forestry) and not people like you who do this for a living.

    I’ve got news, besides eucalyptus they are making hardwood flooring out of BAMBOO. For people who didn’t know, bamboo is a grass, one that grows almost as fast as you can cut it down in tropical climates.

    Anybody REALLY think once they make pulp, softwood and newsprint out of it that anybody will even NEED forests?

    Those hard decisions are closer to what you’ve been saying-get those people out of a dying industry and TRAIN them. Stop shovelling taxpayer money into doomed industries. Private woodlot owners and natives with small sawmills are a better investment than decimating New Brunswick’s forest for the sake of giant corporations who will only bleed the place dry.

  3. David Campbell says:

    A couple of comments. I claim no deep knowledge of the forestry issue so I can’t take on your rebuttals. But if you (s) – in the Miramichi sense of that word yous – have any constructive ideas please post them. Something like 20,000 people work directly in the forestry sector in NB and a host of others rely on that economic activity. So, if we need to bite the bullet and shelve the industry (or let it wither away) then what, by all that’s good and holy, are we going to do to make up for that lost economic activity?

    Your head will likely pop off when I say this but I would rather see the government take zero royalties off the forest and keep the 20,000 jobs than to keep the current regime and watch the industry collapse. This isn’t about Irving. This is about the average citizen – your neighbours – who will suffer. And in the mills and secondary processing – maybe they will need to take a pay cut. Heresy, I am sure but cripes, give me alternatives.

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is how Irving works, you are SUPPOSED to think there are no choices.

    1. Don’t let corporations deduct herbicide blanket spraying. Virtually EVERY jurisdiction does that, but not NB.

    2. The Fundy Model Forest is a ‘working forest’ with a variety of partners. Of course Irving fights it tooth and nail, yet it provides a real alternative WHEN USED CORRECTLY, and not simply ignored. It ends in 2007 and will be disbanded, when it should be expanded, especially up north.

    3. In the US, there are thousands more regulations on how to harvest forests, yet in Canada we let corporations walk all over it. By enforcing regulations, you of course force companies to expand their workforce-something THEY don’t like doing, but WE should like, because it means more jobs.

    4. The only large scale mills that are cost effective are Irving mills, they have all the technology, and of course WE paid for it. Irving is one of the most highly subsidized corporations in Canada. In Maine they’ve been complaining for years because their mills simply can’t compete. Of COURSE they can’t compete. When you have a government bankrolling a corporation, who could? If you are going to subsidize, DON”T SUBSIDIZE TECHNOLOGY THAT WILL REPLACE WORKERS.

    5. DON”T grant ‘wood supply guarantees’ to corporations. This is the DUMBEST idea ever. Taking all restrictions off how much wood can be cut is a recipe for disaster, unfortunately BOTH parties endorse this giveaway. By granting WSG’s to mills, you effectively shoot the private woodlot owners-they simply can’t compete and they’ve been saying so for years.

    Private woodlot owners have been griping about the subsidized prices just like the americans have. So in order to compete they are forced to cut more, and have been overharvesting for years. There are currently 40,000 private woodlot owners, far more than are employed by the corporate forestry sector-by cozying up to Irving and Norway, you put 40,000 people out of work in order to keep 18,000 (by any math that’s just crazy).

    6. Stop subsidizing the manufacture of newsprint. This is one of the worst business models in forestry. Newsprint has been going down for decades, yet the province still stubbornly has almost 50% of it’s wood supply going to newsprint. Other sources of newsprint make it not cost effective AT ALL.

    7. The CEO of Abitibi basically says that the canadian industry has kept itself going on three things, two of which we have no control. First, the exchange rate. There is evidence that the Bank of Canada and Finance Department assured the US when free trade was passed that economic measures would be taken to bring our dollar closer to theirs, since it amounts to a subsidy. But still, that’s not something that can be changed. Second, energy prices. This is happening all over. Industry is the largest user of energy in the province, how much bending over do you need to do for 18,000 jobs. Hell, as was said about Newfoundland, you’d be better off putting all those people on the public payroll. Train them all in putting up and maintaining windmills! Not only does it save money, but it saves the environment and helps solve the energy problem.

    The CEO basically admits that canadian lumber companies are just plain retarded. It took them years to figure out that high grade bright paper and other ‘enhanced’ products are the only way to make money. As said, here in NB the companies are primarily designed to make cheap crap, so of course when somebody else comes along with cheaper crap you get slaughtered. Irving, of course, just wants cheap fibre from tree farms to make their newspapers and toilet paper. That new brunswickers should have job losses and a giant strand of tree farms with no animals all so Irving can make more billions from selling toilet paper to Ontarians is just crazy.

    8. The forest industry claims that when times were good they paid more than there fair share, now that times are bad they should get breaks. I’m not totally against that, but again, you link any breaks to labour, so the province isn’t a cash cow. Remember that companies DON”T operate in profit mode, even if it makes money, that’s NOT enough for them. It has to make MORE money than any of the other alternatives. Getting on board with that is joining the race to the bottom.

    9. Stop training Evangelicals: for ages New Brunswick foresters have been trained in the propaganda so prominent in forest corporations. Maintaining the status quo at all costs is the line of thinking and new recruits simply are not competitive.

    10. Grant far more access to natives. This is a big one because the ONLY job growth in forestry has been native hiring of non natives to work their 5% of the allowable cut. Native use FAR more holistic and labour heavy techniques than corporations who essentially have one guy in a cutter who ravages acres in hours. Like in India, elephants are kept around because they harvest effectively and organically. Otherwise companies simply clear cut, which also endangers the water supply.

    12. Face reality. There is simply no way a temperate forest can compete with a tropical one where they grow year round.

    That’s just for starters, but of course as mentioned, when dozens of organizations said they want more public participation in land use decisions, and the response is “we have a committee now for new licensees” then clearly the government is simply going to continue to massively subsidize and ship profits to Norway and Bermuda, while sending more workers to the EI office. And wiping out hundreds of species in the process. And if you think this is ALL about economics, show your child a picture of a clear cut and explain where all the animals have gone.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I missed the big one. There are 18,000 workers, correct. And 40,000 private woodlot owners, who own about 30% of the land. So you simply tell those workers that if they want forestry jobs, they can work as ‘private woodlot stewards’ on public land, most of which is up north anyway.

    This means you can then alter product to suit the market because you’ve solved the job problem. It was revitalizing the furniture industry in Quebec that got the forestry industry there out of the last recession and basically saved Montreal. Training in these industries is far better than what the province is offering-training for jobs that won’t exist in ten years.

    How out of touch is the province? The minister of natural resources is talking about how to enhance forestry programs in order to get MORE students into forestry!

    My idea up there solves the job situation, however, I know you have a penchant for not being on board unless a foreign corporation in involved. However, by dictating the terms and a reduced role for those corporations its more likely that ones will be interested since the risk is far less. It also means a different CLASS of corporation is interested, not the ‘rape and pillage’ mindset ones.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Yet another point to consider is that if your plan of ‘giving away the forest’ were enacted, it would most certainly involve NB more heavily in the softwood lumber dispute, which it has so far avoided. It would also amount to a CLEAR subsidy which is completely illegal according to both WTO and Free Trade rules.

    People also aren’t aware that Canada is the target of many boycotts in the US and around the world because of its lumber practices. Almost every forest initiative has been the result of international pressure, certainly not New Brunswickers, who are largely silent and in most cases agree with the massive cutting of our resources.

    Of course we never hear about it HERE, but it goes on elsewhere and affects tourism, however, THOSE numbers are never considered. We also need to consider that boycotts of tourism are general boycotts, so we do not know how many european companies may avoid investment in the province as part of that boycott. Yet another consequence of our forest practices that we never hear about, let alone add into the mix.

  7. David Campbell says:

    Again, I can’t criticize your position because I don’t have enough subject matter expertise. However, I hope your message is being thoroughly debated by the government and industry players. I am not only an advocate of ‘foreign companies’. I am an advocate of economic development. I am an advocate of New Brunswick getting its fair share of global investment. If grass roots changes and better stewardship will lead to a better, long term outcome for the forestry, I think we had better take these ideas seriously. And you seem to position me as a staunch supporter of Irving. At one level, I fully support Irvings investments in new diaper plants and other investments. It’s my understanding that they pay well and offer a good working environment for most empmloyees. However, I don’t know what the long term implications are from having a very large conglomerate dominating multiple facets of the provincial economy (including the print media). Despite Irvings investments, New Brunswick remains among the poorest areas of North America (well below Alabama on every economic statistic I can find – persons below the poverty line, average incomes, education levels, etc.) so somebody should do some research to assess the long term impacts of highly dominant corporations on small economies. Do they stifle entrepreneurship? Do the unduly influence politics? Do they create non-competitive local markets? I don’t know. I do know that a bunch of bloggers here don’t hold the Irvings in very high regard but I would like to see some objective research on the topic.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Vrtually all the ‘recommendations’ I mentioned are not MINE, they come from some organization involved in forestry. Native groups have been demanding more than 5% through the court system for decades, it was the Marshal ruling that finally got the government to even talk to them.

    Just take a look at the government’s forestry initiative, the 250 million. As I’ve said, NONE of that is tied into labour guarantees.

    The problem is simply this: the government enacts legislation for the corporations, who employ a minority of people, as opposed to New Brunswickers (natives, small woodlot owners, envirnomentalists, recreational users, ecotourism operators) who are a clear majority.

    In politics there is no right and wrong, there are only those who benefit and lose from legislation. Norway and Bermuda are ‘winners’, no surpise, since they have the money and the clout.

    So not only is it BAD for New Brunswickers, it is getting WORSE. And even the liberals, who are supposed to be the ‘opposition’ have the exact same forestry plan. They actually bitch that the government doesn’t allow MORE trees to be cut. So clearly the majority of New Brunswicker’s simply have no representation on this issue. Even Alabama at least has citizens initiatives.

    That’s very true about IRving, and it’s always sad whenever anybody days ANYTHING bad about Irving they are simply ‘anti business’.

    However, for studies there are quite a few. For example you can simply read the transcripts from last year’s Senate committee on media monopoly to see how they run their monopoly. Most studies and academic articles are NOT from New Brunswick. Oddly enough some of the most detailed forestry studies on New Brunswick I found were presented at conferences by american scholars in Colorado.

    Like I said, THAT is a result of the media monopoly Irving has. People simply don’t hear alternate views. They hear ‘average New Brunswickers’ like pinhead pizza guy who, oddly enough, have the exact same view as the guys who own the papers. If a person gets news ONLY from Irving, then quite simply that person has a very skewered view of the world-Irvings view-and that includes whether one is ‘for’ or ‘against’. In the end how media works is that it creates the framework.

    This is obvious from your comments about Alabama-but YOU know better because you research. Imagine the people who simply read to get their news, they have NO idea what’s going on. So suprise that NB can’t even get an NDP party off the ground.

    This is why I encourage you to think politically. Get all those economic bloggers and form a lobby group. You’d probably get some money from the people who advertise at the site. YOU are in the best position because clearly Moncton is the hotseat. It benefits disproportionately,mostly because it’s Lords riding. So if a lobby group endangered his chances THERE, then he’s SURE to listen.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Last post, I promise then I’ll leave you in peace. I just started “A Geography of the Canadian Economy” by Iain Wallace, and thought I’d share a quote:

    “Although the power of the MCCain and Irving family business empires, especially the latter, has often been portrayed as detrimental to the economic development of New Brunswick…” So obviously SOME people out there haven’t been shouting their positive effects.