CEP President Urges Nova Scotia Government to Help Reform Forest Industry

Dave Coles, President, CEP.

The following is an open letter from Dave Coles, National President, Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada.

June 20, 2012 - The closure of Resolute Forest Products in Liverpool Nova Scotia is a devastating body blow to hundreds of workers and their families, to the town of Liverpool and to the forest industry in this province.

As investors turn their back on Nova Scotia, the rest of us are left to pick up the pieces. Is it possible that out of these ashes there may still be a future for forestry in Nova Scotia?

I say yes, but only if the Nova Scotia government acts quickly and decisively to acquire the timberlands of Resolute and integrate them into Nova Scotia's public forests.

Here is a true window of opportunity for the government to exercise its authority and responsibility to reform the forest industry.

Forestry is a renewable resource. It is the ultimate green industry, generating vast wealth from trees that grow back again after they've been cut. Mind you, it takes generations to produce mature trees, and therein lies the tragedy of allowing short-term market considerations to determine the future of this resource.

Though 94% of Canada's forests are publicly owned, in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, the land is mostly owned by private interests, and dominated by many of the largest corporations in the world.

Those corporations are often without long-term commitment to the forest industry or forest communities. Business decisions about forestry operations or a pulp and paper mill are usually motivated, not by productivity issues in the workplace, but by financial markets and stock prices.

Companies want the right to close mills, throw people out of work and break the link between harvesting the forest and providing jobs in forest communities. And by and large, they have been given free rein to do just that: a practice that has failed workers, communities and Canada.

Clearly, public ownership and regulation of forest lands is the only way to balance economic development and the public interest.

The closure of Resolute Forests Products is a springboard for government action. Premier Dexter should take this opportunity to ensure that his province remains a world leader in forestry. The province should immediately purchase the private forest lands owned by the company to ensure the citizens of Nova Scotia have access to forest-dependent jobs and their community for the long run.

Practicing sustainable harvest levels and allocation of the resource to the highest and best use will go along way to achieving those goals. Value-added manufacturing such as wood products, prefabricated housing, specialty grades of paper, and others are among the options for maximizing economic benefit from our forest resource within sustainable limits. Wildlife, tourism and other values also have to be recognized and protected.

The Nova Scotia government holds the basic tools to be able to stimulate and rebuild the forest industry. It's high time to put those tools to good use for the people of Nova Scotia.

Dave Coles

SOURCE: Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP)

See related story:
» Resolute Forest Products to Idle Mersey Newsprint Mill in Nova Scotia (6/18/2012)