Only two years after introducing a forestry plan that wasn’t to the liking of the interests of the Irving family, the Alward government has backtracked and put forward an entirely new policy.
It seems that the 3.6 million acres of land that the Irvings own is not enough to satisfy their addiction to firewood. Under the new policy, an additional 660,600 cubic metres of softwood from Crown land will be made available, an increase of 21 per cent. Furthermore, the new policy decreases the area of a forest that is to be preserved from 28 to 23 per cent.
What is shocking is not that the Irving family has an abnormally large level of direct influence on the provincial government, but that the Irvings are so nonchalant about showing it. At least have the common decency to stand behind the curtain while you manipulate our government.
The Irving family is the thirteenth-largest landowner in the world, beating Ted Turner and Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa of Qatar. Furthermore, the twelve landowners that place ahead of the Irvings are all either monarchs or the Pope––who is obviously the monarch of our souls.
While I, along with the majority of New Brunswickers, do not think too highly of Premiere Alward’s powers of deduction, the fact that the Irvings own our entire province and the fact that our province is largely populated by underemployed or unemployed citizens seems too coincidental to ignore.
However, the Alward government’s decision to finally grant the Irvings the full status of popeish power is symptomatic of New Brunswick’s historic perception of the province’s natural resources.
New Brunswick is home to a mountain range of Crown land that, because of the relatively few roads leading through the area, has supported an old growth Acadian forest that was unique to northeastern North America. The mountain range is called the Christmas Mountains, with its ten peaks named after St Nicholas, his eight reindeer, and the North Pole.
But even the true spirit of Christmas could not save the old growth Acadian forest. In the mid 1990s, Premiere Frank McKenna leased the Crown land to the pulp and paper company Repap (which is also coincidentally the name of my wildly unsuccessful reusable pap-smear company). By 1995, after an aggressive clear-cutting operation, the Christmas Mountains and their Acadian forest were devastated.
Tough break, Dasher and Dancer. This province couldn’t have more cartoonishly evil environmental policies if they tried.
The clear-cutting of the Christmas Mountains was not just environmentally devastating, it was economically damning. Having a vibrant and unique ecosystem allows for the establishment of the financially lucrative industry of tourism, an industry that regenerates a lot faster than hardwood. However, because of this province’s dismal environmental record, New Brunswick’s largest tourism draw is coming to watch the annual migration of the majestic twenty-somethings fleeing the province.
British Columbia, the province which would have once been the poster boy for clear-cutting if there was any paper left to print posters on, has significantly reduced its deforestation within the past decade. This change is not the result of altruistic environmentalism but rather of economic gain.
The value of exported lumber has been in free-fall within the past five years, with most products seeing a decrease between 25 and 45 per cent. Simultaneously, however, B.C.’s tourism has been increasing at a similar rate. This increase is because a standing forest, unlike a clear-cut one, provides an ongoing income instead of a small lump sum.
New Brunswick’s tourism industry isn’t as promising. Lonely Planet’s Canada’s Maritime Provinces lists the Irving Pulp and Paper Mill as one of the top ten worst things in the Maritimes. Furthermore, in Lonely Planet’s Discover Canada, the travel guide’s two suggested itineraries for the Maritimes both cut out New Brunswick entirely.
B.C.’s environmental protection of its forests is in direct contrast to New Brunswick’s; B.C.’s policies are a response to changing economic times, New Brunswick’s policies are a response to what the Irvings holler from their marble balconies.
If the provincial government keeps trying to get themselves off on the idea that the economic success of the provinces rest in the pillaging of the few natural resources New Brunswick still has left, they will undoubtedly find themselves blue in the face and blue in other regions as well.
Unless the Alward government overhauls its environmental policies, the closest thing this province will have to wildlife is the the 21 per cent unemployment rate in the Miramichi area, coincidentally one of Irving’s forestry hubs.