Letters to the Editor

Provincial budget falls flat on long-term care, forestry aid

The spin on this year’s budget from the McNeil Liberals appears to be “all is well in Nova Scotia.”
As a Nova Scotian, I disagree.
The corporate and small-business tax-rate cuts mean the province will lose $63 million in tax revenue each year. Also, this budget will run a $55-million surplus.
Put together, there’s more than $100 million that could have — and should have — been invested in desperately needed services like health care.
Let’s look at the province’s long-term-care system that has been in crisis mode for years, to the point that residents and their families, long-term-care workers and their unions (including Unifor), advocacy groups, and even facility owners have hounded McNeil and his various health ministers for solutions.
In 2018, finally, McNeil made a move toward addressing the chorus of warnings about painfully overworked staff and underfunded facilities by commissioning an Expert Advisory Panel on Long Term Care. The panel had 12 weeks to conduct stakeholder interviews and determine actions the government should take to resolve the most urgent issues. The tone of the recommendations from the expert panel made it very clear that lives are at stake, families are deeply worried, and workers are burned out.
Since early 2019, when the recommendations from the expert panel became public, Unifor members report minimal action on the government’s part and little effect from any actions undertaken.
This budget includes a $5.3-million funding increase for long-term care. This is an important investment, but the government is underfunding the situation yet again, as this represents less than a one per cent increase to current long-term-care funding.
To implement the findings of the expert panel, convert underutilized residential care facility beds, increase worker recruitment and retention, and support clients with increasingly complex and acute needs, it will take more than a one per cent bump.
If Premier McNeil is looking for a place to invest that $100 million, I urge him to look no further than our long-term- and acute-care systems across all of Nova Scotia, particularly in rural areas. The government can’t honestly promote that we have “extra money” until after it fulfils its responsibility to provide health-care services.
Another disappointment in this budget was the minor investment of $5 million over the next two years for a new Forestry Innovation Rebate Program. This falls far short of what the forestry sector needs to stabilize and rebuild following the closure of industry linchpin Northern Pulp.
Every budget comes with its costs, but what does this budget cost Nova Scotians?
In my opinion, the cost is far too great.
Linda MacNeil, Atlantic regional director, Unifor
March 5, 2020

Liberals didn’t do their homework on Forestry Industry

Could someone please put an end to the wild and erratic behaviour that the Liberals continue to show towards Nova Scotia’s forest industry? The forest industry is an enormous part of Nova Scotia’s economy, and we are on the brink of losing it. Wood supply will dry up after road closure. Sawmills are barely holding on and will close. Landowners don’t want their wood cut because its value has dramatically been reduced since Dec. 20. Contractors are leaving pulp wood on the ground and along the roadside because it is worthless.
The Liberals knew they were gonna shut Northern Pulp down. It’s obvious they don’t want Northern Pulp in Nova Scotia. How else can somebody explain having seven studies increased to 68 studies? That’s over 900 per cent increase in studies on an already unrealistic deadline. How is this even allowed?
They’ve showed no interest in wanting to keep Northern Pulp open so Nova Scotia could continue having a strong forest industry, keeping thousands of jobs while reaping the economic benefits created by the forest industry. Other provinces would have been working 24 hours a day seven days a week to make sure they didn’t end up in the situation we ourselves in today.
We all know the Liberals didn’t do their homework. The six projects in the recently announced tender are to use between 300 and 2000 tonnes annually. That’s 1.71 per cent of chips consumed by Northern Pulp who paid top dollar and common sense says this will not soften the blow. It’s obvious they have no plan for the forest industry, and that they just don’t care. The recently announced record budget by the Liberals, which is 51 per cent higher than last years is comical since Stephen McNeil made the worst economic decision ever in Nova Scotia on Dec. 20.
Adam Samson, St. Andrews, NS

We don’t need another monster mill for exporting wood pellets

The Feb. 10 issue of The Chronicle Herald featured the editorial “Wood-burning initiative a glimmer of hope for forestry” that appears to endorse a proposal for an industrial wood-pellet mill in Pictou County to replace the shuttered pulp mill.
It would be as big or bigger than the pulp mill, with the pellets shipped to the U.K. and burned for highly inefficient electricity.
Counter to the editorial, this proposal would be a giant step backwards for Nova Scotia’s forests and forest economy. It would offer woodlot owners lower value for their fibre than they made selling it as pulp (the value of which has barely increased since the 1990s). Not only would a huge pellet mill offer less value, it would also provide fewer jobs at lower wages for equivalent or greater volumes. It would also, by necessity, require widespread clearcutting, produce the least valuable “product” we could make from our forests, and greatly contribute to carbon emissions.
The proponent of the pellet mill is quoted as stating: “… if things went according to plan, every step of the forestry process would remain the same, up to the point of arriving at the gate.”
However, as has been identified in two in-depth, exhaustive and expensive government reviews (2011 and 2018), significant changes are required to our current forestry practices. As such, any proposal that requires a continuation of the status quo should not be considered an option.
With the closure of Northern Pulp, Nova Scotia’s forest economy is searching for an avenue for “low-grade” wood and the byproducts, or “residuals,” of lumber production. And, with over a century of ecologically unsustainable forestry practices in our province, we have quite a lot of poor-quality forests.
The question is what kind of industry and ecology do we want in Nova Scotia? Do we want to continue to reach further into the barrel, when we are already “scraping the bottom” as it is, or do we want to create long-term plans that increase, not decrease, the financial value of our forests?
The latter also creates a scenario wherein a diversification of economic output is more easily achieved through carbon offset credits, ecosystem services, and tourism — all valuable components of the multi-tiered approach that is needed.
The Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association stated: “Everyone in the province, from family forest owners to woods workers and municipalities, would be worse off if (the proponent) succeeds. This is not the kind of ‘transformation’ that the Nova Scotia forest sector wants or needs.”
We need value-added solutions that are based in Nova Scotia, made by Nova Scotians, wherein the majority of the profits stay here. Examples of alternative products include cross-laminated mass timber, Glulam posts and beams, and building insulation from sawdust.
Nova Scotia does not need another high-volume, low-value commodity production mill of this scale. We are on the precipice of a tremendous opportunity to diversify and revitalize how we manage our forests in Nova Scotia — let’s not waste it.
Mike Lancaster, co-ordinator of the Healthy Forest Coalition

Professor McNeil’s Class is in Session

Professor McNeil’s Class is in Session
Nova Scotia has just received another force feed lesson from Premier Professor McNeil. Where decisions are made devoid of facts, uninhibited by the advice from those who are experts in the area of study, and of course ending up at the destination that does not actually help Nova Scotians (which I thought was the purpose of the Professor, I mean Premier) but instead serves the political agenda of the Liberals. For those of us paying attention, let me just quickly recap some of the past lessons Nova Scotia was “taught” by our illustrious Professor before I delve into that latest. Recall the Teachers Labour dispute. I recollect all levels of the education system calling for more help with special needs, programs that don’t lend to children being left behind because the teachers are so overwhelmed with the amount of lesson planning and time required to address current classroom conditions. I recall that is was pretty much unanimous in what the experts in the field stated need to be done. But our Professor knew better, well, better for him of course. He needed to look strong and not be pushed around. After all, he needs to get re-elected. All else is secondary, like our economy, or education and our healthcare. So he laid down his “lesson” which placed blame on the educators and deflected from himself and in the end taught us all that somehow the teachers were greedy and he was a strong leader. We all know the truth right? The same could be said with the health care system. The same narrative played out and continues to this day. The Professor knows best.
So now let’s move on to Professor McNeil’s latest lesson for Nova Scotian’s to swallow. How he will not stand for polluting in Nova Scotia. Sure Northern Pulp was currently meeting or exceeding all pulp effluent environmental requirements federally and provincially by a factor of 5x, sure it was HIS government that owns and leases the existing effluent treatment plant to Northern Pulp, and sure, he had a lease with Northern Pulp until 2030 to run that facility. Those are facts, of course conveniently left out of the lesson plan. So when the Professor, without any consultation with Northern Pulp, broke his lease contract and legislated an environmental approval process, design, and the construction of a new waste water treatment plant to occur within a 4 year 8 month timeline we shouldn’t have been surprised. But hey, he said he gave Northern Pulp every opportunity for success, and it was Northern Pulp who were the vilified. An interesting point of reference for those interested in some extra-curricular points is that it took the city of Halifax 7 years to attain an environmental approval for a sewage waste water treatment system. This system was to upgrade the current system, a system that essentially just dumped raw, untreated sewage into the Halifax Harbour. This took 7 years folks. 7 years to get an approval to build a waste water treatment plant that was going to replace a system with NO TREATMENT. But hey, Professor McNeil in his infinite wisdom with no consultation with anyone arbitrarily sets a date of 4 years 8 months. Seems achievable right?
So here is the “Surprise Exam” our Honorable Professor McNeil bestowed upon Northern Pulp, the Forestry Sector, and Rural Nova Scotia.
Northern Pulp’s Exam
• Surprise! We are having a must pass surprise exam today.
• You will have 4 hours and 40 minutes to complete and there are 7 essay questions.
• The clock starts now. Oh wait, Professor McNeil actually does not have the right exam at the moment, Northern Pulp will have to wait for the Nova Scotia Supreme Court to rule against The Professors initial essay questions (this is because since the Professor didn’t consult with anyone, on renewal of an Industrial Approval Permit which actually requested a standard that no system in existence could deliver).
o This took 14 months to work out in the Nova Scotia Supreme court, which ruled in Northern Pulps favour during which time Northern Pulp was unable to do any work towards the waste water treatment facility
• Ok, so an hour and 10 minutes has passed and here is the exam, you now have 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete the exam. Better not delay class, there will be no extension
o As you can see, there are 7 essay questions (these 7 essay questions are the 7 environmental studies the Professor is asking Northern Pulp to answer with the timeline now being 3.5 years, not the 5 years the Professor keeps touting as the truth)
• An hour passes
• The Professor interrupts the exam. Alright, I now have added 30 more essay questions for you to answer (that’s right folks, just because McNeil keeps telling you Northern Pulp had 5 years over and over again that is not the truth. 30 more essays added with only 2.5 years left)
• You now have 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete the exam
o You had better hurry. No extension is warranted according to the Man that keeps changing the rules.
• Another hour passes
• Class, I have just added another 27 essay questions to the exam. You now have 1 hour 30 minutes to complete this must pass exam
• No extension. Better get to work
o Oh, the power just went out (this is the illegal blockade of the survey vessel needed to completed many of the essay questions on the exam, it puts the ability to answer key question on the exam back by at least 50 minutes). But guess what, no extension.
• The exam is nearing its end, there is now only 11 minutes to go
• Professor McNeil says that you now have to write an additional essay that will take 2 hours to complete (The request for a 2 year Environmental Assessment, which for those of you doing your homework was a report that Northern Pulp publically stated that they would be happy to complete when the Boat Harbour Act was first enacted, but Professor McNeil said wasn’t necessary)
• Professor McNeil informs Northern Pulp they have failed his exam even though they have completed all the extra essay questions and the proposed project would deliver the most up to date wastewater treatment facility not only in Nova Scotia but most likely North America.
• Professor McNeil stands before the camera and berates you in front of all of Nova Scotia blaming you for not being prepared, for being a bad student. At the same time repeatedly states that He, the Professor, has given you every opportunity to pass this course.
Northern Pulp has an owner that wants to stay in Nova Scotia and is willing to invest over $130 million on the state-of-the-art treatment system, in addition to the over $200 million already invested in Nova Scotia since taking ownership in 2011.
The current waste water treatment system is better than over half of the 89 other pulp mills in Canada and is better than almost all of the treatment plants operated by most towns and cities in Nova Scotia who treat their sewer and waste water (remember there are still some towns that don’t have treatment systems and still dump raw sewer into our water ways) . The proposed new system would move it to a world class treatment system. This was not jobs vs environment. This was not a binary choice. We had and could still HAVE both. Boat Harbour is going to be cleaned up and every stakeholder in the province agrees with and supports this. The clean up however, has been delayed due to a federal environmental assessment. Currently the clean up is not even scheduled to begin for at least another 2 years. The pollution in Boat Harbour occurred in the early years of the pulp mills operation when it was operated and run by the government and there was little to no treatment done not unlike most towns and cities who put their raw sewer into our water ways at that time. Today even with the current system there is no pollution and the lobster fishery is better than it has ever been. We have and can continue co-exist. In fact the story should have always been Nova Scotia was going to have most up to date cleanest pulp mill in North America. We should have all championed around that cause and celebrated it. Strides were being made towards rectifying and healing the egregious wrong done to the people of PLFN. We have a company that was trying to invest in the sustainable and renewable resource of Nova Scotia forests and leading the way environmentally. This outcome was laid at the feet of the Professor, but his lack of leadership, abdication of responsibility, and his desire to advance his political ambitions prevented this from occurring. For Shame on you Premier McNeil. For Shame.

Nova Scotia sleepwalked into Northern Pulp crisis

Journal Pioneer
February 20, 2020
Nova Scotia sleepwalked into Northern Pulp crisis
The closure of Northern Pulp is a serious blow to woodlot owners and forestry workers across Nova Scotia. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that the Nova Scotia government sleepwalked into this crisis and has been mishandling the fallout as a public relations exercise.
Many lessons can be learned from this catastrophe. The one I wish to focus on is this: it is imperative that a robust planning process be in place to ensure that industries which are systemically important to Nova Scotia can be supported or transitioned in as orderly and non-disruptive a fashion as possible.
What’s happening to forestry in Nova Scotia is not unlike what’s happening to the auto sector in Ontario, the aerospace sector in Quebec or the oil sector in Alberta. It’s not a transition so much as it is shock therapy for communities that are over-reliant on single industries. The problem is that decisions of when to support these industries, what conditions to place on that support, how to diversify local economies and what to do when these sectors falter, is highly politicized.
Other jurisdictions have done better. For example, Canada’s financial sector is very important, not just as an industry, but to the functioning of Canada’s economy as a whole. That is why Canada has arm’s-length entities to manage and regulate the federal financial sector, including the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, the Bank of Canada and the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation. Together with the federal government, these agencies and Crown corporations monitor the financial sector and individual banks and insurance companies; plan for their recovery or resolution in the event of failure; and protect the Canadian economy from the kind of systemic disruption that brutalized many other developed economies during the financial crisis of 2007-09.
For Nova Scotia, forestry is like banking: it is systemically important. There should be a non-political, arm’s-length provincial entity mandated to identify, monitor and plan for the future of critical industries like forestry, one that can play a co-ordinating role and prepare Nova Scotians for worst-case scenarios.
By taking the decisions of when and how to support or move away from vitally important sectors out of the political arena, the focus can be on ensuring stability, continuity and transitions that work, not just for industry, or just for the environment, but for all Nova Scotians in the long run.
Joel D. Henderson, Gatineau, Que.

Mill shutdown effects widespread

The Guardian
February 19, 2020
Mill shutdown effects widespread
The forestry industry is one of the biggest industries in Nova Scotia with over 11,000 employees and without it, the province will not be able to survive. Northern Pulp was the biggest pulp mill in Atlantic Canada and basically, all the mills in Nova Scotia sent all of their chips up there. I don’t think that N.S. Premier Stephen McNeil gave the pulp mill a shot from the beginning and his plan the whole time was to shut it down.
This doesn’t just affect one mill in Nova Scotia, it affects everything within the industry. The 300 plus employees who are now without jobs and lumber mills such as Harry Freemans will not be lugging chips up to Northern Pulp and will lose what makes the company the most money. Next, truck drivers who haul pulp wood to the mills to cut, or haul the chips to Northern Pulp will be laid off as well when, without any chips going anywhere, they don’t need as many trucks.
Premier McNeil proved that he doesn’t care about the forestry industry when he rejected the extension of Northern Pulp back on Dec. 20, with him saying that the mill had five years to meet Nova Scotia’s environmental code and wasn’t any farther than when they introduce the five-year plan. At the beginning of the five years, the Department of Environment required seven studies, at the end of the five years they were at 68 studies.
To me and the 11,000 families that have been affected by this; it was a set up from the beginning to shut Northern Pulp down.
Justin Arenburg,
UPEI student

Letter to Deputy Kelliann Dean and Deputy Julie Towers

February 7, 2020
Deputy Kelliann Dean and Deputy Julie Towers,
My name is Stephen Cole. I am a Forester employed by HC Haynes in Western Nova Scotia. Together with my colleague Andrew West, we manage private woodlots, conduct silviculture and reforestation activities, and through our forest management activities we market about 14% of the private timber produced in this Province making us the single largest private wood producer in Nova Scotia. We work with, support, and hire silviculture contractors, road builders, surveyors, truckers, loggers, all of the Mills, and private woodlot owners large and small. We have operated in Nova Scotia since 1991.
We are writing to you following the meeting of the Natural Resources committee on February 5, 2020 and the media reports that followed. The CBC quoted you as saying “We know how many workers there are at Northern Pulp, and how many workers have been displaced, have been laid off at Northern Pulp”, “We only know who we are helping by who comes forward at the Access Nova Scotia centers.” There can be no mistake that all MLA’s (including the Premier and Deputy Premier) have been fully apprised of all, and the degree to which, 10,000’s of people in Nova Scotia have been materially affected. That information is not at Access Nova Scotia and it will not be.
I have to tell you that I am deeply concerned by these words. I know for a fact that the transition team and elected officials have been told loud and clear that those of us that work on the ground, in the woods are suffering. Some businesses have already failed and there are many that are failing. There is no way for Access Nova Scotia statistics/visits to accurately depict the range of affected parties. Why would anyone who works in the forest supply chain go to Access Nova Scotia to report our losses? There is nothing there for them and we have been told that there is nothing in place for us by the government hotline. There is no place to sell our pulpwood (our product) at a viable price. THIS IS OUR PAY CHEQUE THIS IS OUR JOB and it has been lost.
Our company supplied about 80,000 tonnes of the private wood making us their largest private supplier. Northern pulp purchased 400,000 tonnes a year of private pulpwood (200,000 Crown) at an average delivered price of $65/tonne for a total of $26 million. This $26 million provided pay cheques to road builders, loggers, truckers, and landowners. These hard working people lost $26 million worth of pay cheques when the Liberal government chose to break a legally binding agreement with Northern Pulp 10 years early. You will not hear about these losses through the hotline or Access Nova Scotia because they have told enough of us that there is nothing there for that loss. Please accept this as official notice of these losses.
I sat immediately to your left at the meeting in Hilden at Forest Nova Scotia where you and the other Deputies came to hear our concerns. Throughout the meeting I found you to be very attentive and genuine. At that meeting I stated to you that if the government could reach an arrangement to allow Brooklyn Power and Point Tupper to consume much of the material (including pulpwood produced by private landowners) and purchased at prices slightly lower than those paid by Northern Pulp than 65-70% of the pain you were hearing at that meeting would feel relief. Do you recall me telling you this?
We know that the biomass plants have been presented as solutions/markets. We know that there are concerns around their operation. I have had numerous conversations with the Premier that started when he was Leader of Opposition. He and I agreed then, and still do, that the way in which the Point Tupper boiler was operated in the past was very expensive to the ratepayers and it facilitated very aggressive, ecologically damaging, and unsustainable harvesting practices. That is why he removed it from “must run” when he rose to power and I fully supported his actions at that time.
We are in a very different market situation today and we have vastly improved our forestry practices. We have an abundance of sustainably harvested product (400,000 tonnes) from our woodlots that Northern Pulp purchased and provided us with our pay cheques. When NewPage shut down operations in 2011, Premier Darrell Dexter immediately agreed to purchase pulpwood from private woodlot owners at a viable price so they could continue to work which was re sold to Point Tupper at a later date. This action by the former Premier did not prevent us from receiving an exemption from softwood lumber tariffs in 2017 therefore there is no issue with this government taking the same action. During the Natural Resources Committee on February 5 you correctly stated any and all actions must consider the softwood lumber agreement and not be interpreted as interfering in market pricing. By closing Boat Harbour 10 years early this government has in fact interfered in market pricing. Please correct the negative impact that this government has had on the market pricing. Government has intervened on pulpwood pricing before and it had no impact on our exclusion from tariffs 6 years later.
Can you please share the analysis/discussions that your government has had with Emera/NSPI to date on the biomass boilers consuming product that was going to Northern Pulp? Emera/NSPI knows what price they can pay for the pulpwood WITHOUT impacting the ratepayer. We ask that the government find a suitable way to “top up” the price for our product to a point where it is viable. Government took action that dropped the price and eliminated the market for our products (and our pay cheques). We ask that government work to correct this immediately. It will still be less than Northern paid us, but it cannot be so low that it is not feasible. Northern Pulp paid to private wood producers on average $38/tonne plus trucking; $30 is feasible and acceptable. We will accept a reduction in our pay as a result of this governments decision which is absolutely no fault of ours, but we will compromise and accept it if a solution is put in place for us. Will this government meet us part way?
We are grateful for the swift assistance that your government and team have provided in the way of funding for roads and silviculture. This is a help and we appreciate it. However, recall my words to you in Hilden “if you fix the pulpwood problem with the boilers than 65-70% of this goes away”. If we can sell our pulpwood then under the Registry of Buyers program silviculture activities will have to take place to offset the use of that wood (business as usual) and you would not have to fund as much silviculture from the transition fund. Also, if we can get our pay cheques back than we can continue to operate in the woods and this includes building roads (without funding). You also would not need to assist contractors over the long term if we can keep them working. Do not misunderstand me here. We are grateful for the short term funding. We need it now and it does help BUT the longer term solution is the consumption, purchase and sale of the pulpwood we sold to Northern Pulp (400,000 tonnes). Focusing on an immediate solution to this issue will prevent having to solve a cascade of other issues and prevent further hardship and loss. HC Haynes operates in New Brunswick and Maine and we as a company have already taken steps to market whatever wood we can to other jurisdictions. It is too far to send all of the wood but we have been able to send a small amount to Maine to help the situation. We need a market in Nova Scotia and there is one if you want there to be. Let us work together and focus on prevention, we cannot always afford to be reactive to problems.
Private woodlot owners have also taken a pay cut on their sawlogs (25-35%) as a direct result of the government’s decision on December 20, 2019. We have not addressed it or asked government to intervene here because of the softwood lumber agreement. But we would like to point out that as a result of the Premier’s decision to close Boat Harbour 10 years early, the effect on private woodlot owners is in the neighborhood of a $42-$48 million loss in their stumpage payments (sawlogs and pulpwood) per year based on data collected by the Department of Lands and Forestry. This number only reflects the loss on the amount of timber that is harvested annually. It does not reflect the reduced value of the timber we own that is not harvested. That number is much larger and the analysis is being done to determine the total loss of value to private timber (it is over $2 billion). We are also not counting the truckers, loggers, etc. only what the landowners themselves have lost. What did we do to deserve that?
In his announcement on December 20, 2019 Premier McNeil read from a prepared statement that “In 2015 he made a commitment to clean up Boat Harbour and he is honoring that today, now I am making a commitment to the forest sector that government will be here for them in this transition and that commitment will be honored”. During the Natural Resources Committee meeting of February 5 2020 Minister Towers correctly stated that “maintaining the supply chain of private woodlot owners and contractors is vital and a top priority”. We are grateful Minister that you recognize our value and importance to the forest sector and we sincerely thank you for that acknowledgement. We have heard you loud and clear and look forward to suitable and meaningful actions that are taken by this government to address the issue of our 400,000 tonne pulpwood market being taken from us and consequently our jobs and pay cheques.
Surely, this government must acknowledge some responsibility in correcting the harm that has been done to private wood producers as a result of the Premier’s decision to close Boat Harbour. If there is no immediate correction by government we will have to consider all our options. Please consider the solutions and the concerns of this letter. We look forward to seeing meaningful, significant action from the government on addressing the specific issue of our losses. It is our hope that the government will assist us and that we will not continue to become causalities. We are an innocent party that wants to continue working and living in rural Nova Scotia.
We thank you for your time and valuable consideration,
Stephen B. Cole
Consulting Forester
HC Haynes Inc.
Andrew West
Senior Forester
HC Haynes Inc.

Nova Scotians don’t yet grasp scope of economic massacre post-Northern Pulp

The Chronicle Herald
January 25, 2020
In his Jan. 11 column, Jim Vibert opined that the transition fund established by the province to help affected sectors of our economy cope with the closure of Northern Pulp is not sufficient.
Let me crunch some approximate numbers. The day after our premier made the announcement that will most likely close the Pictou mill, the price of timber paid to woodlot owners in Nova Scotia dropped $30 per cord.
There are over 30,000 small woodlot owners in the province. I estimate that, on average, they have an inventory of around 75 acres of marketable wood containing about 30 cords per acre. The loss: over $2 billion. $2 billion!
The premier announced, a few days ago, that $11 million will be taken out of the $50-million transition fund to help the forestry sector. It is not clear to me if any of that will actually go to the woodlot owners to compensate for the drastic reduction (30-50 per cent) in stumpage rates.
Even if the entire $11 million were used for that purpose, the compensation would be minuscule, almost meaningless — a sick joke. A woodlot owner suffering a $50,000 loss would receive $250 from the transition fund.
Hurricane Dorian caused an estimated $11 million in damage. The province set up a compensation fund of $11 million — 100 per cent compensation. Woodlot owners: half a penny on the dollar!
True, the loss is just a paper loss for now, and may just possibly be partially erased as other markets are found. There is a glimmer of hope, a faint glimmer.
The province has set up a transition team to explore all the options, but as Mr. Vibert pointed out, five of the 10 team members are government employees, and not just your average civil servants. Four are deputy ministers — people who are paid over $168,000 a year and have generous expense accounts.
What forestry expertise do they possess? Julie Towers, deputy minister, Lands and Forests, may have some. What genuine empathy will they have for thousands of desperate rural folks? Not a single one of the province’s more than 30,000 small woodlot owners was deemed worthy to sit on the team. There’s a Nova Scotia Community College president and the chair of a large landowners’ group, and Jeff Bishop, the executive director of Forest Nova Scotia, and Greg Watson, manager of a forestry co-op. The latter two give me some hope that the voices of the small woodlot owners will be heard.
Robin Wilber, who has a close association with forestry people as the owner of Elmsdale Lumber, was cut from the committee the day after he suggested that Northern Pulp could perhaps be put on “hot idle” with a view to restarting operations after environmental requirements were met. So much for exploring all the options.
The head of the transition committee, Kelliann Dean, should have been replaced immediately (or removed from the team altogether) for her perplexing decision to sack Mr. Wilber for expressing an opinion.
I’ve heard people say, and have read views, that Northern Pulp had plenty of time to meet its environmental requirements before the deadline of Jan. 30, 2020, and that the company dragged its feet. Well, maybe. Consider, however, that 10 years after the city of Halifax made the decision to build a plant to treat the raw sewage that had been spilling into the harbour for centuries, the plant was not yet operating. What government couldn’t achieve in 10 years, government demanded private industry do in five.
And Halifax did not have to complete 63 environmental studies, and didn’t have to deal with endless protests, and blockades and ever-changing demands.
Did the premier make a courageous decision on Dec. 20 when he refused to extend the Jan. 30, 2020, deadline, or did he make a rash promise five years ago?
Maybe both. I believe the premier to be a man of integrity and a person who has genuine concern for the people of the province. However, I think a leader with more foresight would have set up a transition team the day he set the deadline for Northern Pulp back in 2015.
Is my expectation of the second-highest-paid premier in Canada too high? I remember that the Mulgrave ferry was not taken out of service until after the Canso Causeway opened. The government of the day did not close down the ferry and then strike a committee to explore other transportation options, nor offer the people of Cape Breton a five-cent subsidy per airplane flight off the island to hold them over.
I don’t believe Nova Scotians have been given a chance to fully comprehend the scope of the economic and social repercussions of forcing Northern Pulp to close.
The staggering losses incurred by woodlot owners is just one. The emergencies faced by the contractors, equipment operators and truckers is nothing short of a crisis. If something dramatic is not done in a hurry, the fallout will extend much further. There will be major layoffs and hundreds of families facing hardship. There will be family breakups, huge increases in welfare payments, bankruptcies, outmigration and suicide rates. Stores will close and property values will drop significantly in many parts of the province, and with that, the tax base. There will have to be cuts in provincial services and government salaries or the deficit will balloon. Forest-fire intensity will increase as more deadwood is left on the forest floor.
The environment needs to be protected, Boat Harbour needs to be ameliorated and the waters of the Northumberland Strait need to be kept clean. With good planning and careful, scientifically-based decisions, we could have these and the pulp mill, too. St. Francis Xavier University professor Jim Williams, who stated his case in an opinion piece in The Chronicle Herald in December, also thinks so. I don’t think he’s an idiot or misinformed.
So far, the small woodlot owners have been patient and hopeful. I can well imagine what would have happened if our teachers and nurses and other government employees were told on Dec. 20 that their salaries would be reduced immediately by 30 per cent. Every school and hospital and government office across the province would be shut down; there’d be mass marches and riots; the city of Halifax would be brought to a standstill; the legislature would be surrounded, not allowing the exit of one MLA. There would be a state of emergency until the cuts were reinstated.
Are the woodlot owners just ignorant country bumpkins to be shut out and placated with a half-cent on the dollar? If they were to organize into a 30,000-strong united force, I could just about warrant that one of them would be on the transition team and probably more than one.
Henry Van Berkel lives in Ashdale. He is the author of Walks by Big Alex’s Pond.

Forestry solidarity

The Chronicle Herald
January 2, 2020
Forestry solidarity
Instead of shaking our heads and rehashing who is wrong or right, all of Nova Scotia, both corporate and citizen-based, needs to extend financial assistance to the more than 3,000 workers and families affected by the anticipated Northern Pulp mill closure.
This outcome will significantly reduce prosperity in every corner of the province. The $50-million transition fund is a mere pittance compared to the scope of the problem. Setting up a fund where tax-deductible donations can be made, and looking within ourselves at how we can help, can make life a little easier for our neighbours.
As many have spent thousands or more this Christmas in their own homes, perhaps an additional healthy donation to a “Forestry Fund” can show how Nova Scotians can help each other.
Malcolm Macpherson, Valley

Letter from a Private Woodlot Owner

December 31, 2019
Dear Premier McNeil:
I am writing to you again in the capacity of one of 30,000 private woodlot owners in this Province (many of whom are deeply concerned with your recent decision) and in no other capacity. I watched your news conference on December 20, 2019 with profound disappointment, shock and disbelief. I am deeply troubled by your decision regarding Northern Pulp (N.P.), a lack of satisfactory alternate plan, and many of your comments, in general. Your decision could potentially bring tremendous hardship upon many honest, hardworking people in rural Nova Scotia. The economic impact is obvious and widely discussed. It involves 11,000 direct jobs and 33,000 indirect jobs of Nova Scotians. These are innocent and honourable people who were deeply dedicated to building a better future for their families and their Province. I fear you have made some grave mistakes here. In terms of rural Nova Scotia, I fear you have set it on a path of destruction. How and why did it come to this? Why are we at this place at this time? I will first address your news conference.
Given that this is such a critical issue to rural/small town Nova Scotia, please permit me to raise a number of issues. And to use your words, “let me be clear”:
1. You adamantly repeated that N.P. had 5 years to obtain and start construction of a new treatment facility. Is this actually true? Let’s have a closer look at the timeline. There are several issues here, but I will only deal with three periods of time as follows:
(a) I understand that the Boat Harbour Act received Royal Assent on May 11, 2015. With this piece of Legislation, May 11, 2015 is also the commencement date. As you know, Royal Assent in Nova Scotia is the day upon which the Lieutenant Governor signs the final version of the Bill and the Bill is then referred to as an Act. In other words, it is the day upon which a bill becomes part of the law in Nova Scotia. Therefore, it seems logical that May 11, 2015 is when the clock started to run. With a termination date of January 31, 2020 in the legislation, N.P. had immediately lost 3 1⁄2 months (not an insignificant amount of time) through no fault of its own, but rather, through your government’s legislative timing. If N.P. was truly given a 5 year period, then the Boat Harbour closure date should have been May 11, 2020. Do you agree, if so, on a go forward basis should your narrative atleast be that N.P. was given 4.7 years and not 5 years.
(b) Secondly, following Royal Assent on May 11, 2015, the timeline reflects that N.P. engaged in a 9 month process with the Minister to obtain Industrial Approval for the plant. Eventually, in February of 2016, the Minister provided Industrial Approval. Now, having dealt with many business owners over the years, I can say that many of them
would not incur costs, in the context of N.P., to seek approval for a new treatment facility, unless and until the owner received Industrial Approval first to operate the mill on a go forward basis. Many would say that this was just prudent business.
(c) Thirdly, there is also the injunction issue and subsequent bad weather. I suggest that a reasonable person can argue that N.P. lost upwards of 6 months of the allotted time here.
Given the totality of the foregoing, what was the result of your government’s good faith, due process and fairness of process assessment of timeline analysis in terms of any decision to “re-set the clock” or alternatively, allow a short extension? Will those results be made public? I, do not have the expertise to analyze this issue, but there are some very knowledge and talented lawyers who work for the Nova Scotia Government that perhaps do. There are also academics that have this expertise. Professor Wayne MacKay comes to mind. Based upon the foregoing, I suggest that one could reasonably argue N.P. only had 3 1⁄2 years of unfaulted time. Furthermore, I understand that immediately after the Boat Harbour Act became law, N.P. publicly stated it would attempt to meet the deadline but it was likely not enough time (see also law amendments committee record before the bill became law and government comment at time of 3rd reading favorable to N.P.). Is this part of your recollection? It begs the question as to the extent to which you consulted all stakeholders before enacting the legislation. Please provide clarity on that issue to those Nova Scotians impacted by your decision.
2. In terms of the approval process itself for the new treatment facility, you said that there was an initial assessment followed by a Focus Report. You were very animated when talking about the Focus Report in that there was “some” information but not enough and that we are not even close to getting out of Boat Harbour. You also said that N.P. is now being asked for an Environmental Assessment Report which will take atleast 2 years. With respect sir, a reasonable person can argue that those negative comments and that negative layperson assessment is at considerable variance with how the Minister of Environment characterized the Focus Report and timeline. He was much more positive in his assessment. As I understood it, he said N.P. provided good information but that he needed more. He also said he would provide N.P. with an extension of up to 2 years to complete that new assessment. In the absence of any other information, this seems like a balanced, prudent approach for the Minister to take to get it right. On December 20, 2019, how were you able to determine that it would take N.P. atleast two years to complete the new reporting because at that time I don’t know if N.P. itself knew the precise and specific details of what it had done wrong or what was missing from the Focus Report? I suggest there was no way to determine on December 20, 2019 how long N.P. itself would take to correct the deficiencies. Should not N.P. have had a reasonable opportunity to weigh in on this issue? It could take 6 months or no more than a year to satisfactorily complete. However, you said it would take at least 2 years. How did you know that?
And, of course, N.P. will likely say that substantial resources of time and money went into preparing that Focus Report which they determined in good faith would provide a path for approval. I will leave N.P. to speak to these issues.
Given this apparent chasm between your position, that of the Minister (and Department of Environment by extension) and N.P., a reasonable person can (and in the absence of further relevant information) suggest that something does not seem right here. What accounts for these ostensibly significant discrepancies? Since your decision will potentially inflict unrecoverable hardship upon many in rural Nova Scotia, you, atleast, owe them the courtesy of getting some satisfactory additional answers. A reasonable person would suggest that there be a full independent, arms-length, comprehensive, transparent accounting of what happened here including all interactions with N.P. and the Nova Scotia Department of Environment (and any and all external reviews of the Focus Report solicited by the Department of Environment) (and the Minister and you by extension). Furthermore, that these findings should be made public. Please confirm to those Nova Scotians most impacted that you will commit to this process.
Additionally, on a “going forward basis”, N.P. be given clear, concise and final direction from the Department of Environment regarding what was wrong with the Focus Report and what would be required for approval.
3. You characterized responsibility in this matter as “this squarely falls on the shoulders of the company” and “that’s not on us”. I found your tone somewhat combative, perhaps not the best approach when the livelihoods of so many innocent hardworking rural Nova Scotians hangs in the balance. And were your statements actually accurate? Does the evidence actually support your assertions to raise them to the level of fact? Firstly, when you say “that’s not on us”, you mean your government and not Nova Scotians generally, correct? Secondly, does this mess actually fall squarely on the shoulders of N.P.?
In point of fact, there are plenty of parties that had a hand in us arriving at this place at this time. Among others, they include all previous provincial governments back to 1967 who presumably, when it was required, gave the pulp mill of the day industrial approval. These pulp mills operated on the watch of all three major political parties in the Province. They also include all the previous pulp mill owners. They include the federal governments of the day, just to name a few. And, of course, there is the issue of the lease indemnity agreement with an expiry date of 2030 which many in the industry viewed as protecting the forestry industry until atleast the year 2030. But this is the hand we have been dealt and collectively we must try to deal with the immediate needs of those people most impacted. I am sure, down the road, there will be plenty of debate as to why we got here, was it necessary and could it have been avoided. For now we need all three political parties to work together for a more positive outcome. We can fight about the politics at a later date.
To fully understand this issue, I suggest we need to have a close examination of what you said at the news conference relative to the timeline between December 17, 2019 and December 20, 2019. At the news conference, you did say that N.P. had 5 years to obtain approval and “start” construction of a state of the art treatment facility. One could reasonably infer from that statement that construction did not have to be completed before the expiration of the 5 years. By inference then, if the Minister had granted approval on December 17, 2019, you were open to an extension. N.P. could easily meet the threshold of starting construction before January 31, 2020. If an extension was not on the table for discussion should N.P. had received approval on December 20, 2019, then one can reasonably argue that you should have articulated this several months ago to those most impacted to allow them reasonable notice to seek other livelihood.
Given that there was no approval, but meaningful, positive comments by the Minister of Environment regarding the Focus Report (and it being unclear at that point how long N.P. would need to satisfactorily address the deficiencies) you presumably took a day or so to reflect upon whether you would grant an extension in these circumstances. Once you made the decision not to grant an extension and instead pull the trigger on this matter you had about a 1 1⁄2 days or so to decide on the alternate plan for rural Nova Scotians. I have played your news conference a number of times. I suggest to you, it shows little if any, material planning on your part before December 17, 2019 regarding the alternate plan. You have known for 5 years that this was a possible outcome. Are you prepared to share with Nova Scotians complete details of your detailed planning (starting on May 11, 2015) regarding the alternate scenarios?
In point of fact, a reasonable person would argue that the extension option had been in the mix for some time now. You knew it would take 18-24 months for N.P. to construct the new treatment facility. That means you knew 1 1⁄2 to 2 years ago you would need to grant N.P. some sort of extension if it had obtained approval prior to January 31, 2020 or in the alternative, you would need an alternate plan. In terms of a short extension (18-24 months), there was a narrow but potentially critical window available. Boat Harbour is not yet ready for cleanup. Media have widely reported that the cleanup is 18-24 months away. Boat Harbour still continues to function with full environmental compliance as I understand it. This extension would have, at most, only added 2%-3% to the overall timeline of the use of Boat Harbour since 1967, but it would have provided critical time to those impacted the most to reasonably and orderly transition themselves and their families to another livelihood. But you have denied them of that opportunity by taking the extension option off the table and not signalling several months ago to those most impacted your alternate plan for them and the long term transition to some greener forest for Nova Scotians you’re planning for us.
Given the foregoing, I suggest that one can reasonably argue that you may have decided the fate of thousands of rural Nova Scotians after a 11⁄2 day or so discussion period. We are not talking about whether these people would get a 1% raise or a 5% raise. We are, however, talking about the sudden and unceremonial dismissal of thousands of innocent and hardworking rural Nova Scotians over the Christmas holidays (who are creating real wealth for this Province). In that context, many would suggest that your alternate plan is grossly inadequate and at most is a modest start on the road to recovery for these people, people that I have proudly stood shoulder to shoulder with for many years to reshape our forests for greater economic and environmental benefits for all Nova Scotians.
What additional commitments are you prepared to announce immediately to fully protect all persons impacted by your decision to give them some measure of comfort? These are the people who were doing the heavy lifting to make our forests stronger and more dynamic. These people are now in an extraordinarily short time box in terms of earning a meaningful livelihood.
Well, where do we go from here? You said that we cannot continue to rely upon N.P. as the sole purchaser of chips/pulpwood (it purchases 1.3 million tonnes of this product annually). We must diversify you said. Okay, then what is the plan? It is critical that all the sawmills continue to operate but they need the chips/pulpwood issue resolved immediately. You have about 2 weeks to sort out this issue. I am told that N.P. stopped taking pulpwood on December 24, 2019 and will stop taking chips on January 4, 2020.
In your news conference, you laid out 3 possible options to solve the chip/pulpwood issue. Let’s take a closer look at those 3 options as follows:
(i) You suggested that the wood chips could be sold to GNTI. I am told that GNTI only ships hardwood chips. The sawmills in question produce softwood chips. In addition, what orders does GNTI currently have on their books for 2020?
(ii) You talked about 6 biomass plants in Nova Scotia to take the chips/pulpwood. I am told that the 6 biomass plants are atleast 1 year away from construction and when fully operational, they will only consume 0.2% of the 1.3 million tonnes N.P. purchases annually. To illustrate the sheer magnitude of what N.P. purchases, we would need 3000 of these biomass plants.
There is also a larger question here. Please take a look at the experience of the Northern Eastern United States. They have gone down the biomass plant path for years at substantial cost to taxpayers and have finally concluded that this path does not satisfactorily address relevant economic and environmental issues. It just has not worked for them (see attached materials). Do you want to take this Province down that path?
(iii) You talked about shipping the chips/pulpwood to foreign markets (i.e. Europe). I suggest that the European market is not an option. This Province is still under a federal quarantine for exporting green softwood (i.e. chips/pulpwood). But more to the point, there is no market for our product in Europe. I am advised by a German well connected to the forestry industry in Europe that last summer Europe was extraordinarily dry (climate change). One of the results of this was the worst beetle infestation ever recorded. This has resulted in an oversupply of softwood (including chips and pulpwood from their sawmills) which will last for atleast a decade according to European forestry experts. There is no market for us in Europe.
You now have a serious immediate problem. I do not have a solution for you regarding this issue. I know that the forestry industry itself is bouncing around a number of ideas which may or may not be acceptable to you. These ideas are above my pay scale and so I will not even attempt to articulate them to you. However, I suggest that you immediately have a roundtable with the forestry industry to find a viable and sustainable path forward. Based upon the information you provided publicly on December 20, 2019, at present, I suggest a reasonable person would argue that you do not have a satisfactory solution to this issue.
As part of your alternate plan, you also talked about pivoting to a greener forest over the next 10 years for this Province. I can help you here. You may recall that you toured my woodlot in September 2019 (this was the second time you toured my woodlot in recent years). At that time, I provided to you my brush saw proposal (which I have attached herein). You complimented me on all the hard work I was doing to my 450 acres in building a stronger forest to fight climate change (which by necessity requires the removal of low grade forest product-pulpwood). You also said that my brushsaw proposal was well throughout, well researched and a very good report generally. I again thank you for your kind words. I showed you first hand the tremendous benefits of brush sawing. As you left my woodlot, you shook my hand and said arrangements would be made immediately to provide the federal government with my report with a view to cost sharing. You also said someone would report back to me shortly. I never heard from anyone. I re-submit my report for consideration.
As an aside, Sweden holds less than 1% of the world’s commercial forest areas, but provides 10% of the sawn timber, pulp and paper that is traded on the global market. One critical component of their responsible forest management is call “cleaning”. We call it brush saw work. It’s simple, a strong well managed and dynamic forest for the economy is also a strong and dynamic forest to fight climate change. Why are we not getting that in Nova Scotia? Sweden, a country with a population of only 10,000,000 people totally gets it. I am asking you to consider my proposal. Pick up the phone and call Mr. Trudeau to make this happen. It could be a plank in your greener forest vision. You and Mr. Trudeau can take the credit. I don’t care about that. That does not motivate me. I simply want our generation to say to the next one that we did something meaningful and tangible to fight climate change.
And finally, I want to talk about something that is very dear to me. Climate change in the context of Nova Scotia forests, and more to the point, Boat Harbour and N.P. In that regard, the difficulty I have is that without a proper, fully funded transition plan in place, we have traded one issue for another except the one we now have is exponentially greater and potentially will have a far greater negative impact on this province in the context of the fight against climate change. I am told that N.P., has not just been a pulp mill. It has been a full and active participant in the fight against climate change. Since the enactment of the Boat Harbour Act in 2015, climate change has accelerated tremendously. In 2019, more than ever, N.P. is needed in the fight against climate change. Why is that?
(a) Of the 10,000,000 trees planted annually in this province, I am told N.P. plants 6,000,000;
(b) It has an annual budget of $4,500,000 for replanting, reforestation and pre-commercial thinning;
(c) It purchases annually 1.3 million tonnes of chips/pulpwood, the lowest grade material in the forest and pays top dollar to the workers compared to all other Canadian jurisdictions (this puts $78,000,000 annually in the hands of rural Nova Scotians). In this regard, it plays a critical, vital role in the removal of low grade wood from the forest, something which must be done to build a strong forest. Mr. Premier, you saw this first hand in my woodlot.
There is no viable alternative market for this amount of this low grade product. The removal of pulpwood from the forest floor is essential to rebuilding a strong vibrant forest for the economy, but more importantly for me, to fight climate change. The harvesters, porters etc. are essential for the removal of this low grade wood from the forest. We do not have the
Premier McNeil December 31, 2019
Page | 8 majestic forest that Samuel de Champlain saw as he sailed up the Annapolis Basin in the early 1600s. There are those environmentalists who think that if we stop cutting entirely, the forest will somehow heal itself quickly with high quality trees. That is simply not going to happen. I have seen woodlots where no responsible management has been done and they are now full of dead and dying trees releasing carbon into the atmosphere and having a negative effect in the fight against climate change. My actively growing and responsibly managed 450 acres, on the other hand, is having the opposite effect.
I suggest that December 20, 2019 was a very sad day indeed for rural Nova Scotia’s fight against climate change. That day was also a failure of our generation to provide future generations with a more economically and environmentally sustainable forest. This new generation of forest workers are well educated, bright and hardworking. I will always stand shoulder to shoulder with them. We have reduced clearcutting from the high level in 1997 by a staggering 70% by 2017 without any direction from the Lahey Report or your government. Furthermore, over the past 25 years the majority of clear cutting has occurred on Crown Land (including on your watch) and not on privately owned land. (See Nova Scotia State of Forest Report produced by the Nova Scotia Government).
These hardworking young men and women now in the forest industry, many of whom are graduates from MCFT, UNB and Fleming College have brought innovative thinking to our forests with both economic and environmental components and along with the knowledge of a bunch of older people like me, we are making great strides in our forests. After your announcement, I fear that much of that will be lost unless we act quickly.
You indicated in your news conference that those affected should not worry. Your government will be there, in essence, to fully protect them. Rural Nova Scotians expect that you will fully honor that commitment. You told N.P. that there are “no short cuts” and it would be held to a standard. The same thing applies to your government. There should be no half measures. Rural Nova Scotians will not permit you or your government to take any “shortcuts”. Rural Nova Scotians will hold your government to a “standard”. Many people in this province are now facing substantial hardship. You must ensure that they are fully protected and compensated. What you have proposed so far is not a satisfactory solution for those most impacted. At most, it is a modest start.
Your plan is not a short transition with relatively minimal adjustment to a better place. This, potentially, is the permanent devastation of rural Nova Scotia. These honorable, hardworking people have no trust fund to go to and they do not deserve to be treated in this manner by their government. Instead they trusted their rural Nova Scotian Premier to have their back. And make no mistake, while rural Nova Scotia will suffer the most, every Nova Scotian will suffer to some degree.
There is urgency to resolve these issues immediately. And the needle has indeed moved. It’s called climate change acceleration and it affects us all. Climate change trumps everything.
I also want to talk abit about the narrative of some people in this Province who want no harvesting in the forest. Their argument is that once total cutting has stopped, the forest over the next 300 years will naturally heal itself with Acadian Forest trees. The only harvesting permitted would be by horse, for example, bucksaws, axes and some chainsaws. This is their vision.
The vision of these people is simply unattainable and not realistic. Given the acceleration of climate change, we do not have 300 years. We may not even have 50 years. We simply do not have the time to build that naturally developed forest. People like me have spent decades cleaning up the “forestry sins” of the 1700s, 1800s and early 1900s, long before N.P. ever arrived on our shores. Because of hundreds of years of cutting the best and biggest timber, we have been left with an overabundance of low grade wood, primarily balsam fir and white spruce which grows rapidly and often, at the age of 30-40 years it has gone to the “pole stage” (because of so many stems of that species per acre) and then dies or dies out naturally as a short life species. There is no room for many core Acadian Forest tree species (Oak, Yellow Birch, Rock Maple, Red Spruce, White Pine). When the low grade forest dies, it releases substantial carbon into the atmosphere and substantially the same low grade forest replaces it and the same problem repeats itself over and over again. The majority of the forests in this Province are still of this low grade quality. Many people, like me, were working very hard to break the horrible cycle and we were having good success. Because of our hard work, many more Acadian Forest trees have taken root in this Province. The good work we have been doing has accelerated the rebuilding of the Acadian Forest (the trees that are most beneficial in absorbing carbon and putting it back into the ground). Personally, I still have thousands of tonnes of low grade trees that must be removed from my woodlot to finish my work on a restored Acadian Forest. Because of your decision, I, and many like me, will not get to the finish line.
We should be moving in the direction of Sweden, Finland, Norway and Germany all of whom recognized several years ago the importance of removing low grade trees from woodlots. I am told those countries have rules that mandate the removal of that low grade forest product for economic reasons, but also, for climate change reasons. Those countries have determined that the importance of removing low grade trees is vital for their economy and to fight climate change. They are doing the heavy lifting to fight global climate change. Those countries, particularly Sweden, have developed state of the art technology to allow pulp mills to co-exist with those objectives. Why can’t we have that? Unfortunately, we continue to drop the ball on climate change. In the G20, we have the second lowest track record in meeting global climate change targets just ahead of Australia (which is currently suffering through its worst heat ever and its worst fire season ever – climate change).
Canada has the second largest forest land mass in the world. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves when it comes to fighting climate change. We can do much better. Politicians in our country continue to use flowery language regarding this issue. But practically speaking, their words are a bunch of garbage. That does not speak well of us and your announcement has the potential to end any meaningful effort by many rural Nova Scotians to effectively accelerate the building of a strong forest to combat an ever accelerating climate change. There is only two ways out of the climate change mess! (1). Lessen our carbon footprint (this will take time) (2). Build stronger forests quickly to absorb more carbon (as our UN has repeatedly emphasized). I fear Mr. Premier, that your announcement may have ended any meaningful contributions from rural Nova Scotians like me (and there are many) to support pillar number 2 Instead of becoming a leader in this regard, we have now become a failure. Not Good!
I am asking that you roll up your sleeves and get to work with all MLAs, and all stakeholders including the ones already noted herein, all municipal units, county wardens, local chambers of commerce, the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture and land developers (the latter two always need a market for their forest products when land is cleared) to find a better path forward. In my view the one you have set us on is simply not acceptable. In point of fact, it is potentially devastating for rural Nova Scotia and our fight against climate change.
We are now in a mess, we need a much better path forward, preferably one that protects our forests, our rural community and provides a path forward for N.P. which plays a critical role in our forests, economy and environment.
Will you guarantee to ensure all the sawmills in this Province remain operational and we have a viable and sustainable market for all of our pulpwood at comparable prices to what N.P. has provided while we transition to the greener forest you are planning for us over the next 10 years?
I look forward to particulars of your government’s revised long term path forward for providing a permanent satisfactory solution for those most impacted.
I reserve the right to provide further comment at a later date, if necessary.
Stephen I. Cole
A very unhappy, disappointed and concerned woodlot owner in rural Nova Scotia.

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