Rafferty Calls for Action on Forestry

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OTTAWA – Today, New Democrat MP and Forestry Critic John Rafferty (Thunder Bay – Rainy River) called on Conservative Members of Parliament to stand up to the Harper Conservative government and demand real action for the forest sector.

“The crisis is worsening and Conservatives who represent some of our 300 communities that depend on the forestry sector need to stand up and demand action on behalf of their ridings,” said Rafferty. “From Bridgewater to Campbell River, from Kamouraska to Kenora to Kamloops, there are Conservative MPs who sell Ottawa’s economic policies to their constituents instead of defending their constituents in Ottawa.”

Rafferty’s remarks follow the release of new data by Natural Resources Canada showing steep declines in Canada’s many provinces.

“In each province we’re talking about massive job loss – more than 1,000 a month in British Columbia and Ontario alone,” said Rafferty. “We need those Conservative MPs to prove their worth and get something done. Re-announcing inadequate investment just isn’t good enough.”

According to Natural Resources Canada the forestry industry accounted for 1.7% of Canada’s overall GDP in 2009 which is down from 1.8% in 2008 and 2.5% in 2006 – the first full year of the Harper government. In 2009, forestry related economic activity directly employed 195,320 Canadians; a loss of 36,000 jobs in one year and more than 77,000 since 2006.

Here are the remarks delivered by Mr. Rafferty in Ottawa today:

Thank you for joining me today, but I wish it was under different circumstances.

The decade long decline in Canada’s forestry has continued, and accelerated, under the watch of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.

Recently, new statistics were released from Natural Resources Canada for the 2009 fiscal year and it paints a picture of economic disaster in small rural communities that have traditionally relied on forestry operations as a source of economic activity.

In 2009, forestry activity contributed just $19 billion to Canada’s economy.  It sounds impressive, but the sad fact is in 2006 – the first full year of the Harper government – the forestry sector contributed more than $30 billion to Canada’s economy.

That is $11 billion in wealth that has been lost across 300 small communities in Canada.

The job numbers in these small communities are even worse.

When Stephen Harper and his Conservatives took over the reins in Ottawa 272,029 people were directly employed in the forestry sector in Canada.

In 2009, just 195,320 were directly employed in the forestry sector – a loss of more 77,000 jobs since the Conservatives came to power.

Since the start of 2009 – more than 1000 jobs a month have been lost in both British Columbia and Ontario – again primarily in small rural communities.

The forestry sector is in absolute crisis, and the Conservative government in absolute denial.

These new numbers beg the question – ‘What are the Conservative MPs who represent some of Canada’s 300 forestry dependent communities doing in Ottawa this week to deal with this crisis?’

What are the Conservative Members who represent Kenora, Bridgewater, Kamloops, Campbell River, and Kamouraska doing?

While the profitable oil and gas sector receives about $2 billion per year in direct subsidies, the struggling forestry receives about $25 million in tied investments.

The truth is that these Conservative MPs are in Ottawa this week for a caucus meeting to get their marching orders before heading back to the riding to talk to their constituents.

New Democrats believe that MPs get their marching orders from their constituents and come to Ottawa to talk to the government.

The Prime Minister and his Cabinet should be made aware by these MPs that the forestry sector is in crisis and ensure that loan guarantees, support for small single industry towns, and an extension for E.I. benefits for forestry is at least on the agenda.

They should be raising red flags about the effect of the expired Black Liquor subsidy in the United States, and warning the government about the new unfair US subsidy – the Biomass Crop Assistance Plan.

I know that they are doing nothing of the sort because they are weak and ineffective representatives and fear this Prime Minister when they should fear their constituents.

The Harper government has an abysmal record on the forestry file, and I urge these ineffective Conservative MPs to finally stand up to Stephen Harper and prove their worth and value.

This government and these MPs have failed their constituents in small forestry towns.

In closing these MPs must stand up and finally do their jobs on the forestry file, and if they remain unprepared and ineffective in Ottawa, then they and their constituents need to know that there are extremely capable New Democrats who are ready, willing, and able to take their place.

Thank you.

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