OTTAWA – Leader’s Ledger – I was very sorry to learn of the shutdown at the Global Sticks plant and the five week layoff at the Resolute Mill in Fort Frances. These events, as well as the shutdown of the Terrace Bay mill and others across the province and country tell me that the forestry sector is still in a state of crisis and in need of assistance.
In response to these local events I tabled three forestry related motions in Ottawa this past week to raise awareness about the problems faced by the sector and offer some positive ideas for the federal government. The three motions – titled M-298, M-299, and M-300 – together could constitute a national plan for the forestry sector.
The first motion, M-298, is essentially the wish list that industry representatives have presented to the federal government to assist with this transformation from traditional activities, mainly logging, pulp, and newsprint, to more valuable products like bio-fuel, bio-chemicals, and bio-pharmaceuticals. The motion is taken, almost verbatim, from a massive report published by the Forestry Products Association of Canada (FPAC) last year that said the industry requires among other forms of support; a made-in-Canada clean energy plan, a revolving fund to assist with capital investment in clean energy, a tax-credit to encourage private investment, expanding government assistance to help with the integration of new products, and more funding for research.
The second motion, M-299, is really a general call for a national forestry strategy. The Conservative government, and to be fair the Liberal governments that preceded them, have never drafted and implemented a national strategy for the forestry sector. Unfortunately, the results are now showing with more than 60,000 job losses in forestry communities across Canada over the last five years. M-299 would see the federal government take a leadership role by convening a bi-annual forestry summit with the forestry industry, labour organizations, and municipalities among others to develop and see through a plan to help the sector prosper. The emphasis would be on helping the forestry industry, communities, and families get through tough times and position themselves for a better future. Coincidentally, such meetings have also been requested by the FPAC for several years running.
The third motion, M-300, seeks to ensure a level playing field for Canadian producers on the international market. This motion is born out of the experience of Canadian mills and operators who were decimated by the Black Liquor subsidy in the United States. The Black Liquor regime pumped $9-12 billion in cash into the US forestry sector from 2006-2009 while Canadian producers received no support whatsoever from our government. US producers then leveraged that extra money to slash the price of their goods and undercut Canadian producers on the open market. When Canadian assistance finally came in 2010, it was just $1 billion and required an equal investment in clean energy technology from the mills, but by then many were closed or in bankruptcy and had no access to capital. M-300 simply calls on the federal government to monitor the creation of new subsidies in other countries, when possible negotiate and end to those subsidies, and when necessary match them for Canadian producers to level the playing field.
At the end of the day our forestry sector continues to struggle and it is hurting our local economy and families. As our Member of Parliament it is my responsibility to represent our local interests in Ottawa, so tabling these motions and advocating for federal action to assist our forestry industry, communities, and families is something that I will continue to do on a regular basis as we move forward.
John Rafferty MP
Thunder Bay Rainy River