I write regarding the provincial government’s recent response to the shuttered Resolute mill in Fort Frances.
The minister of Natural Resources and Forestry has stated: “Negotiations regarding the future of the mill are between Resolute [Forest Products], Repap, and the community of Fort Frances, and we are not commenting further at this time.”
As everyone knows, Resolute’s licence contains the specific term requiring Resolute to deliver the Crossroute resources to the Fort Frances processing facility. It stopped complying with that term of its licence years ago, without consequence.
Nobody expects the government to intervene in private negotiations. Everyone should expect the government to exercise its exclusive powers in good faith, however.
I suggest that the minister’s stated position is not a benign, measured, or fair handling of the file. Rather, the minister’s position is an unconscionable abdication of the duty of the Crown, who is bound by the Crown Forest Sustainability Act. The minister has the exclusive power to administer access to the Crossroute Forest under the Act.
I suggest that by purporting to stay neutral, the minister instead is taking positive and devastating action directly against the district and any potential purchaser of the mill. It gives the appearance that the minister has ceded the Crown’s sovereignty over Crossroute to Resolute.
The minister needs to use the exclusive powers prescribed by the CFSA and reduce access or cancel Resolute’s licence for Crossroute. Or the minister needs to pronounce that Resolute’s monopoly over Crossroute has an expiration date, in the event that the Fort Frances processing facility is not operated by it or a purchaser.
Or the minister needs to pronounce that Crossroute is “open for business” to any large employer coming to the Fort Frances area, in accordance with the historical purpose of Resolute’s current licence.
Failing to do any of the above maintains the unfair bargaining inequality between Resolute and any potential purchaser to the detriment of the residents of the district.
It needs to be understood by all that the Crown Forest Sustainability Act gives the minister every single power that is required to permit any new mill purchaser (or separate start-up, for that matter) to immediately access Crossroute, with or without Resolute continuing some form of access.
If the minister does not reassert the Crown’s sovereignty over Crossroute for the good of the district, the minister needs to explain why the government continues to harm the district by doing nothing.
born and raised)