MNR jeopardizing forestry jobs

Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources is jeopardizing employment stability in the forestry industry by closing its eyes to a growing crisis of supply.
“MNR has a track record of looking through the wrong end of the telescope when dealing with fibre supply issues,” said Cec Makowski, Ontario Region Vice President of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, the country’s largest union of workers whose livelihoods depend on the forest.
“We have yet another example of MNR short sightedness with their acceptance of the Bearing Point report on the Longlac situation in Northern Ontario which essentially will pit one company against another in seeking wood supplies to continue production,” Mr. Makowski added.
MNR ordered the Bearing Point study of wood supply following an announcement earlier this year that Longlac Wood Industries planned to replace two existing mills with a larger Oriented Strand Board facility in Greenstone. CEP and many companies in the region oppose the move on the grounds that nobody knows if there are enough trees to maintain existing jobs in the sector while supplying the expanded Longlac facility.
The Bearing Point report and the MNR naively ignore those concerns, Mr. Makowski said, by stating that companies can simply go into the private market place to find additional fibre. Mr. Makowski also questioned the validity of the Bearing Point study, citing reaction from at least one company–Buchanan Northern Hardwoods–that says it was falsely accused in the report of withholding information. Buchanan is one of the employers on record as saying jobs are in jeopardy if the Longlac project goes ahead.
“The truth of the matter is that there is an alarming decrease in availability of fibre across the board which means that prices are going to skyrocket and companies will see their margins thin to the point where our members” jobs will be in jeopardy.
“Ontario urgently needs a province wide audit–not just an exercise in counting trees–of the existing inventory; a forensic examination of the harvesting and reforestation practices in the industry; and, a critical look at how we manage Crown lands and licences,” Mr. Makowski said.
Until that happens, he added, the CEP is asking the Ontario government to halt the issuing of all licences on Crown land.
“There is a co-relation between what happens in Greenstone and what is likely to happen in Thunder Bay and elsewhere,” Mr. Makowski said. “We need policies and practices that can cope with the wider picture and with a long term vision of how this precious resource will be developed for the overall good of the province.”
For more information: Cecil Makowski, Ontario Region Vice-President at (905)371-6297.