David Coon calls for new forest policy (CBC News)

Green Party leader says failure of Fredericton sawmill Maritime Fibre shows need for change

CBC News Posted: Jan 27, 2015 7:32 PM AT Last Updated: Jan 27, 2015 7:32 PM AT

Green Party Leader David Coon says the failure of a Fredericton sawmill is also a failure of provincial policy.

Coon contends the recent collapse of Maritime Fibre and Energy could have been avoided and shows the need for a new provincialforestry policy.

David Coon

Green Party Leader David Coon says Maritime Fibre could have been a model of community-based forestry. (CBC)

He says the mill could have diversified a forestry market now dominated by big industrial players, but the deck was stacked against it.

“We hear the rhetoric about entrepreneurship and innovation, and certainly the investors in this independent mill were applying all of that, but they were getting nowhere near the kind of assistance and support from the government that the big forestry companies seem to be able to get.”

Instead, a provincial commission has suspended the board of the York-Sunbury-Charlotte wood marketing board — a partner in the mill.

Coon says the project could have been a model of community-based forestry.

“Here was an effort to try and bring competition into the market for wood products and it just didn’t have the support.”

Policy favours large companies

Coon says the problem is the Crown lease system, which forces small operators, such as the mill, to buy some wood from large Crown lease-holders that have to be paid up front, with cash the mill didn’t have as it was starting up.

Murray Munn, who was the lead investor in Maritime Fibre, says provincial policy favours the large companies cutting on Crown land — in effect, subsidizing them at taxpayers’ expense.

“Now to me, as a businessperson, that is insane. Totally, totally insane.”

The new Liberal government has promised a review of the previous government’s forestry plan, but so far, there’s no word on the result.