Question Period: NB Forest – 10 February 2017

Here is the video and transcript of oral questions, recorded in the language in which it was spoken.


Mr. Coon: It was three years ago this week that the former government signed a contract with Jim Irving to provide his company with a guaranteed supply of wood from Crown lands for 25 years—an amount of wood that undermined the integrity of our public forest management system. In return for our sacrificing the public interest in this way, J.D. Irving would modernize its mills. This included a major investment in Phase 3 of the Irving Pulp & Paper modernization in Saint John, at a cost of $263 million. Can the Minister of Energy and Resource Development tell this Legislature whether, in fact, J.D. Irving has invested that $263 million in Phase 3 of the mill modernization in Saint John? How many permanent jobs did it create?

Hon. Mr. Doucet: It is certainly a pleasure to stand in the House to talk about the forestry sector. The forestry sector is very vital to the economy. It is a very strong component for job creation, for helping us get our fiscal house in order, and for helping us pay for the things that are priorities, such as education and health care. The questions that the member is bringing forward are very important—very important to the people of New Brunswick. Yes, everything is on track. As I understand it, a number of sizable forest sector investments have materialized in the year since the strategy was released. A number of very significant investments have taken place in the province. With the Irving Paper modernization of $202 million in Saint John, there have to be some jobs out of that too. At the Chipman mill, it is $38 million—that is very significant. In Kedgwick and Saint-Léonard, there was $3.9 million.

Mr. Speaker: Time, minister.

Mr. Coon: It sounds to me as though Phase 3 has not been completed, but let me press on. The former government signed on a contract that accepted that J.D. Irving’s promised investments in its mills would be predicated on this and future governments assuring the company competitive wood costs on Crown land. Can the minister tell this House which steps his government has taken to guarantee competitive wood costs to the J.D. Irving company?

Hon. Mr. Doucet: Job creation and economic growth very much remain priorities of this
government. The safe and responsible development of our natural resources has been identified as being a key growth opportunity. There are some challenges out there. We all know there are some tremendous challenges in all the sectors that we are dealing with, but, with the challenges, come some very significant growth opportunities. As I mentioned just a moment ago, it is not only Irving but also what has taken place with AV Group. To finish, AV Group has had $37 million in investments. Chaleur was $5.5 million in investments, and Twin Rivers was $10 million in investments. These are linked to the forest
strategy. They have materialized and are on track. These investments continue to support employment opportunities and many of the forestry communities in the province. By the way, the fact of the matter is that many of those jobs are in rural New Brunswick.

Mr. Speaker: Time, minister.

Mr. Coon: When I asked questions such as these last year, J.D. Irving took out a full-page advertisement in the paper and answered them. Maybe it will do that again so that I can get the
actual answers to my questions. En vertu du contrat signé par l’ancien gouvernement avec Jim Irving, le gouvernement actuel ainsi que les gouvernements futurs sont légalement tenus de réduire les coûts des opérations forestières de la compagnie dans la province. Le ministre peut-il expliquer quelles démarches ce gouvernement a pris pour réduire les coûts des opérations forestières d’Irving dans la province?

Hon. Mr. Doucet: As I mentioned a few moments ago, job creation is the number one priority of this government. Getting our fiscal house in order and helping to pay for health care and education are priorities. I am very proud to say on the floor of this Legislature that the forestry industry is part of that plan, part of the economic development, and part of the growth in this province. It has been a pillar, a very solid pillar, for many, many years. It is part of our growth, and it is part of our economic development plans as we go forward. As I mentioned, all the work is on track. All the investments are on track. I mentioned just a few of the mills, and that is not talking about the investments in the woods. That is not talking at all about the investments in the woods. Trees are everything. What is taking place? Trees are everything. The value that we can get out of our fibre is so very important. The mills that are producing in this province are creating some tremendous jobs, and they are also creating some very tremendous products. There are mills that are producing some tremendous fibre.

Mr. Speaker: Time, minister.