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article imageA Vision for Northern New Brunswick

By Bob Ewing     Jan 10, 2008 in Politics
A telephone interview with NDP leader Roger Duguay raises the question as to why the government doesn't consult with the people on issues as crucial as the local economy. People have knowledge to share but is the province willing to learn from them?
The imminent closing of the AbitibiBowater mill in Dalhousie is but the latest sign that the New Brunswick forestry industry is experiencing hard times.
A recent rally in Dalhousie showed that there is strong support for keeping the mill up and running. However, the closure is part of the company’s strategic review which includes the reduction of its newsprint and commercial printing papers production capacity by approximately 1 million metric tons per year during the first quarter of 2008.
The New Brunswick provincial government extended an offer to AbitibiBowater in December which the company did not accept.
In Dalhousie, the workers, their allies and the municipal politicians have asked the province to help but as AbitibiBowater rejected the original offer and did not put a counteroffer forward their hands may be tied.
As provincial NDP leader Roger Duguay said in a telephone interview: “If the province steps in, Dalhousie it will also have to do the same for Miramichi which has also seen a mill closing.”
The forest industry woes extend beyond the New Brunswick borders. This is supported by the soon-to-be-announced federal retraining fund that appears to be specifically for forestry workers. Prime Minister Stephen Harper will announce the details on January 10.
In the interview, Duguay said that part of the problem is that the provincial government does not have a vision for Northern New Brunswick. In particular, the province needs a vision that asks the question "What do we do if the mill closes?"
Forestry is a natural resource industry and a dominant industry in the province. If it fails, the fallout covers a wide area so why not sit down with the people who work and live in the regions that will be affected and develop a contingency plan?
That way, if the worst happens, no one is caught completely off guard and there are steps that can be taken to mend the situation.
According to Duguay, politicians need to listen to the people who just may have valuable ideas to offer and who have the right to be included because it is their livelihood that is being affected.
The people of Dalhousie are echoing Duguay's words. Bill Clarke’s article in The Tribune, on page one, refers to a letter that was delivered to the Mill by the protesters this Saturday. The letter was addressed to the Chairman of AbitibiBowater and said:
...An agreement reached between the company on one side and Premier Shawn Graham and Minister of Donald Arsenault who is also the local member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) is not valid because they had no mandate from the people to negotiate.
More about New brunswick, Ndp, Forestry