Forestry funds axed

A rebuttal to Tom Fletcher's column in the Gazette, October 4.

Dear editor,

Tom Fletcher (Party leaders’ spin contest ends in a tie, North Island Gazette, Oct. 4) claims that a read of budgets shows that there have been no cuts to forest inventory work under the Liberals.

However, Liberal forest minister Steve Thomson clearly disagrees.

In budget estimates this spring, I asked the minister to contrast the amount spent on forest inventory work in the 11 years the Liberals have been in power to the 1990s under the New Democrats.

Minister Thomson admitted that under the New Democrats, the budget for forest inventory work averaged $23.6 million, while under the Liberals, the average was roughly $8.5 million. By any measure, that’s a significant cut.

More important than the dollar figures, however, is the qualitative record of the Liberals on forest inventory. Independent experts, including the auditor general and the Forest Practices Board, have recently condemned the Liberal record on forest inventory and forest health. The auditor general said the Liberals had allowed a trillion-dollar asset – the publicly owned forested lands – to badly degrade, putting the future of our forest industry in jeopardy.

Adrian Dix and the New Democrats believe that careful investment in our forests can serve to stabilize the forests today so that we can have stable industry in the future. The first step is recognizing the failings of the recent past – and the Liberal cuts to forest inventory work count as one of those failings.

Norm Macdonald, MLA
New Democrat critic for forests