Why do we manage our Crown forests so bizarrely?

Jennifer McKenzie, The Daily Gleaner, October 18, 2017

Last Wednesday I was invited to speak at the Annual General Meeting for the New Brunswick Federation of Woodlot Owners.  They have been in the news lately as the Southern New Brunswick Forest Products Marketing Board and its sister group the Southern New Brunswick Wood Co-operative are in a lawsuit with J.D. Irving Ltd et al who are effectively challenging the marketing board legislation which was meant to  give the Woodlot Owners Association the right to negotiate and sell wood from private woodlot owners in their area.  The New Brunswick government has been silent during this whole affair.

This is the latest twist in a long standing dispute that has arisen from a sequence of bizarre decisions made by our government under successive Liberal and Conservative parties.  The consequences of these decisions are being felt mainly by woodlot owners in their pocket book. They are completely ham-tied trying to jump through the hoops of large industrial players and the government’s mismanagement of the forestry file.

If you read my last column on Governance, you would know that I took issue with the first strategic objectives listed at the top of every report submitted by ministries to the Public Accounts Committee.  The first objective listed on all reports is More Jobs.  So perhaps that explains the way that we have managed and continue to manage our forests and Crown Land?  In fact, by Statistics Canada’s figures, the number of jobs created by the forest sector over the past fifteen years is on a decline. Since a high of almost 20,000 jobs in 2004, we have lost over 30% of our forestry jobs, a good many of them gone from the Pulp and Paper industry.  So what then explains this Gordian knot of a problem?

From the government’s own private forest task force report in 2012: “Over the past decade, forest policy innovation in New Brunswick has withered”  “Important provisions of the Crown Lands and Forest Act (1982) and the Natural Products Act (1999) have been neglected” and “Proportional source of supply provisions have not been effectively implemented, and despite its legislated authority, the New Brunwick Forest Products Commission does not arrive at an equitable price for purchased primary forest products”  “Conflicts among private woodlot owners, the government and parts of the forestry industry remain unresolved.”  Why hasn’t this been resolved five years later on?

An NDP government would implement a new forestry strategy.  We would consult with all stakeholders to develop a plan to allow a variety of forestry industries  to have access to Crown forest while encouraging older growth forests, stopping the clearcutting that is detrimental to forest and soil ecology; and stopping spraying of glyphosates and other sprays harmful to forest health and possibly human health.

Most of the best forestry practices of the world agree that a diverse forest is a healthy forest and that creating a monoculture or a forest with less diversity is an unhealthy way to manage our woods.  Indeed, why then do we spray our forests with glyphosate, allow clearcutting only to replant and cultivate a few select species over much of it?

The NB forestry industry creates fewer jobs per acre of forest land than in our neighbours in Quebec, Ontario and Maine. Why is this?  One  reason is the failure move to insure value added to forestry products industry here in the province. Under an NDP government, our Crown land would be managed to support emerging value-added industries in the province for the benefit and jobs of many New Brunswickers.  We would encourage innovation and high value products for use here and around the world.

An NDP government would review best practices from around the world and find a made in New Brunswick solution to provide fair access, while being environmentally and socially responsible and providing the best economic advantage possible to as many people as possible.  We would take back the management of our forests from large corporations.

New Brunswickers know the woods.  We have many highly trained and highly skilled woodsmen and craftspeople across this province who are either unemployed or under-employed.  Let’s allow their creativity to shine through and let’s become an example of how a province can use its abundant resources to create a variety of jobs while preserving the natural beauty, health and vitality of our forests.

Maybe then the knot will start to unravel?


Jennifer McKenzie

Leader of the New Brunswick New Democrats

Good Governance – Why does it matter?

Jennifer McKenzie, The Daily Gleaner, October 4, 2017

When I left as outgoing Chair of the Ottawa School Board, the staff gave each of us a children’s book that best described our personality.  As part of a ratpack of five New Democrats, we had spent eight years working together overhauling the governance model of the school board and we had all gotten to know each other rather well.  The book they gave me was called Mathematics and Big Ideas.

Part of our overhaul of the Board was to clearly define roles and responsibilities.  Politicians govern and staff administer.  No more politicians meddling in the day to day operations of the board and no more staff doing politics.  As we set the policy, goals and controls to monitor progress, the senior staff grew able to read our minds (well it was all written down) and administer their staff to meet our objectives.  Still, it was very disconcerting to get a book that had me pegged so well.

So when Terry Seguin asked us to speak on the Public Accounts Committee on the CBC political panel last week, I was on solid ground.  After reading much of the background material for the Public Accounts Committee, I found the mechanisms, levers and controls that are used to drive and control the various ministries within the Government of New Brunswick.

Three things struck me.  First, the series of unfortunate decisions and mistakes that this government has been making is not a random sequence at all but rather by their own design.  The strategic priorities at the beginning of each Liberal Government report in recent months are listed as Jobs, Fiscal Responsibility and best place to raise a family, whatever that means.  Nowhere is the health and well being of our citizens listed, nor other priorities that matter to the people of New Brunswick.

And so, it should come as no surprise then should it, that we spray our forest and our citizens with glyphosate and other chemicals in the name of jobs and big business.  It comes as no surprise that we pay bags of money to big business enterprises for dubious job creation exercises. It comes as no surprise that important healthcare gets shuffled off to business entreprises to manage.  And no wonder that people were allowed to swim in sewage at Parlee Beach for so many years.

The second thing that struck me was the lack of the front end work needed to do things right the first time.  I love the creative front end of a process best of all.  By doing this part right, you can strategically (and less expensively) knife edge to a solution that is well thought through and likely to be successful.  It is the time where you collect best practices and  evidence-based research from around the world, where you collect all the data, statistics and background material you can find to make the right decision and the time when you talk to all the people who work on the front lines and others as well to learn how to best solve the challenges in front as they see them every day.

One of the most important ingredients of any creative process is to have a large diversity of views and perspectives at the table.  The thirteen men who sit on the Public Accounts Committee all have the identical perspective of a middle age white guy.  Is it any wonder that women’s, youth’s, seniors’s and minority views – hugely important if you are going to represent the whole population of New Brunswick – are completely missing from our governance model?

It comes as no surprise that literacy and numeracy scores are stagnant in our schools and communities. That the government’s response to the ice storm which is to amalgamate municipalities – a mostly blame the victim exercise –was doomed to fail.  And that the property tax fiasco is still stumbling along and getting worse by the day.

The third thing that struck me was the obfuscation of any substantive financial information.  Any governor worth her or his salt know one must follow the money to really get to the heart of the priorities and understand the activities of an institution.  Where was the financial information they need to do that? Nowhere to be found.

That is why the NDP is calling for a Legislative Budget Officer, of the kind found in the Federal Government, Ontario, the US and other jurisdictions, who would be responsible for providing financial information to the committee and other opposition members on request.  Having this type of function in government led to the defeat of Trumpcare when it was revealed by the Budget Officer that 32 Million people would lose their health coverage.  It led to the exposure of Harper’s grossly misleading costing of the F35 Bomber program among other things.

We must dare to dream of a New Brunswick with a world class education system, of jobs that youth want to stay for and return to, of a government that looks out for the health and well being of every citizen and that puts the priorities of the people at the forefront of everything we do.  That’s socialism to me.  That is what I bring to you as the leader of the NDP as we vie for your support to govern New Brunswick.  Join me!

Jennifer McKenzie Announces Support for $15 Minimum Wage

“Today I announce that the New Brunswick NDP will join the campaign for a $15 minimum wage “ said Jennifer McKenzie, Leader of the New Brunswick NDP in an announcement in Saint John today. New Brunswick families deserve a fair wage and a decent living. That’s why an NDP government would increase the minimum wage by $1 a year for four years until it reaches $15 an hour.”


“We cannot prosper and thrive in New Brunswick if each and every one of our workers can’t feel safe and secure at work and able to get ahead financially. Other provinces are now moving to recognise the harm to all of society when we have too much income inequality. Ontario and Alberta have now joined a North American movement for a fifteen dollar minimum wage. Its time we did too.”


The New Democratic Party will also address the world of working men and women and help to make real improvements in their working conditions and incomes in the upcoming election.


“Today I announce that an NDP government would conduct a comprehensive review of employment standards in the province with the clear objectives:


To improve the working lives, working conditions , and well being of all New Brunswick workers;


To increase the coverage of employment standard legislation to those currently excluded by the legislation;


To introduce common employer provisions to make franchisors responsible for the working conditions of employees of franchisees;


To end the practices of split shifts , call ins without pay and never knowing when you are scheduled to work’”


“We will run on a package of labour reforms that will help improve the lives of women and reduce youth out-migration” say the leader,   “I want to make the voices of women a priority in our political discussions and working women are disproportionately represented in low paying precarious work.”

NDP Statement on Campbellton-Dalhousie By-election

Today Don Arsenault, who was one of the top ministers in the Gallant Liberal government, has resigned, forcing a by-election in Campbellton-Dalhousie, less than a year before a general election.


“The resignation of one of Premier Gallant’s top cabinet ministers, who would rather take a private sector job than stay in this Liberal caucus, is further evidence that the Gallant Liberals are in a state of disarray” said NDP Leader Jennifer McKenzie.


“Too many New Brunswickers already believe that politicians do not serve their best interests. We need an ethical, moral government that puts the people’s interest ahead of their own,” said Ms. McKenzie. “For over a century the Liberals and Conservatives have been in government. It will take a new party to clean up the old boys club in New Brunswick. The NDP is ready to bring about that change.”

‘We Want More Eggs And More Baskets’

Commentary in The Daily Gleaner by Jennifer McKenzie, New Brunswick NDP Leader


Since becoming leader of the New Brunswick NDP, I’ve been working hard, travelling around the province listening to the concerns of New Brunswickers. More and more, I’m hearing from families that the cost of living is forcing them to make tough decisions at the end of each month.

Families who work for low wages face impossible choices — buy clothing or heat the house, purchase groceries or pay the rent. The result can be spiralling debt, constant anxiety and long-term health problems. In many cases, it means that the adults in the family are working long hours, often at two or three jobs, just to pay for basic necessities. They have little time to spend with their families, much less to help their children with school work or to participate in community activities.

Young people are struggling to pay today’s high rent prices and higher tuition prices at the same time. Too many seniors can no longer manage both the heating bill and the rent. All while the government just keeps asking us all to pay extra – for university tuition, for basic supplies in seniors care, for fees for provincial parks and more.

The frustration of working harder only to fall further behind is one to which many New Brunswickers can relate. Too many New Brunswick families are taking home a smaller share of the economic pie despite working longer hours, getting more education and contributing to a growing economy.

The government just doesn’t get the everyday reality for many New Brunswick families.

Many families in our province are struggling to make ends meet, and the decisions by successive Liberal and Conservative governments are making that worse.

The two old parties keeps asking New Brunswick families to pay extra … for NB Power, for HST, for property taxes, for fuel taxes, for tuition for college and university, and the list goes on and on. Even food prices have been rising higher and higher with no end in sight.

The cuts to health care and education by successive Liberal and Conservative governments also mean that we’re forced to pay extra far too often. Like hiring private nursing help when health care and seniors care fall short; paying extra for class fees; or hiring a tutor when a child can’t get time with an educational assistant or one-on-one help in the classroom.

New Brunswick workers and businesses are doing their part – growing our province and delivering good news for our economy – but the Gallant Liberals aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.

Instead of focusing on what matters to New Brunswick families, the government has wasted far too much of our money on their own misplaced priorities.

While the two old parties looks out for their friends and insiders while they dismiss the real concerns that keep coming forward, my NDP and I will team will keep listening to New Brunswick people and focusing on what matters most to them.

The Gallant Liberals have been wasting an incredible opportunity to diversify our economy so we can end the boom-and-bust cycle and ensure our prosperity is sustainable for the long term.

Natural-resource jobs and the money that resources put into New Brunswick’s economy should have been a boon, but consecutive Liberal and Conservative governments haven’t even kept royalty rates the same. They have reduced the rates paid for our resources time and time again.

We don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket. We want more eggs and more baskets. We’ll deliver good, mortgage-paying jobs by encouraging growth in knowledge-based fields such as research, science and technology, clean energy, and in arts and culture, including film and television.

The NDP wants New Brunswick to do well, and we want New Brunswickers do well. It’s time for a government that looks out for us.

Jennifer McKenzie is the leader of the provincial New Democratic Party.

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