Do or die for N.B. forestry?

The Telegraph-Journal is running a lead story this morning called “Do or die for N.B. forestry” quoting experts saying that massive change will be required such as downsizing the number of mills, turning the focus away from pulp and reducing labour cost through mechanization and other efficiencies.

This is an issue near and dear to my heart. For years, government has made almost no attempt to help these communities adapt to the new economic realities. No real attempt to grow new industries to reduce dependency on forestry, fishing and mining.

It just seems like yesterday that Bernard Lord was announcing $250 million for the forestry sector to put it on a firm foundation for the next generation or some such crap. The industry applauded (including Irving). I said it was just a bandaid back then and it would seem I was right.

They had the yackoff smirnoff report and said no (play on the name of the real consultant). They opted for short term bailouts and forgiveable loans. Remember, the Indian firm that bought the Nackawic mill and got $67 million in subsidies said on the day of the opening that he would likely need more from government.

In Night Train, Bruce Cockburn says “in the absence of a vision there are nightmares“. He’s right on the money. We near clearly definable options for rural New Brunswick. We need real targets. The public needs to know that if the government is going to invest $250 million more that it will lead to not just tiding over the forestry industry for another 12 months but a real solution for a generation.

Stephen Harper just announced $350 million in incentives for Pratt & Whitney to create jobs in Montreal.

How about $350 million for 2,000 – 3,000 high paying manufacturing jobs in Miramichi? Or Tracadie? Or Bathurst? Auto plants, as one example, have a shelf live of between 25-35 years and a closure rate (in that initial period of almost zero). When Ford and GM mothball auot plants, it’s typically the older ones that go because of the massive investment required up front to get them going.

That’s generational economic develompent support not short term bandaids.

I was in Halifax this weekend and saw several advertisments (movie theatre, newspaper, TV) promoting careers in the animation and gaming business. We know that PEI is moving in this direction. New Brunswick, once again, is last off the mark. Is New Brunswick even targeting animation and gaming as a growth industry? Who knows?

Just once, I would like someone to come up with a plan for economic development support in New Brunswick. One with targets. One with significant investments. One with alignment (fed/prov/local, R&D industry, education/training, industry attraction and entrepreneur support all pulling in the same direction).

More quotes about the dire straits of the forestry sector just don’t cut it for me.