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Conflict of interest

Dear editor,

On January 6, the Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal published an article submitted by the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Mr. John Yakabuski, related to our provincial government's draft Forest Sector Strategy designed to stimulate job creation and promote economic growth.

This Strategy is posted and available for comment on the Environmental Registry of Ontario until February 5.

The following information comes from these two documents:

  • Volume of timber harvested today is less than 60 per cent of what it was in 2000;
  • There is about 15 million M3 of available wood supply which could support further investments in the forest sector and allow Ontario to capitalize on future markets without impact to the sustainability of our forests;
  • Over the next decade global demand for pulp is expected to increase due to a growth in packaging (25 per cent) and tissue (35 per cent);
  • A 2018 study prepared for the United Nations Forum on Forests forecasts global consumption of products derived from pulp is expected to increase by more than 100 per cent over the next 30 years, consumption of solid wood products is expected to increase by 50 per cent and bio-based products are expected to make up 50 per cent of all consumer products; and
  • Replacing single use plastics with paper options is too new to forecast but has the potential to vastly improve growth numbers in the pulp and paper sector.

Minister Yakabuski states:

“Critically, the strategy's main pillar is Promoting Stewardship and Sustainability.”

“We have heard the call from Northern and rural communities that they need the certainty that good forest- industry jobs will be available in the long term.”

On July 9, 2019, Resolute Forest Products and the Riversedge numbered company registered several restrictive covenants on title of the Fort Frances mill properties that:

  • Prohibit the sale to any entity that would manufacture various types of pulp or paper products;
  • Include restrictions that require the sale of key mill assets for scrap; and
  • Prohibit a new owner of the property from engaging the Provincial government to request access to a wood supply from the Crossroute Forest.

On July 31, 2019, the Westend Weekly published the MNRF's invitation for the public to review and comment on the 2020-2030 Draft Forest Management Plan for the Crossroute-Sapawe Forest. The restrictive covenants were registered on title of the Fort Frances mill properties July 9, 2019 and title of said property transferred to the numbered company shortly thereafter.

The MNRF's July 31, 2019 notice of public consultation is significant for two reasons:

1. The Crossroute Forest for over 100 years was separate and distinct from the Sapawe Forest. The Ministry in their planning had already consolidated the two forests into one single forest well before July 2019; and

2. The author of this new 10-year plan is an employee of Resolute Forest Products Canada Inc.

Why has the Ministry allowed an employee of Resolute Forest Products Canada Inc. to be the author of this new forest management plan after the company applied the restrictive covenants to the Fort Frances mill property as this appears to be a conflict of interest to me and; why did the Ministry merge the Crossroute Forest and Sapawe Forest into one management unit without public consultation, particularly while the Fort Frances mill was and continues to be a viable working asset?

In 2019, Rainy River Packaging was prepared to buy and operate the Fort Frances mill. The restrictive covenants registered on the lands of the Fort Frances mill are also a good indication the Fort Frances mill is still a viable operation and a corporate opportunity.

In 2009, RFP operated 34 paper machines in Canada. At the end of 2018, RFP operated 13 paper machines in Canada, with only two of these paper machines located in Ontario.

Minister Yakabuski says he heard the call from Northern communities and the need for good long term forest industry jobs. Why then is the MNRF allowing a company that sure seems to be intent on reducing production capacity in the pulp and paper sector in Ontario to control a significant amount of forest lands in this province?

Sincerely,

David Kircher

Fort Frances

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