Perhaps it is all just ‘water under the bridge’ now, but I believe the case of Dr Eilish Cleary, former Chief Medical Officer for Public Health for the Province of New Brunswick, is still worth a review. In my opinion, there’s a story here within a story. And that is the story of how the media handled, or mishandled, the whole episode. There’s more to this than fracking, or glyphosate, and much more than the supposed ‘muzzling’ of a public servant.
Consider the following:
If you follow the news or social media in New Brunswick you might have the impression that white-tailed deer are vanishing from this Province. These ‘disappearing deer stories‘ are usually associated with condemnations of current and past forest management policies in New Brunswick. If you are interested in forest management, the 2008 Erdle Report provides a comprehensive review of alternative forestry management policies. Timber harvests from Crown land in New Brunswick are considered to be at or near maximum sustainable levels, despite intensive silviculture operations. Although management of Crown forest lands in New Brunswick might be far from optimal, the evidence that those practices are having a decisive impact on deer populations is mixed. Data available from the New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and published by the CBC show that deer populations in the 1970s are similar to those that we have seen in more recent years:
Note that the title in the CBC story referred to above is ‘New Brunswick deer herd down 70% in 30 years, DNR numbers show’; it could just as well have been titled ‘Deer populations revert to 1970s levels, DNR numbers show’. That would have been less-alarming and generated fewer clicks, I suppose.
In recent years, there has been a great deal of discussion with respect to forestry management policies in New Brunswick. That should not be surprising, given the historical importance of the industry to many communities in the Province and the impacts of closures of sawmills and pulp mills on those communities. A significant factor in forestry management discussions has been the tension between the goals of employment (and tax revenue), wood/fibre production, sustainability of production in ‘working’ forests, preservation of ‘old growth’ forests, and conservation of flora and fauna in those forests. These issues are not unique to New Brunswick; in particular, declines in employment in the forestry sector have been a national concern.
The New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources has commissioned a number of panels and reports over the years which touch on all of these aspects, and I recommend that anyone interested download and review the relevant documents. One key point I found in these documents is that the issue is not just one of pitting the ‘corporate evil-doers’ against the ‘little guy’ but that even the ‘little guys’ are guilty of mismanagement of the forest resource. Our forests (both public and private) have been treated by too many of us as a mine, rather than as a sustainable resource. For additional perspectives, the video documentaries of Charles Theriault may be of interest. I am not an expert in forestry management – far from it – but, as I have stated before, I am neither a fan of the sudden shifts that we have seen in forestry policy in recent years, nor am I convinced that we are managing our natural resources in our long-term interests.
[This is the fourth in a series of posts on service costs in Local Service Districts (LSDs) in New Brunswick. I suggest reading these previous posts, which add context to the information presented below:
In 2011, the New Brunswick government moved towards reform of the system of local governance by adopting some elements of the Finn report. By gradually transferring responsibilities (and tax points) for provision of local services to Regional Service Commissions, the Province hoped to relieve itself of certain costs and also transfer decision-making for certain politically sensitive issues to the regional commissions. Financial analyses carried out by the Province in previous years indicated that property taxes collected from rural New Brunswick (in particular the unincorporated Local Service Districts) were insufficient to cover the costs of local services. This means that once local service delivery is completely transferred the Regional Service Commissions, property taxes in at least some parts of rural New Brunswick may rise, and rise considerably.
Among the documents released as part of the process of transition to the new system was one entitled ‘Responsibilities for Roads’. In brief, this document sets out an eight year transition period during which responsibilities for local road maintenance and repair would become a local responsibility. The Province would no longer fund snowplowing and maintenance of what it deemed to be local roads. Those would become the responsibility of rural municipalities, towns and villages and/or Regional Service Commissions. There would certainly be some tax implications in this transfer, especially for rural areas with falling populations and a weakening tax base.
The ‘Responsibilities for Roads’ document was once found at this URL:
However, it seems to have been removed or relocated. I had previously downloaded a copy of the document and have placed the text below (and here’s a link to the downloaded pdf – Responsibilities_for_Roads). I don’t know why the document has been removed – perhaps the government is no longer intent on downloading responsibilities for local roads, perhaps the issue is deemed too politically sensitive for display, or perhaps the plan is ‘under review’.