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.
As a resident of the Fredericton region, I have an interest in the regional economy and how it is faring. It’s not news (at least it shouldn’t be) that the Fredericton region has not been doing that well on the jobs front. That affects everything from the prospects of local businesses to the tax rates required to fund services.
When Statistics Canada releases its monthly Labour Force reports, the local media tend to focus on things like the unemployment rate, comparisons with this months employment performance in Moncton and Saint John, or a comparison with the previous month/year. Generally, we don’t get the longer term perspective that might be more useful than month-to-month or even year to year comparisons.
Statistics Canada Cansim Table 282-0054 provides rolling three-month averages for economic regions, going back to 1987. I find the data found there to be more useful than the seasonally-adjusted data that are usually provided in media reports.
Let’s look at data from that Table for the period November 2004 thru November 2014 and compare the Fredericton / Oromocto economic region with the Moncton / Richibucto economic region.
I have been updating charts on employment changes in New Brunswick for a while now, but sometimes it is useful to look at a longer term review of employment and labour force trends. Here are some charts using data from Cansim Table 282-0054 (Statistics Canada); they compare the five economic regions in New Brunswick with respect to labour force (those working or willing to work) and employment (those currently working full-time or part-time) for the period March 1994 thru March 2014 – 20 years.
The graphs are ordered South to North; the three ‘urban’ regions (Saint John, Moncton, and Fredericton) are all in the southern part of the province. The two northern regions follow.
Saint John / St. Stephen Economic Region (Saint John, Charlotte and Kings Counties)
Saint John shows a fairly shallow upward trend, which flattens out around 2007. There have been ups and downs since then but no obvious resumption of upward growth.
The 2012 plan was a compromise between those asking for more conservation / different management approaches and those who wanted more access to wood on Crown land. The annual allowable cut for softwood in the 2012 plan was left unchanged from the previous 2007-2012 strategy, and remained at 3.27 million cubic metres. The hardwood allowable cut, on the other hand, was reduced from 1.77 to 1.41 million cubic metres. The conservation forest area was reduced from 30 to 28 percent and the amount of protected natural area (the PNAs are ‘no-cut’ areas within the conservation forest) increased to eight percent.
The plan was based in part on the report of a taskforce established to review forestry practices on Crown land. The report suggested that private woodlots could supply any shortfall in hardwood supplies and also provide any increased demand for softwood supply. The report also suggested that the term ‘working forest’ be used to describe the allocated areas within crown lands, in order to emphasize the renewable aspect of this resource.
[This task force report contains links to many previous forestry reports and so is a valuable resource. I suggest downloading a copy of it and other reports before they are ‘disappeared’.]
The 2012 plan followed years of significant downsizing in the forest industry. A number of lumber mills closed and two pulp mills (Dalhousie and Miramichi) were shut down between 2005 and 2008. The main user of wood supplied from crown lands, J.D. Irving Ltd (JDI), expressed dismay at the new plan. JDI had recently closed the Deersdale and Clair mills; some 143 jobs were lost as a result. A combination of soft market conditions, power rates, and uncertainty re wood supply were cited as reasons for the closures. With the release of the 2012 crown land forestry plan, JDI said that ‘cost uncertainty’ relating to that new forestry plan would keep those mills closed.