Premier Brian Gallant has reiterated that his Liberal government will make changes to industrial forestry agreements signed by the previous Progressive Conservative administration.
Gallant made the comment in question period on Tuesday, in response to Opposition Leader Bruce Fitch.
“There will be changes when it comes to forestry,” Gallant said.
“We’ll continue what was working, and will listen the concerns of New Brunswickers and improve the plan.”
Fitch cited a J.D. Irving Ltd. forecast of 7,800 jobs it will create over three years “largely due to the PC forestry program” and asked Gallant to leave the plan and its agreements unchanged.
The Liberals criticized the plan before last September’s election, demanding that the Progressive Conservative government release scientific data that were the basis for higher logging quotas and for contracts signed with Irving and other companies.
But after releasing some documents last December, Liberal Natural Resources Minister Denis Landry cast doubt on whether anything would be changed.
“I’m not sure if we are going to change something or leave it the way it is,” Landry said then.
“One thing that I am almost sure of is that we don’t want to go into court and fight with those big corporations.”
Fitch told reporters on Tuesday that the Tories have heard that nothing substantial will change.
“A number of our contacts in the industry are saying they’ve been reassured that their wood allotment is going to be safe,” he said.
He predicts any Liberal changes will be cosmetic and will preserve the harvesting quotas approved by the PCs.
“If they’re just tweaking it for tweaking’s sake and calling it their own, the key point is the sustainable wood allocation for the companies,” he said.
Green Party Leader David Coon has a bill before the legislature that, if passed, would cancel the contracts and ban the companies from suing the province over the cancellations.
But he admits it has little chance of passing.
“Miracles happen,” he joked with reporters.