It was with great concern that I learned that Resolute Forest Products is idling its kraft mill and paper machine in Fort Frances, affecting 239 workers and their families.
I and the Conservative government are keenly aware of the challenging conditions facing the forestry sector over the past number of years. The industry has had to grapple with the doubly difficult challenges of intense global competition combined with a dramatic reduction in the use of paper in an increasingly digital world.
Nonetheless, our government has reacted swiftly and strongly to help support the forestry industry in such transformational times with the introduction of a number of programs to encourage innovation and diversification and mitigate the impacts on workers.
The Pulp and Paper Green Transformation Program, for example, saved 14,000 forestry jobs across Canada, including 2,372 in Ontario. That’s in addition to a host of other initiatives, including the Forest Products Innovation Program, the Forest Industry Transformation Program and the Forest Industry Long-Term Competitiveness Initiative, among others.
FedNor, the regional development agency for Northern Ontario, has for its part, supported 82 projects in North Ontario since 2006, from Kirkland Lake to Sault Ste Marie, Greenstone to Thunder Bay and Dryden, helping small and medium-sized forestry companies succeed and communities diversify.
Our government understands that the forestry industry is undergoing more than the usual cyclical volatility, but a truly disruptive change brought on by technological innovation and global competition. Sadly NDP MP John Rafferty not only doesn’t understand the economic forces at work, but is willing to manipulate the unfortunate situation in Fort Frances for crass political opportunism.
For MP Rafferty to blame Resolute’s challenges on a mythical “high dollar policy” is both irresponsible and misinformed. If the dollar is the problem, why did Resolute announce last week it is investing $10-million to build an industrial wood pellet plant in Thunder Bay? How could the NDP's risky carbon tax do anything other than smother the forestry sector?
What Northwestern Ontario needs instead is the continued leadership of the Harper Government, as we seek out new markets for our new products, and continue our low tax, job creation agenda for growth and opportunity.
Tony Clement, PC, MP
President of the Treasury Board
Minister Responsible for FedNor
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