Kenora Mayor Dave Canfield says it’s time the provincial and federal governments fought back against environmental groups opposed to forestry practices in northern Ontario and Quebec.
Canfield, who heads the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association, on Wednesday said groups like Greenpeace are damaging the regional economy, and without any basis in fact.
He added forestry standards in the province are among the highest in the world, and while he can’t speak about what’s going on in South America or other places on the planet, he’s confident the boreal forest is in good hands.
“We have the highest standards in the world and they’re continually attacking us with misinformation. And I think the mayors from right across the province and Quebec have had enough and they’re saying, ‘Hold on, you’re messing with our communities, with our tax base and the jobs for our citizens on something that is the only renewable building product in the world,” Canfield said.
According to figures supplied late last month by the Ontario Forest Industry Association, forestry is worth about $11 billion a year to the Ontario economy and directly and indirectly supports about 170,000 jobs.
Canfield said it’s not an easy battle, as environmental groups are well-funded machines who feed on political insecurities.
“They have massive budgets. And we don’t have those budgets as municipalities. Most of us work for next to nothing because of basically the passion of our communities,” Canfield said.
“So we’re working our butts off, with basically no budget, to try to tell the general population what’s really going on, to tell them the truth, and we’re fighting people with budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Greenpeace, who has publicly condemned Resolute Forest Products’ practices – the company closed its Iroquois Falls, Ont. plant last year, but does operate elsewhere in Ontario, including Thunder Bay – have repeatedly denied the eco-terrorism charges lobbed at them by municipal leaders in the two provinces.
The organization earlier this year called for companies to boycott the newsprint manufacturer, all of which has led to a $7-million defamation lawsuit filed by Resolute against Greenpeace for statements made in 2012.
Greenpeace also called for struggling retail electronics giant Best Buy to stop using Resolute paper for their weekly flyer, encouraging customers to post negative product reviews to draw attention to the fight.
In an interview published on Sunday in the North Bay Nugget, Greenpeace spokesman Richard Brooks said they are not calling for boycotts of other companies working in the boreal forest.
“I think it’s important to clarify that we are not against forestry, we’re not against logging, and we’re certainly not against jobs in the North,” Brooks told the Nugget.
“What we are trying to do is raise awareness of responsible forestry, which is being practised by companies in the Timmins area such as Tembec. And to also highlight the operations of one particular company, Resolute Forest Products, who we believe are not practising sustainable forestry.”