Lobbyists in power | The press

Multiple choice question for François Legault.

Posted at 6:00 am

This is Pierre Dufour, your Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks:

  • forest industry lobbyist?
  • manipulated by his high officials?
  • your pawn?

If the Prime Minister has another hypothesis, he would be curious to hear it. Because what is happening behind the scenes deserves some explanation …


PHOTO JACQUES BOISSINOT, CANADIAN PRESS ARCHIVES

Pierre Dufour, Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks

As my colleague Jean-Thomas Léveillé revealed, Mr. Dufour is secretly negotiating with the industry to harvest more timber than the forest can afford.

The archive shows the lightness with which the CAQ government treats science and institutions.

The Khakis believe they are defending a vital industry for the region. The problem is that they do it with a short-term vision, protecting today’s jobs without thinking about tomorrow’s jobs. Seeing the forest as a two-by-four reservoir instead of an ecosystem. And relying more on the industry than on the competent authorities.

Still, things should have changed.

In 2003, as a result of the documentary The boreal error, Quebec created the Coulombe Study Commission. It led to the creation of the post of forest chief. It is he who now determines the “permissible size”, the volume that the industry can harvest, by species and by territory, without threatening the renewal of the forest.

The new forest regime, which came into force in 2013, had to enshrine this vision1.

But industry pressure on the Department has always been immense. And even when the policies were appropriate, there was a lack of inspectors to enforce them on the ground.

In February, the forest chief announced that the volume of timber was to be reduced by 7% on the north coast during the period 2023-2028. Since then, Mr. Dufour and the industry have been maneuvering to prevent this fall. Among the scenarios studied: the felling of small trees or the postponement of the regeneration of old forests. These discussions take place without the knowledge of the members of the Integrated Resource and Territory Management Board.

Like a good serf, the minister puts himself at the service of the industry, and the prime minister endorses it by saying that he protects the current jobs without thinking about those of tomorrow.

Mr. Dufour has accomplished a feat: to create an “independent” commission on forest and mountain caribou that does not include a biologist specializing in the subject.

After the Val-d’Or herd, it is now the turn of the Charlevoix herd to be placed in an enclosure. One of the scenarios studied by the commission is to maintain the harvest until its extinction.

However, biologists reiterate that Quebec has all the data at hand to act. This commission seems like a time-saving pretext. Waiting for the “problem” of caribou existence to be resolved.

Khakis are better at finding the culprits.

Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault is accused of interfering because he wants to protect the caribou. However, he is only doing his job. Species protection is a shared competence.

It is suggested that if Mr. Guilbeault defends the caribou, it’s to make people forget about the federal approval of the Bay du Nord oil project. Even if the Trudeau government is happy to talk about something else, it is not opportunism. His approach has not changed. Last year he passed an emergency executive order to save the heart frog when there were few political gains in doing so.

In addition to Mr. Guilbeault, Pierre Dufour has found another villain: the aborigines. He accuses the Innu community of Nutashkuan, on the north coast, of killing 50 forest caribou, or 10% of the herd.

Undoubtedly, this hunt is worrisome, and Quebec is right to investigate. But Mr. Dufour was incredibly clumsy. Communities are fighting to save this vital species for their culture. For example, in Pessamit, hunting was prohibited. First Nations are also calling for protected areas to save caribou, but the minister is blocking them.

Caribou and the calculation of allowable size are reduced to the same idea: to consider this resource as part of an ecosystem and to exploit it in a sustainable way.

But according to the CAQ government, respecting institutions and science would be an activist’s whim.

In his opening speech in November 2019, Mr. Legault vowed not to govern Quebec on the basis of “interest groups” such as an industrial lobby.

This is a promise that does not age well.

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