The lobbyists in power | The press

Multiple choice question for François Legault.

Posted at 6:00 am

Is Pierre Dufour, your Minister for Forests, Wildlife and Parks:

  • Forest industry lobbyist?
  • manipulated by high-ranking officials?
  • your farmer?

If the Prime Minister has a different hypothesis, I’d be curious to hear it. Because what happens behind the scenes deserves an explanation…


PHOTO JACQUES BOISSINOT, CANADIAN PRESS ARCHIVE

Pierre Dufour, Minister for Forests, Wildlife and Parks

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

The file shows the ease with which the CAQ government deals with science and institutions.

The Caquistes believe they are defending a vital industry for the regions. The problem is that they do this with a short-term vision, protecting today’s jobs without thinking about tomorrow’s. By looking at the forest as two by four reservoirs instead of an ecosystem. And by relying more on the industry than on the responsible authorities.

However, things should have changed.

The documentary followed in 2003 The Boreal Error, Quebec established the Coulombe Study Commission. It led to the creation of the post of head forester. He now determines the “allowable cut” – the amount that the industry can harvest by species and area without jeopardizing the regeneration of the forest.

The new forest ordinance that came into force in 2013 was intended to anchor this vision⁠1.

But the pressure from industry on the ministry has always been immense. And even when the guidelines were appropriate, there were no inspectors to enforce them on the ground.

In February, the head forester announced that the amount of timber on the north coast would be reduced by 7% over the period 2023-2028. Since then, Mr. Dufour and the industry have been trying to circumvent this decline. Scenarios studied include felling small trees or delaying the regeneration of old-growth forests. These discussions are happening without the knowledge of the members of the Integrated Resource and Land Management Table.

Like a good serf, the minister puts himself at the service of industry and the prime minister confirms everything, saying that he protects current jobs without thinking about tomorrow’s.

Mr. Dufour has accomplished a feat: he created 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 housed in an enclosure. One of the scenarios examined by the commission is to sustain the harvest until its extinction.

But biologists reiterate that Quebec has all the data to act. This commission looks like an excuse to save time. Waiting for the “problem” of caribou existence to solve itself.

Caquists are better at finding the culprits.

Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault is accused of interference because he wants to protect Karibu. He’s just doing his job. Protection of species is a shared competence.

Mr. Guilbeault’s defense of the caribou is suspected to be a way of obscuring federal approval for the Bay du Nord oil project. Even if the Trudeau administration likes to talk about something else, it is not opportunism. His approach hasn’t changed. Last year he issued an emergency decree to save the choir frog, although it brought little political gain.

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.

Certainly this hunt is worrying, and Quebec is right to investigate. But Mr. Dufour was incredibly clumsy. Communities are struggling to save this species vital to their culture. In Pessamite, for example, hunting was forbidden. First Nations are also calling for sanctuaries to save the caribou, but the minister blocks them.

The caribou and the calculation of the allowable pruning boil down to the same idea: consider this resource part of an ecosystem and use it sustainably.

But according to the CAQ government, it would be an activist whim to respect institutions and science.

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

This is a promise that does not age well.

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