GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, NL – After announcements about agriculture, aquaculture and technology – among others – in recent months, members of the Cabinet Committee on Jobs were in central Newfoundland today to talk about forestry, mining and community sectors.
“We set aside The Way Forward in 2016,” Premier Dwight Ball told the 30 or so people gathered at the Corduroy Brook Enhancement Association for the event. “Now, the focus is on how we continue to build for our future.”
Targets for increasing forestry production by 20 per cent from 2015 to 2020 had already been announced, but Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne revealed more details about how exactly that is meant to happen.
The department is introducing a new cutting permit allocation policy that will come into effect Jan 1. 2019, as well as making five per cent of the annual Crown lands cut available to harvesters. Current harvesting practices will be monitored to ensure allocations are not being underutilized, and the government is going to start issuing five-year permits to outfits with proven output of between 5,000 and 50,000 cubic metres per year.
Combined, the changes are meant to open the market and encourage current harvesters to flourish, as well as encourage new entrants to the sector.
“Our forest industry has an annual value of approximately $300 million per year,” said Bill Dawson, executive director of the newly formed Newfoundland and Labrador Forest Industry Association, noting that this total is the result of harvesting half the available resource.
“Over the last decade, our natural resource sector has been shaken to the core. I stand here before you to tell you it is strong.”
While little in the way of details was available as to what the plan for mining might contain, officials touted partnerships through Mining NL companies.
The idea is to capitalize on the recent surge in exploration in the province and work with industry to make the province attractive to investors, said Graham Letto, parliamentary secretary for the Department of Natural Resources. He added that 40,000 claims were staked in 2016-2017, the same number as the previous four years combined.
While that is mostly as a result of renewed interest in gold, both Letto and Mining NL executive director Ed Moriarty emphasized the presence of cobalt, “the new darling” of the industry.
In a move somewhat unfamiliar for economic development announcements, the premier also brought forward the importance of the community sector.
Community Sector Council Newfoundland and Labrador’s CEO Penelope Rowe defined this as anything that isn’t private or government run, including volunteer organizations and not-for-profit groups that contribute enormously to the economy, but are rarely recognized as such.
“This has been a long time coming for the community sector,” Rowe, noting that while at least one study has been done in the capital, more information is needed from the rest of the province.
That study, however, found that dozens of groups supported about $61 million in spending each year and account for 1,200 full time jobs. She said she hopes the plan will see individual groups operating in every community be examined as part of a far greater whole.
Rowe, the only woman sitting at the head table, also spoke about the premier’s promise to work towards getting more women into positions of leadership, both in government and the private sector. While Ball did say the table was not representative of the government as a whole, Rowe pointedly noted the position of her own sector in the line-up of announcements.
“We’re still remarking on the first female this or that,” she said.
“I hope that next time, it won’t be third, and I hope to have another two or three women at the table.”