Yesterday’s meeting of the Standing Committee on Private Bills was an extraordinary event. Thanks to those who could make it. For those who could not make it I will try and summarize the key events.
First and foremost, it was clear to me that the MLAs that asked questions (about half of them) were obviously concerned and informed. This can only be the result of all of our correspondence over the last 10 days. I want to congratulate all of us for having the motivation and bravery to speak out against Bill 22. I was greatly impressed with ALL of the letters I read. They were all professional, clear, concise, and reasonable. I am so proud of the strength and integrity of forestry practitioners in this province.
I was very relieved that there were pointed and intelligent questions coming equally from both Conservative and Liberal MLAs. I think that we can be re-assured that there is no political agenda coming from Cabinet that would push Bill 22 through.
The proponents of Bill 22 appeared to be incapable or unwilling to answer any of the questions or concerns of both the Members of the Standing Committee and the opposition. Their lawyer dominated a lot of their presentation. Other presenters in support of Bill 22 were members of the ARPFNB executive. They supported Bill 22 by claiming it would ensure “good forestry” practice by preventing unqualified people from practicing forestry. They openly revealed their desire to control both the training and education of forestry professionals, as well as the practice of forestry throughout the NB forest sector. They openly revealed that they intend to determine the scope of training and competence for all forestry practitioners in the NB forest sector. They openly stated that they are unwilling and incapable of editing Bill 22 so that it only applies to their membership. In general they spent most of their time repeating the same propaganda, telling personal life stories, and personally accusing me of spreading misinformation with regards to Bill 22.
Other than representatives of the ARPFNB, there were NO other parties that presented in support of Bill 22.
The audience was filled with people opposed to Bill 22. Myself and Todd MacPherson spoke on behalf of the NBFTA. Robert Whitney spoke on behalf of MCFT. Hugh Hambly spoke on behalf of his forestry consulting business. Ken Hardie spoke on behalf of the Federation of Woodlot Owners. I believe that we all did a very good job of presenting our opposition to Bill 22. We were more than capable of answering the questions raised by the Members of the SCPB.
Now, unfortunately, we must wait. But it is clear that we have convinced the SCPB that Bill 22 in its current form is inappropriate as a Private Bill.
Thanks again for all your hard work on this.