ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: The voice of opposition

Janice Harvey has been an environmentalist for most of her life. She’s worked on the Conservation Council, is now an environmental science professor at St. Thomas and the wife of New Brunswick’s Green Party leader David Coon.

“We’ve been doing this stuff together since the ‘80s.”

Harvey said she and her husband worked on the Conservation Council together, but the political stuff is relatively new.

“I don’t like that political stuff, David likes it. It’s not my real cup of tea. That’s why I would never ever be leader. But he loves it because he loves meeting people. He knows a lot of people,” she said.

Recently, the political conversation surrounding environmentalism is more necessary than ever, said Harvey.

The Alward government released the new forestry management report earlier this month and environmentalists are outraged.

The plan increased the amount of industrial forestry allowed on Crown land by 21 per cent.

Industrial forestry includes thinning of the forest, planting of monoculture tree species and spraying of herbicides to kill competing species. The industry does this to maximize the growth of soft woods for pulp mills.

Harvey said this is destructive to the natural ecosystem.

“Essentially, you are converting the forest into a fiber mill designed for pulp mills to get the trees that pulp mills need. It is not designed for maintaining original wildlife species or habitats or ecosystem functions or even the original structure of the Acadian forest itself.”

Harvey said originally over 80 per cent of the Acadian forest would be mature trees or over 80-years-old. Thirty years ago it was about 50 per cent. Today between 10 and 20 per cent is because of all of the tree cutting.

“And so plant and wildlife species that require mature forest habitats are really stressed.”

Until now, roughly 68 per cent of the public forest was dedicated to industrial forestry and about 32 per cent was in conservation forest. The conservation forest is not a no-go zone. Harvey said forestry can still be done there but not clear-cutting of big sections. Less than four per cent of is protected because of parks.

“What the wildlife scientists and biologists have said about that is that there is some species that are really stressed. It is still not efficient, there are still not enough mature forest to support those species.

“And now they have further reduced the amount of conservation forest with this new announcement.”

The industry seems to be happy even though Harvey is not.

“The industry’s claim that they can take another 21 per cent of wood out of that forest and not compromise the conservation targets is just wishful thinking. They claim and Jim Irving claim that they’ve got all these scientists working for them and think it’s okay … Well, nobody outside the company is saying that.”

“It is mind boggling that now both the industry and the government are ignoring what the scientists have been saying about this for years.”

Forest managing plans are usually developed every five years. They are renewed and reviewed in order to follow the conservation plan. The latest report is two years late.

“In 2012, the next five year plan was supposed to have happened. At that time, the minister released the new plan. It had been negotiated and he said, ‘Hold the line on wood,’” she said. “The industry, meaning JDI, the Irving’s, just went ballistic. It got withdrawn and taken off the table. The minister was replaced. The negotiations started again.”

She said there was no public consultation.

“Everyone else was not a part of it. Everyone was shut out. And this is what we got.”

Harvey said it’s situations like this where the voice of opposition is necessary and the Green Party is that voice.

“The Liberals support the new plan. They tried to do it in 2007 but push back was so strong. The NDP has been very coy. They are not coming clean on whether they support or not support this.

“That is the reason to have a Green Party. We are not about power. There is no illusion about forming a government. The point of doing it then is to tell the truth and to provide a voice in the political and public arena that is missing.”

Harvey said they started the provincial Green Party in 2008. She was the first president.

The STU professor said she realizes the chances of getting the Green Party in office will not happen, but they hope to get a few people elected and have voices in the legislature.

“If you are going for power and trying to form a government than you don’t want to offend anybody. You want to just to tap into the dominant discourse of jobs and growth and you want to cultivate the Irving’s because they control the media. So where is this voice of opposition going to show up? The Green Party is the only party that is going to stand up against this.

“Unless there is a Green Party, how do people who really care about this stuff vote? Where do they find themselves in a political stature?”

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