Trevor Fillier, the president of the Northern Peninsula Loggers Association, is feeling left out.
He wonders why he didn’t get an invite to the province’s forestry summit in Corner Brook on Jan 28.
Fillier says he didn’t even know the event was taking place until the day before.
He felt it was important to be given the opportunity to attend, to meet and speak with some of the people in the forestry sector.
“I’ve never met (Premier) Dwight Ball or (Natural Resources minister) Gerry Byrne. It would have been nice if I could have met them face-to-face and had a chat,” he said. “From my point of view, I probably would have gotten more of a story talking to them than anybody else.”
Filler supects he was deliberately left off the invite list.
He points out the vice president of the Northern Peninsula Loggers Association, Wally Gibbons, did receive an invite.
Fillier wondered if it was a case of favouritism in choosing who would be invited.
“When I saw one of the other contractors walk in on the (on-line) stream (the meeting was broadcast on the Internet), I thought, ‘What’s going on? Who is he any more than any other contractor that’s here?’
“I’ve been in the woods all my life and so has Keon Weir. We never got an invite,” Fillier points out.
Roddickton-Bide Arm Mayor Sheila Fitzgerald also echoed the sentiment that the organizers of the conference — the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador —were selective in who they invited.
Fitzgerald doesn’t mind that she wasn’t invited, herself, but she felt it was important that Fillier be allowed to attend given his role in the Northern Peninsula’s forestry.
“What kind of message does that send?” she asked, adding her own thoughts on a probable answer, “We don’t want you to be a part of this.”
Fillier and Fitzgerald have both been critical of forestry permits issued by the provincial government last fall to Active Energy Group (AEG).
The permits allow AEG to hire contractors in district 17 and 18 to cut wood for their pellet plant. A condition of the permits is that 25 per cent of the wood cut will go towards local sawmills as well.
However, currently, there’s only one active sawmill on the Northern Peninsula and Fitzgerald says that mill wouldn’t be able to handle that capacity.
Both Fillier and Fitzgerald are concerned about where the lumber will go and what it may be used for.
They feel the permits do not do enough to ensure the Northern Peninsula will see sawlog production.
Both of them have been adamant, and vocal, that no saw logs should leave the Northern Peninsula.
“We’ve been really pressing this issue and letting the entire province know that we want to be part of the decisions that are made and then they purposefully left us out. It’s not fair,” said Fitzgerald.
Gerry Byrne explains
Gerry Byrne, Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources, told The Northern Pen that Wally Gibbons was invited as a member of the forestry sector council, who developed the Forestry Sector Work Plan the government announced during the summit.
The council is comprised of 55 individual members, from 32 different organizations throughout the province.
“If there was some confusion or concern about that appointment there would have been 10 months in which it could have been addressed by the Northern Peninsula Loggers Association,” he said. “We announced the sector council, with the intention of developing a sector work plan, in March 2018. Wally Gibbons has been sitting as a member all of that time.”
Since there was no objection from the loggers’ association regarding Gibbons’ position on the sector council, Byrne contends that in no way was Fillier excluded at the benefit of Gibbons.