Queens: Free market behind firewood shortage, says minister

Brittany W. Verge brittany.verge@theadvance.ca
Published on August 29, 2014
Brittany W. Verge

The firewood shortage in parts of Nova Scotia is a free market issue says Natural Resources Minister Zach Churchill.

Churchill says a long winter and a lack of contractors cutting firewood is making for a shortfall in firewood.  He also states that between 70 and 80 per cent of firewood is cut on private land and not crown land.

“This is a private market issue and that’s what’s impacting the outcomes for people who are trying to access firewood,” says Churchill.

Contractors can sell their wood to sawmills, biomass plants, pulp mills, and more.

“That’s having an impact on the flow that’s getting to those that need firewood,” says Churchill.

Churchill says the Nova Scotia Government is attempting to increase the contracting capacity in Nova Scotia through incentive programs and through more tenders.

“We’ve recently released seven tenders for firewood specifically, for contractors who are interested in doing that,” says Churchill.

Despite putting out more tenders specifically for firewood, Churchill says there has been little response. 

Churchill also challenged Sterling Belliveau, MLA for Queens – Shelburne, on his statements about the firewood shortage, which he made in the Aug. 19 edition of the Advance and also in a press release on the NDP website.

“It’s very easy for Sterling Belliveau or any member of the opposition to point fingers at the government and blame us, I could equally point the finger at Sterling Belliveau and say ‘it’s the NDP’s fault because they protected half the amount of crown land we have in the province of Nova Scotia’ but the fact is this is a private market issue,” says Churchill.

Matt Miller from the Ecology Action Centre says he’s heard there may also be other factors involved in the problem.

Miller says 15 allocations for land went out in March and much of the former Bowater land was allocated to Northern Pulp and Nova Scotia Power.

Northern Pulp was allocated 62,500 green tonnes - nearly half of the allocated land.  Louisiana-Pacific Canada Ltd. has 45,000 and Brooklyn Energy has 30,000.

In the Aug. 25 edition of the Advance Michael Nowe, a firewood supplier, said he was told by Department of Natural Resources that the contractors cutting on the crown land had “prior commitments.”  Miller speculates that those prior commitments are to the larger mills and allocations.

“They’re all too busy cutting for Northern Pulp and Nova Scotia Power,” says Miller.

Any firewood harvested between now and winter would be considered green wood, which many won’t burn out of fear of chimney fires.

When asked whether there were any plans to help those who will go this year without firewood, Churchill said the government is doing what it can by providing the new tenders.