Along with the recent cabinet shuffle, the Department of Natural Resources was split into two departments: Energy and Mines, and Lands and Forestry, apparently reflecting the government’s desire “to focus more of its attention on the province’s mining and forestry industries” (view N.S. premier shuffles several cabinet positions, creates new mines department, ATV News July 5, 2018).
It is notable that the title is not Lands and Forests (as it was 1926-1991 ) but Lands and Forestry, suggesting that the forestry function will remain paramount.
There have been suggestions/hope that harvesting on Crown lands or even just hardwood management would be taken out of DNR’s mandate altogether because of the conflicts of interest inherent in catering to the forest industry while also responsible for public use and conservation of biodiversity/ecosystem services on crown lands (e.g., see Surette 2014; Tom Miller in AFR Letters: A better hardwood future – scroll down to Atlantic Forestry May 2017).
It is well documented that the priority of DNR just about forever has been the harvesting of Crown lands, even though, as they like to emphasize when they are battling softwood tariffs, ~77% of the total wood supply comes from private lands. That’s a reflection of biases in our forestry schools which relates to most forested land and forestry in Canada being on Crown lands – except in the Maritimes. (For a scholarly treatment of the topic, see Against the Grain: Forestry & Politics in Nova Scotia by LA Sandberg and P. Clancy. 2000. UBC Press).
The CTV news report on the cabinet changes cites Premier McNeil as saying that
…Miller would not have been a good fit for the lands and forestry portfolio because she has a background in forestry.
“I wanted to avoid the suggestion there was a conflict with minister Miller,” he said – atlantic.ctvnews.ca, July 5, 2018
Under the Liberal Government in particular, the top echelons of the DNR bureaucracy seemed to have gone preferentially to “Company Men“, a Conflict of Interest that surely should be of more concern than Minister Miller’s “background in forestry”.
It’s hard to find exactly what Margaret Miller’s “background in forestry” involves which is not surprising as it’s hard to find out the qualifications of anyone in the NS government whether elected or in the civil service. The most info I could find is in press reports when she was made Minister of Environment the first time around:
Margaret Miller, Hants East MLA, joins Premier Stephen McNeil’s executive council.
Miller says her 25 years helping run the family dairy farm and then another 14 years managing a woodlot has given her an appreciation for government rules and regulations.
“As an MLA for the past two-plus years, you know environment plays a key role in so many of the decisions we do,” she said. “The whole thing has been a learning process and I guess I bring all of that to the table.”
Miller said she is passionate about the environment.
“I have children. I have grandchildren. Hopefully have great grandchildren at some point. We have to make sure that we have a province that we’re proud of for all Nova Scotians. Everything comes back to environment, one way or another.”
For his part, Premier Stephen McNeil is happy to have Miller join his inner circle.
‘True team player’
“Margaret’s been an outstanding colleague. She’s demonstrated her ability not only to grasp the files that, as a government, we’ve provided to caucus but she’s really been a leader and has done a tremendous job of liasoning with departments,” he said.
“A number of ministers over the past number of years have relied on Margaret to do work with them and she’s been really just a true team player and one that will add great strength to our cabinet.” – Margaret Miller named Nova Scotia’s new environment minister, Jean Laroche · CBC News · Posted: Jan 12, 2016
From another news report:
Miller’s father was a Dutch immigrant. She and her husband, Robert, because the owners of a dairy farm in Sheubenacadie in 1974. They sold the farm in 1999 but stayed in the community.
One of their four children, Springhill Police officer Bruce Miller, was killed by an impaired driver in 2004. After that, Miller became a victim advocate, lobbyist and eventually the National President of MADD Canada – Global News, Jan 12, 2016
So where is the conflict of interest?
I also have to wonder why the Premier did not wait to hear from the Independent review of Forestry Practices in Nova Scotia before reorganizing the Dept of Natural Resources. Perhaps he has heard and is anticipating something or another, e.g. that he will be taking a hard line on continued support for Industrial Forestry in contradiction to recommendations from the Independent Review.
But who knows?
Monday am (July 9, 2018)
Gossip is that
– NSDNR knows at least the gist of what will be in the Report from the Independent Review,
– there have been many many meetings at NSDNR,
– they have a master plan in place,
– NSDNR/Lands & Forests will be ready with media releases and key responses
when the Report in finally out there for everyone.
But who knows?
Another bit of gossip: the Conflict of Interest involved family members not Minister Miller herself.
It would help to reduce gossip and foster more trust if Minister Miller or Premier McNeil would declare what the Conflicts of Interest were (are); there is a lot of potential overlap between DNR/Lands & Forestry and NS Environment, so we need to be assured that the Conflicts of Interest do not extend into Minister Miller x Environment.
In the meantime, public interest and mis-trust of government on forestry related issues is hardly on the wane – view In the News and the many items listed for July 5 to July 9 leading up to and following the #NOPIPE event in Pictou on July 6.