When the billionaire writes, you listen: Archived James Irving-penned letter slams NB Natural Resources Minister’s comment

Written by Miles Howe for the Halifax Media Co-op on February 2, 2016

legislature lawn with spray Irving sign

The Alward government’s secretive forest plan was widely condemned by various groups for only benefiting J.D. Irving while  sacrificing the health of the forest and wildlife, the livelihoods of woodlot owners and workers, and access to wood for the smaller mill operators. Archived letters, obtained by the Halifax Media Co-op’s Miles Howe, show the intensity of pressure that J.D. Irving applies on the New Brunswick government.

In the buildup to the forestry agreement, James D. Irving, Co-Chief Executive Officer of J.D. Irving, put intense pressure on the Alward Government, bypassing normal channels of communication between JD Irving and the government in order to chastise one of his top ministers.

In correspondence between James D. Irving and Premier Alward obtained by Halifax Media Co-op and the NB Media Co-op, Irving states in no uncertain terms his opinion that maintaining the 28% conservation forest will endanger jobs and investment and the competitive position of the province.

The Alward government would eventually capitulate to JDI, cutting the area of conservation forest to 23%, increasing industrial accessibility to pulp fibre amidst outcry from the environmental and scientific communities alike.

The letter from Irving to Alward, dated February 27, 2013, is written as a complaint against statements made by then Minister of Natural Resources Bruce Northrup, as overheard by a J.D. Irving employee, at a meeting of the New Brunswick Environmental Network on Feb. 14, 2013.

The J.D. Irving employee overheard Northrup say that his government was committed to maintaining provincial conservation areas at 28%. Clearly, this rubbed James Irving very much the wrong way – so much so that he took it upon himself to circumvent a direct conversation with Northrup himself about the matter, and instead wrote Northrup’s boss, former premier Alward, chastising Northrup’s words.

Northrup was shuffled out of his position as Minister of Natural Resources a few months later in September of that year.

A version of this article was first published by the Halifax Media Co-op.

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