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New Brunswick government under fire after forestry plan pushed to March

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FREDERICTON - New Brunswick's natural resources minister says his government's much-anticipated plan for the forestry sector will now be released next month, a delay the Opposition says has resulted in missed opportunities for the industry.

Paul Robichaud said efforts to finalize the plan, which is intended to create jobs and allocate more fibre to mills, are still underway because of its complexity.

"It's a very complicated plan," Robichaud said Wednesday. "I don't think it's the end of the world."

On a number of occasions, including his annual state-of-the-province address three weeks ago, Premier David Alward said the plan would be released within days.

Liberal Opposition Leader Brian Gallant said the delays show that the Progressive Conservative government has no plan for economic development and job creation.

"While industry and New Brunswickers have waited for this plan, we have thwarted many investments and a lot of money in job creation that could have been done during the last few years," Gallant said, adding that he believes the government is staggering its release in an effort to score political points ahead of the September election.

"The only reason they've waited is they wanted to do this in the fourth year of their mandate hoping that it would give them some political momentum going into the election," he said.

Green party Leader David Coon said he believes the government is delaying the plan because it is trying to decide how to fend off criticism of it.

Coon said he's concerned the plan could allow clear cutting within existing buffer zones along streams and wildlife zones.

"Obviously the implications of that are huge for fish, for water, for wildlife, for birds that return to New Brunswick every year on their migration," he said.

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