The Quebec government is too cozy with the forestry industry and lets it get away with too much, say environmentalists.

Long delays in the filing of cutting plans are just the latest example.

“They are too close to each other,” said Pierre Dubois, coordinator of the Coalition for Northern Virgin Forests.

“We have doubts about whether the government really has the public interest at heart in its forestry policy because it is too close to the industry,” said Dubois, who is a forestry engineer.

The coalition unites 12 Quebec groups representing 300,000 people, including the Grand Council of the Crees. It is calling for a public inquiry into Quebec’s biggest industry – forestry.

“There is a big problem of lack of control,” agreed Luce Balthazar, director of a regional environmental council in the Gaspé region, where three-quarters of the economy is based on forestry.

“The government has become a great specialist in throwing powder in people’s eyes. They are giving control (over the forests) to those who exploit the environment.”

As an example, Balthazar pointed to consultations which forestry companies held last summer in the Gaspé. The hearings were scheduled for the last week of July, a time when many people were away on vacation and couldn’t attend.

“There is very little power in the hands of citizens,” said Balthazar. “The forestry regime is incomprehensible to most citizens.”

Dubois said the government’s explanation of why the cutting plans are late “is not plausible.” (The government says forestry companies had trouble digesting a new formula for measuring timber resources.)

Dubois said the real problem is that the forestry companies are now required to consult communities about logging – which is something the companies don’t want to do: “It’s not in their habit.”