The president of the forestry company Tembec has broken ranks with his forestry-industry colleagues and criticized Quebec for allowing the forests to be “over-exploited.”

“We over-exploited our forests, and we (will now) have to close sawmills and plants. This is a certainty,” said Frank Dottori in a presentation to a National Assembly commission October 10.

“The most severe problem we face is that we lack wood,” he said.

The commission is studying the government’s proposed new forestry law, Bill 136.

Dottori told MNAs that Quebec ignored years of warnings about a looming shortage of wood, so the problem shouldn’t come as any surprise.

“I started writing letters in 1976, 1977 to the government that the forest is over-exploited, that we have to see what will happen in 25, 30 years,” he said.

Cree officials said Dottori’s remarks confirm what they’ve been saying all along. His statement will likely be used to support the Cree forestry court case, which is now under review by the Supreme Court of Canada for a possible appeal.

Dottori’s comments came as the Quebec cabinet prepares to decide whether to offer Crees a better deal on forestry.

Last month, Cree officials turned down Quebec’s final offer, which they said was virtually identical to an offer Crees rejected last summer.

Cree officials agreed to give the Quebec cabinet one more chance to come up with something better. Failing that, they promise to crank up the court case and a public awareness campaign on the issue.

The campaign is now on hold, but not totally abandoned.

Two Cree representatives were in Washington in September to make a presentation to staff members of the House of Representatives Human Rights Caucus about forestry impacts in Iyiyuuschii.

Dottori also told MNAs the province never bothered to do a proper inventory of how much wood was left in Quebec’s forests. Tembec was forced to pay for inventories out of its own pocket.

“For 30 years, the government never found the money to do it. It’s always: There is wood… They are doing the same thing today,” he said.

Tembec is a major forestry company based in Témiscamingue with 8,000 workers and 35 plants across Canada and France, including ones in Rouyn-Noranda and LaSarre.

It is responsible for 9.9 percent of the cut in Iyiyuuschii, mostly in Waswanipi and southern Waskaganish traplines.

Dottori said the Quebec forestry industry has been hit hard by the wood shortage, and predicted serious impacts on the province’s economy.

“Where will we find the trees? They don’t exist. Sure, they are there, but they aren’t economical,” he said.

Twenty years ago, he said the average tree coming into Tembec’s LaSarre mill was 6 1/2 inches wide. Now, they are 4 1/2 inches.

“We can’t even make two-by-eights, or two-by-fours of eight feet; we are left with making two-by-twos, two-by-threes,” Dottori lamented.