If the last two years have shown us anything it’s that change is certain. The pandemic has certainly highlighted the challenges with our healthcare and education systems, and we are keenly aware of the need to build better services in the province. The rapidly rising cost of goods and services underscores how markets and supply chain security impact affordability.
And yet, despite the global volatility we’re witnessing, New Brunswick is faring relatively well. Economic recovery from pandemic slowdown is well underway, revenues and spending are projected to continue growing, and for the first time our population has surpassed 800,000. A growing population means we need to continue enhancing services and addressing affordability and can only be achieved with a strong economy.
The forest industry underpins the provincial economy and is deemed essential in providing goods, revenues, jobs, and stability throughout the pandemic and in times of plenty. Preliminary economic data for 2021 shows the sector is strong and remains a key contributor to provincial well-being, contributing significantly to provincial own-source revenue, employing nearly 26,000 people, and sustaining our unique rural-urban populace.
But we are more than an economy. As New Brunswickers we value the diversity and beauty of our fields, forests, shores, lakes, and rivers. We embrace the vibrancy of the cultures and people that make our villages, towns, cities, and rural areas unique. We value the lifestyle that keeps us here, brings us back home, and draws others to us. Collectively we want this lifestyle maintained, the integrity of our natural resources protected, and the security of knowing these resources will sustain us for generations to come.
Forests are integral to life in New Brunswick, for jobs and economic well-being, for habitats and biodiversity, and as a crucial component in mitigating climate change. Increasing conservation area in the province will certainly enhance biodiversity and maintain crucial habitats. Growing, working forests and forest products are some of our best tools for combating climate change and achieving a low-carbon economy. Conservation and sustainable forest management are not counterintuitive, and both are being achieved in New Brunswick. We need to continue improving how to better achieve all the benefits we derive from our forests. Our success depends on a balanced policy approach, predictable and affordable access to fibre, and collaborative partnerships.
Last week, Forest NB hosted its annual Industry Forum. We reconnected to learn about improving diversity and inclusion in our workforce, digitalization to improve productivity, and innovations that improve utilization, protection, and inspire new value-added products. The forest sector is resilient and continues to evolve to meet the rising tides of change. We know that the forest sector is part of the solution to rising energy costs, climate change mitigation, and moving province toward carbon neutrality.