Working Forest -Ontario politicians spar over forestry tenure changes

Published on March 3rd, 2011 in Net News Ledger and the Working Forest

Randy Hillier, PC Party Critic for Northern Development, Mines, and Forestry is condemning the Liberal Government for their unwillingness to help the foresters of Northern Ontario. “Northern communities that rely on the Forestry sector have been once again left in the dark when it comes to the McGuinty Liberals’ new Forest Tenure Modernization Act, Bill 151,” charges Hillier. “McGuinty’s new Forestry act sets our foresters up for failure,” Hillier continued. “All this Government seems capable of doing is adding more bureaucracy and excessive regulations by creating new Forest-LHINs, while granting the Minister arbitrary authority to break agreements and revoke licenses without cause.

It is a claim that Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry, Michael Gravelle disputes. Our government is proud of the $1 billion in investments weve made in the Forestry sector. We are a government that wants to attract new investment in the forest sector, states Gravelle. We want to support the fullest and most innovative use of Ontarios wood to strengthen the forest industry, and we want to build an industry of top performers both existing and new.

While the McGuinty liberals spent over a year tying up the wood supply while they claimed to consult with industry, Bill 151 provides nothing but uncertainty and indecision for the industry. While the forestry sector was looking for legislation that would ensure a wood supply that is set at market prices, the Government has instead created the forestry equivalent of LHINs, Local Forest Management Corporations, stated Hillier.

All this week I met with Mayors from communities all across northern Ontario and their concerns were all the same they need assurances that the forestry sector that drives their economy will have a constant supply of wood, said Hillier. Rather than doing just that, the Government has once again demonstrated their we know best approach putting more control in the hands of the Minister and their new unelected, unaccountable bureaucracies.

We have already seen over 60 mills shut down and the loss of 40,000 forestry jobs in northern Ontario. We lost the Abitibi-Bowater dam in Iroquois Falls, and the Mackenzie Forest Products mill near Sioux Lookout is in jeopardy because they dont have enough wood, said Hillier. The lack of substance in Bill 151 clearly shows me that this McGuinty Government hasnt given a single thought to Ontario families losing jobs in the forestry sector, and would rather delegate power to another level of bureaucracy than take responsibility and fix the mess that they have created for northern Ontario communities.

When he introduced the legislation, Gravelle said, I think every member of this House knows that the Ontario forest industry has suffered a number of serious setbacks, particularly in recent years. Despite this, the sector has some incredibly strong advantages. We have a large sustainable supply of quality fibre and we have a solid infrastructure. Perhaps most importantly, we have the expertise and the drive of the people who work in this sector.

Today I am very pleased to introduce a bill that, if passed, would help re-energize Ontarios forest sector, create new jobs and attract investment while ensuring that this critical public resource continues to be managed sustainably.

Responding to Hilliers comments, Gravelle states, Just last week I introduced legislation for Forest Tenure and Pricing Modernization that is intended to create the best possible environment for the success of Ontario forest sector. If passed, the Ontario Forest Tenure Modernization Act, 2011 would stimulate a bold rethink of how our forest sector will do business in the future. It would help ensure that forestry activities continue to benefit not only the families, communities and businesses that rely directly on this sector, but all Ontarians.

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