Ontario’s forest industry should be exempt from a costly and unnecessary permit process under the province’s Endangered Species Act, says the president of NOMA.
The Northern Ontario Municipal Association launched an email campaign Friday calling on the province to rethink its plan to regulate habitat for Northern Ontario’s caribou.
NOMA president Anne Krassilowsky said the plan would tax an already ailing industry with more time, effort and money for a process that’s already in place through the Crown Forest Sustainability Act and Forest Management Plans.
Krassilowsky added that NOMA is trying to prevent more job losses in the region.
"It’s a long way to Northwestern Ontario from the southern part of the province. We want to make sure that there is good stewardship in the forest that protects every person that dwells or works or animal that dwells there and we feel that certainly the process put in place under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act and the forest management plans do exactly that," Krassilowsky said.
Citing an Ontario Forest Industries Association report, Krassilowsky said up to 3,200 jobs could be lost in the region if up to 33 per cent of Ontario’s industrial fibre supply is designated caribou habitat.
"We already have a process in place that works extremely well," Krassilowsky said. "If there needs to be enforcement in some areas I’m sure the Ministry of Natural Resources is quite capable of doing that."
But Minister of Natural Resources Linda Jeffrey said those numbers can’t be based on facts because the caribou part of the ESA, passed in 2007, isn’t finished yet. Jeffrey said she has heard a lot of fear mongering about what the legislation could mean.
"I think that any time you don’t have any facts and yet you say how many jobs are going to be lost that’s not helpful. I think the North is a very fragile institution. It’s a community that has an awful lot of pressures on it, some I can control and some I can’t," Jeffrey said. "I’m not here to make things worse. I have a law that I have to bring forward."
With the help of Northern MPPs, Jeffery said she’s taking the time to get the legislation right.
"It’s the law, it’s a world standard and we want to make sure that people can still extract resources from the North and co-exist with the species we’re trying to protect," Jeffrey said.
Krassilowsky said she is encouraged by Jeffrey’s commitment in Kapuskasing last week during a meeting with the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities, but added that Jeffrey needs to understand all of the issues before going ahead with the legislation.
MPP Michael Gravelle (Thunder Bay - Superior-North), said he’s optimistic the province and forest industry can find a compromise.
"We’re determined to find a solution that works for the forestry companies but at the same time provides protection that is needed for the species at risk," Gravelle said. "I remain convinced that we can find that compromise that will work for everyone."
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