The forestry portion of the Ministry of Natural Resources now resides in the Ministry of Northern Mines and Development portfolio, where it should be with a minister overseeing this resource-based super ministry.
As a former member of the province’s Smart Growth Plan for northwestern Ontario, I preached that we needed such a change if we are going to realize the potential of our forests, as we do with our minerals. It was just not politically correct at the time.
We are, let’s face it; trees, rocks and water surrounding great hard-working people. These resources are our lifeline, and 90 per cent of our resources are on public land controlled by the province. Without the opportunity to use forest resources sustainably, we are not going to maintain our lifestyle. We have built the communities we live in from being able to access these forests.
Over the recent years, however, southern Ontario interests have slowly removed our ability to make a living from the forests surrounding us. I actually witnessed how far this thinking had progressed when I attended a meeting with forestry and government officials in Toronto, where a biologist, during his presentation, stated that his role in life was one of searching the Internet for further restrictions to put on harvesting activities. That is when I learned about a new species he had invented that he was aiming to protect- that being the “cliff-dwelling raven.” I kid you not!
The time has come to bring the sustainable forest practices pendulum back to the centre, and this new resource-based ministry can do that for Northern Ontario. Finally, a comprehensive resource –based portfolio. It is early days as to how this will be rolled-out. However, this is a unique opportunity to do things right. The forests and minerals that can improve our lives are now recognized equally.
I mentioned the Smart Growth Panel I was involved with and this opportunity truly opened my eyes to the potential of possibly seeing forestry and mining under the same umbrella. I was attending an event hosted by the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) and some of their mining staff was presenting a new area of the north that had recently been mapped for mineral potential. As well, there was an update on all the recent claims and discussions of new potential mines. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing. I was watching MNDM personnel promoting a resource-based industry. The staff was excited about the new opportunities and they also demonstrated new methods of how the MNDM can help the mining companies.
This was so new to me, as I have always worked on the forestry side of resources and the MNR. I felt so refreshed from watching this presentation that I left knowing there is hope for at least the mining sector, as the province was truly partnering with mining.
Then it struck me, why is this so? What has happened to our province when the south and their interest groups can take over our livelihoods? Why can we not be afforded the same promotion as the mining sector? I had an opportunity to de-brief after the MNDM presentation with other members of this Smart Growth Panel and we all agreed that leaving the parks for the MNR would make the most sense, with sustainable forestry and forest products becoming a proud member of the new MNDM.
We now are well-positioned to see our resources play an ever-increasing role in our futures. The fact that the minister of MNDMF, Michael Gravelle, is a northerner can only help us and maybe the future just became a little brighter.