Timmins-area forestry contractor Albert Boudreau finds the permitting process to be long and arduous, and often one which leads to loss of opportunities in the industry.
“It’s a major problem,” says Boudreau, owner and operator of Timmins Forest Products. “It’s very slow, whenever you make an application for permits for things like creek crossings, it can take much too long...often, you don’t get a permit for months or even years.”
A wide variety of different regulations, different provincial and federal ministries amount to a sea of red tape for people trying to make their living in the forest, says Boudreau.
“It’s like taking the slow boat to China,” he says.
“In the end, we end up losing money because we cannot get on the site if we do not get the right permits. It should not take more than 90 days to get a permit,” says Boudreau.
Tannis Drysdale, president of the Northwestern Ontario Associated Chambers of Commerce (NOACC), is all too familiar with these types of frustrations.
In June, members of the association including Drysdale visited Queen’s Park to let members of both the Progressive Conservative Cabinet and the Ontario Liberals know that there needs to be serious changes to the way forestry operations are conducted in Ontario.
“We go to Queen’s Park at least twice per year and try to touch base with members of the government and the opposition to discuss issues important to business in Northern Ontario,” she says.
The group touched on four issues of importance.
The first were concerns over the guidelines that affect a minimum of 20 per cent of the wood fibre in forest management areas. Representatives of various companies, including Domtar and Buchanan Forest Products, have indicated that the guidelines and the Ontario Living Legacy land-use planning document have taken out large amounts of wood from the forest.
The second concern involved the arbitrary nature at which the forestry guidelines can be interpreted. The group called for a system of arbitration that would settle disagreements and ensure they are equally enforced.
“What we’ve been hearing from our industry partners is that the guidelines that they have to operate under, and there’s more than 20 they have to deal with, can be interpreted differently by different biologists,” she says. “And some of those interpretations can vary from region to region.”
The group also called for cluster development strategies that would result in higher-pay jobs and allow the industry to gain the ability to withstand lumber market cycles.
“California has been very good at this part by incorporating tourism into their wine region,” says Drysdale. “By incorporating tourism into the region, with wine tours and other attractions, as well as other industries related to wine production, they’ve been better able to withstand downturns in the wine market. We could do something like that.”
The final one involved better communication between the government and business, municipalities and the industry.
Drysdale says concerns like Boudreau’s can be dealt with by a phone call to the Ontario Red Tape Commission. The Ontario Progressive Conservative government in 1995 established the commission to help businesses cut their way through the red tape.