EDITORIAL: Holding [Northern Ontario forestry] tenure hearings only in Toronto ludicrous, disrespectful – by Ron Grech (The Daily Press-April 5, 2011)

Ron Grech is a reporter for The Daily Press, the city of Timmins newspaper. Contact the writer at  
rgrech@thedailypress.ca

It is yet another show of disrespect and a slap in the face to Northern
residents. Is it any wonder that Northerners’ disdain for Queen’s Park
and the current provincial government is at a near-boiling point?
(Ron Grech-Daily Press, April 5, 2011)

After gaining the Ontario forest industries’ support on the prickly subject of tenure reform, the provincial government lost it again because of contentious wording in the draft legislation that passed second reading just over a month ago.

As it is currently worded, Bill 151 would empower the government to revoke a wood allocation if “the party holding the agreement, licence or commitment is not optimally using the forest resources.”

The industry is concerned that allocating forestry licences based on subjective interpretations of optimal or preferred use opens the door to political pressure.

Nonetheless, Ontario Liberal government seems intent on not only shooting itself in the foot, but severing it off altogether.

Despite recommendations from opposition parties to hold a series of hearing in Northern and rural municipalities, including Timmins, the provincial government overruled the proposal and voted to host only two hearings — both of them to be held in Toronto next week.

That should make it quite convenient for Toronto-based special interest groups to offer their input on legislation impacting the livelihood of Northern Ontarians.

But what about the people who are most concerned about this?

Isn’t it only logical that public hearings on proposed bills be held in locales where the legislation will have the greatest impact and where there is a highest level of public interest?

Timmins Mayor Tom Laughren said as much in an e-mail he forwarded to provincial party members.

“I believe the government has an obligation to hear from Northerners,” he wrote. “Communities such as Timmins, Espanola, Thunder Bay, Hearst and Cochrane have made it clear that that they expect the government to consult on bills which will severely impact our communities.

“I am asking that the committee on General Government be allowed to travel to the North to see firsthand how the forest industry has suffered at the hands of this government.”

Unless the intent is to slide this legislation through with little fuss, the government’s decision to limit these meetings in Toronto is simply ludicrous.

It is yet another show of disrespect and a slap in the face to Northern residents.

Is it any wonder that Northerners’ disdain for Queen’s Park and the current provincial government is at a near-boiling point?

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