THUNDER BAY – Business – Updated -The Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce have added their support to the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA) following the release of the Endangered Species Act Panel Report and Recommendations (ESA) this past Monday January 21, 2013. “The ESA has created a lot of uncertainty for the forest sector, and unless immediate action is taken, this uncertainty will remain”, states Harold Wilson, Chamber President, adding, “Ontario’s forest sector already provides for the protection of species at risk and their habitat under the CFSA and other provincial legislation.”
“Forestry is in fact, one of only a few sectors in the province to have class approval under Ontario’s rigorous Environmental Assessment Act (EAA). By acting on this specific recommendation the provincial government will be sending a clear message that Ontario is in fact ‘open for business’ “, added Wilson, noting that the government had committed to developing such a regulation during the development of the ESA.
Chamber of Commerce Urging Ontario Government to Act
The Chamber is also urging the Ontario Government to take immediate action to fulfill their commitment and to act on the forest sector recommendation 3.5-3a of the ESA Panel report and develop a regulation under the ESA which recognizes the Crown Forest Sustainability Act (CFSA) as equivalent to the ESA in its provision for species at risk. We also ask the government to disregard the contrary proposal 3.5-3b which would increase costs to the industry unnecessarily.
The Chamber was also very pleased with recommendation 3.6-6: It is recommended that formal socio-economic assessments be incorporated into the process of the development of Habitat Regulations and Government Response Statements and that periodic reviews of the broader impacts and benefits of the legislation be undertaken. Such assessments should be shared with the public and stakeholders in a timely and transparent manner.
The Ontario Government has their work cut out for them when dealing with Northern Ontario. In a statement from Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN): “Nishnawbe Aski NationChiefs In Assembly will not recognize the application of the Endangered Species Act in the Nishnawbe Aski Nation territory until consultation has been finalized and all concerns identified by Nishnawbe Aski Nation have been addressed, either in modifications to the content of the Act or in some other agreed-upon form”.
Minister of Natural Resources Responds
Minister of Natural Resources Michael Gravelle states, “Over the past 4 years since the implementation of the Endangered Species Act, 2007, governments, industries, conservation organizations and individuals have gained considerable experience and identified challenges and opportunities for improving a number of areas. Certainly, this is a dialogue which I have engaged in, and continue to strongly support, and that is why the ESA panel was established”.
Gravelle continues, “The panel represented a broad and balanced range of interests and expertise, and included representatives from forestry, agriculture, aggregates, development and infrastructure sectors as well as environmental organizations. I was tremendously pleased to see the panel reach consensus on a number of areas and that the forestry sector was well represented in the recommendations put forward. Certainly, the forest industry continues to be a top priority of mine, and our government is committed to balancing strong protection for Ontario’s endangered species with unwavering support for the forestry sector and the creation of forestry related jobs. It has always been our intention to implement a multi-stakeholder panel to include representatives from NOMA and I am pleased to confirm this will be part of our next steps.”
The Thunder Bay Chamber successfully championed a similar resolution at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce AGM May 5 in St. Catherines which is now OCC Policy:
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce urges the Government of Ontario to: Conduct and release publicly socio-economic impact assessments of all legislation, regulation, and policies that could reduce the provincial fiber supply and/or reduce access to the land base/natural resources.