THUNDER BAY – The debate on the Far North Act continued at the Ontario Legislature on Thursday. The Minister for Natural Resources moved Third Reading of the proposed legislation.
The Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats have voiced their opposition to the legislation. During Third Reading Debate, Randy Hillier and Howard Hampton spoke. Neither Thunder Bay MPP Bill Mauro or Michael Gravelle stood in the legislature to debate or defend the government’s position.
Linda Jeffery, the Minister of Natural Resources said, “We’re at a defining moment with regard to the future of the Far North of Ontario. This region is under increasing pressure for new development. Although the Far North makes up more than 40% of the province, this vast area has never seen the kind of comprehensive land use planning that we traditionally take for granted in the rest of Ontario. Bill 191 would give us the framework for land use planning that meets the special requirements of this vast and unique part of the province”.
Randy Hillier, the Progressive Conservative Critic for Northern Development, Mines and Forestry stated, “If this bill is about economic development in northern Ontario, why is it not with the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry? Why is that not the case? The minister has never explained that to anybody.”
Hillier added, “Let’s put this in balance. Let’s hold up the scales and allow everybody to look at the balance of probabilities on this bill. Bill 191 has been denounced by the Environmental Commissioner of the province of Ontario. It’s been denounced by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. It’s been denounced by the Anglican Church and by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada. The Ontario Mining Association has denounced it. The Ontario Forestry Association has denounced it. The Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce has denounced it. The Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association, the northwestern Ontario associated chambers of commerce, the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities—every northern municipality has denounced it, every northern industry group has denounced it and every First Nation that actually lives there has denounced it. That’s on one side of the equation. It’s pretty heavy, who’s denounced this bill.
“But then, on the other side, what do we balance that with? We balance it with one: the World Wildlife Fund. Monte Hummel has endorsed Bill 191. He put out a press release last week, on September 15. He says, “We felt the conservation objectives were secure in the proposed legislation….” Monte Hummel on one side and every northern municipality, every northern business group, every northern native community on the other side—and this minister is pleased with the result. She’s happy with the result, because when this bill is finished with, when it’s enacted and proclaimed into law, it will be the largest land swindle that this province has ever seen.”
President of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce said, ““Following my participation last week, it became clear that the misinformation about what the Far North Act means was gaining momentum. We were asked why we were against land use planning. Effective land use planning can continue without the Far North Act. This is about withdrawing 50% of the Far North (21% of all of Ontario) from possible development, and holding the rest of the area subject to an MNRled quagmire. I am working until the last minute to identify how this incredibly significant, harmful legislation will negatively impact our Northern economy and our business community. We need the Government to be aware of how business investment will be hindered and opportunities shelved.”
With a majority government, it is likely that the McGuinty Government will pass the legislation.