QUEEN’S PARK – On Tuesday in the Ontario Legislature, David Orazietti, the Liberal MPP from Sault Ste. Marie was up in the Legislature seeking answers from Michael Gravelle the Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry.
Here is the transcript from Queen’s Park:
Mr. David Orazietti: My question is to the Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry. Minister, as you are aware, the forestry sector continues to face significant challenges. However, our government has assisted businesses and industry in this sector by providing grants and loan guarantees for equipment and modernization. We’ve also provided electricity rebates, reduced stumpage fees, uploaded road costs and introduced a northern industrial energy program worth $150 million a year.
Recently, you announced the reopening of the pulp mill in Terrace Bay, with $25 million in support from our government, that will allow 350 employees to return to work. Last week, a new partnership was reached between government, industry and several First Nation communities in northern Ontario.
Minister, can you please elaborate on this new partnership and what it will mean for the parties involved?
Hon. Michael Gravelle: Thanks for the question. This is a tremendous story. About 10 days ago, Weyerhaeuser, a world-class forestry company, along with several other forestry companies in partnership with several First Nations under the Miitigoog co-operative, signed an agreement that transferred the single sustainable forest licence, SFL, of the Kenora Forest to a co-operative shareholder, chaired by Chief Eric Fisher of Wabaseemoong First Nation. This transfer is just tremendous news. Among other things, it advances forest sector business opportunities for aboriginal communities as full partners with industry. We’re providing funding for this project as well.
We’re certainly proud to work with Miitigoog Limited Partnership and Weyerhaeuser as we take steps to transition towards a modernized tenure and pricing system. This kind of partnership bodes very well for future co-operative endeavours and shows we can work well and successfully together.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary.
Mr. David Orazietti: I appreciate that response, Minister. We appreciate hearing about this exciting news and this exciting partnership and how it will benefit the region’s economy. The fact that these types of agreements are being forged among partners in the forestry sector demonstrates that our government, First Nation communities and industry are serious about working together to oversee responsible management of our crown forests.
Minister, you previously referenced transitioning to a new forest tenure and pricing system. Can you please explain to the House the new forest tenure system, how it will work and why it’s important to make these reforms in northern Ontario?
Hon. Michael Gravelle: Indeed, I think this co-operative that was put in place is a good example how we can move forward. The forest tenure reform we’re working on is similar to the principles of this. The old system, the system we now still work under, gives mills, ultimately, the responsibility to manage Ontario’s forests in essence in exchange for access to our wood supply. In some cases, this is not working as well as we think it should have, which is why we’re moving forward.
We’re now in the process where we want to move forward on testing the principles of our modernized tenure system, so we’ll be establishing pilot projects for two local forest management corporations, probably one in the northwest and one in the northeast, that will work together to manage the forest with representation on their board of directors from local and aboriginal communities.
That’s why we’re so pleased that the sustainable forest licence has been transferred to Miitigoog. It signifies, I think, exactly the type of partnership we will want to see occurring in the forestry sector, as we move forward with these new changes to the system.