QUEEN’S PARK – This week, in the Ontario Legislature, both Thunder Bay MPPs were up in Question Period. The topic was forestry tenure.
Here is the text of the exchange:
Mr. Bill Mauro: My question is for the Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry. In recent discussions on the legislation you have introduced for forest tenure modernization, the members opposite have made frequent mention of a flawed concern that increasing the role of markets to allocate and sell wood in Ontario is somehow a bad thing and that US companies will be taking profits away from Ontario. It’s my understanding that this tenure modernization initiative, which was asked for across the north, I might add, will actually help put Ontario’s wood back to work and continue to build a new forest economy for all of Ontario.
Would the minister please tell this House how this initiative is going to improve the forestry sector in northern Ontario and improve Ontario’s economy?
Hon. Michael Gravelle: Thanks to the member for the question. Certainly, at the core of our forest modernization legislation is a focus on bringing our forests and our people back to work. That’s one of the main reasons why our legislation is retaining section 30 of the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, an important section which makes it clear that companies need to process and use Ontario’s wood within our jurisdictions, therefore protecting and stimulating the creation of more forestry jobs in Ontario.
May I say that this decision was certainly supported throughout our extensive consultations with Ontarians on the forestry sector priorities that are a very important part of this legislation? It was clear that people wanted change and improvements to the forestry sector, and to their credit, the people of Ontario also said they want change that is measured and cautious, while at the same time promoting job growth.
That’s what this legislation does for the forestry sector: It moves forward on revitalizing the sector but holds onto those important parts of the Crown Forest Sustainability Act that work and protect jobs in Ontario, such as section 30.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary?
Mr. Bill Mauro: I thank the minister for the answer, and it brings us, actually, to another important point. With almost no wood leaving Ontario, it seems clear that the members opposite may find it helpful to brush up on some of their facts, particularly when there are businesses in Ontario that also depend on wood that comes from out of the province. Would they change the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, which many of them voted for, so that wood neither enters nor leaves Ontario, and therefore deny regular supplies of wood from out of province to mills such as Abitibi in Fort Frances, Domtar in Dryden or St. Marys Paper in Sault Ste. Marie?
Could the minister please inform us how the governsment values and stimulates jobs in Ontario’s forestry sector and how it protects forestry jobs from the ruin implicated by suggestions such as those by the members opposite?
Hon. Michael Gravelle: It’s a very good point. It was legislation brought forward by the New Democrats many years ago.
I think it’s important to point out that our legislation calls for new local forest management corporation pilots that will test the principles of our proposed model and, perhaps most importantly, will be led by directors who have local, regional and aboriginal growth and prosperity as their top priorities. What we’re really trying to do is to set up these LFMCs, as they’re called, to be led by those who will promote regional wood harvesting and processing so that Ontario’s wood can better benefit the families and the workers of our Ontario-wide forestry-dependent communities.
Ontario’s crown forests belong to the people of Ontario, and we want to make sure that Ontario receives the full benefit of this precious resource.