McGuinty abandons the North
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty visited a wind tower plant in Windsor on Friday. (JONATHAN JENKINS, Toronto Sun)
It’s a north-south issue that has split this province and left northerners fuming about Dalton McGuinty and the Liberal Party’s abandonment of the forestry industry.
As if a downturn in the U.S. housing market weren’t enough to devastate this industry, provincial tinkering with wood allocations and the way they slavishly cave to the demands of environmental groups has northerners angry and upset.
McGuinty has refused to take part in a northern leaders’ debate slated for Thunder Bay on Sept. 23 — further evidence, northerners and first nations groups say, that the Liberals don’t care about the North.
In a letter circulated to media Friday, Grit Campaign Chair Greg Sorbara said he wants to include a northern segment in the general televised debate slated for Sept. 27.
Sorbara made the request in a letter to the broadcast consortium that runs the debate.
“There is a clear desire amongst all three political parties to discuss issues relating to northern Ontario.
“Residents there face unique circumstances and deserve the opportunity to hear directly from all three leaders about their plans for northern Ontario,” Sorbara said.
That’s not good enough for Timmins Mayor Tom Laughren.
He’s fuming that the latest proposals for management of the Abitibi River Forest in the northeast will impact communities across the region — and threaten the very existence of many communities.
The changes are part of the province’s new caribou conservation policy, which Laughren says will have “catastrophic impacts” on the region.
Laughren slammed the policy in a harshly worded news release, saying the caribou policy, “appears to be a politically motivated attempt to satisfy environmental extremists who live thousands of kilometres away from our region.”
It would immediately take away a quarter of timber available to the forestry industry, and over 20 years would reduce that amount by 65%, he said.
“No community between North Bay and Kenora can accept this policy and the associated disastrous impacts associated to it, when applied anywhere else in the province,” Laughren said.
Northerners were angered when the province bailed out the auto industry to the tune of billions of dollars, but stood by idly as the forest industry tanked.
In a phone interview Friday, Laughren said this would be the death blow for the area.
“This would seal their fate and kill many small communities; kill whatever is left in the forestry business in Timmins, Cochrane, Hearst and Iroquiois Falls,” he said.
“We need to give our head a shake.”
The province isn’t just trying to save the caribou — they’re trying to re-introduce it to areas where they haven’t existed for generations.
“That’s like saying we’re going to re-introduce buffalo across southern Ontario and shut down places like Toronto to do it,” he said.
A spokesman for AbitibiBowater, one of the companies impacted, says the plan threatens the future of the industry.
“The company is concerned that if confirmed, these significant proposed reductions in wood supply could jeopardize future forest sector investments and curtail employment opportunities generated from forest activities, impacting the economic foundation of 25 northern Ontario communities,” said AbitibiBowater CEO Richard Gatineau in a press release this week.
The Libs should stop listening less to the latte drinkers in the south and more to those hardy souls who who live and would like to work in the north — before they write the region off completely.