Sault Star - PC critic picks forestry fight with local MPPs

Published on April 19th, 2011 in the Sault Star

Randy Hillier, Ontario's Progressive Conservative forestry critic, called out local Liberal members Tuesday on consultations over a new act that would govern the industry.

Hillier, MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington, held a press conference in Sault Ste. Marie in which he criticized the Dalton McGuinty government and local MPPs for canceling Northern Ontario consultations for a new bill introduced in February by the government.

Hillier said Bill 151 itself threatens to put the already "decimated," forest industry in the hands of bureaucratic bodies "staffed by political patronage appointments," which he likened to the province's existing Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs).

"It will allow the ministry to cancel forestry licenses with no compensation, no warning, no reason and no appeal," said Hillier, who also intended to attend a gun registry rally at the campaign office of federal Conservative candidate Bryan Hayes. "This legislation will only cause more uncertainty at a time when it's the last thing Ontario needs."

Mike Brown, the Liberal MPP for Algoma-Manitoulin, defended the government's consultation record on this bill. He said sessions took place in 116 communities, including the Sault, while the bill was being drafted.

"This is from a man who represents a party that never took a public consultation to Northern Ontario in their entire eight years of government," said Brown.

"It's mildly amusing to have (Hillier) say these things, but as long as he spells my name right, I think I'm happy," said Brown.

The Liberals have already faced criticisms similar to Hillier's over the cancelled Northern consultations by mayors, First Nations and some in the industry.

Brown said there are opponents to the bill, but he said it has supporters too, including St. Marys Paper and Tembec, which he said are pleased with the bill pending amendments that are waiting to be made.

As for the consequences of the act, Hillier has it "totally wrong," said Brown.

Brown said the purpose of the rule change is to put more Crown wood up for competition. As it stands, "quite a number," of people come to his office looking for wood for relatively small businesses.

"They often cannot get onto the Crown land to do that," said Brown. "This is to make that easier, but for large corporations that have continuously used the wood, I don't think there's anything to worry about."

Hillier said he argues the province should largely leave its forest tenure system alone.

"Not that it can't be improved, but the system we have in place right now gives you certainty that you've got your wood supply and gives employees certainty that you've got a job tomorrow," he said.

Sault MPP David Orazietti also defended the government's "careful and extensive," consultation on the bill during its drafting.

"The purpose of the bill is to generate economic growth in the forest industry, to bring new businesses to the forest industry, to more effectively utilize the forestry resources for the people of Northern Ontario and for the benefit of the entire province," said Orazietti.

Hillier held his press conference on the sidewalk in front of local lumber mill Boniferro Mill Works.

Jim Boniferro, the mill's CEO, said he had not been contacted prior to the event and Hillier was not welcome on the property.?