MNR Minister Jeffrey Questioned in Legislature

On November 4, 2010, MPP Gilles Bisson, Timmins-James Bay, raised a question in the Ontario Legislature asking MNR Minister Linda Jeffrey about the vast areas of Crown lands (and 2,000 of our best lakes) set aside for the virtual private use of remote tourist operators with the general public being severely restricted or virtually prohibited from trespassing (under pain of heavy fines).

The following is a portion of Hansard from Nov. 4th reproduced verbatim:

ACCESS TO PUBLIC LANDS

Mr. Gilles Bisson: “My question is to the Minister of Natural Resources. Minister, in northern Ontario, the MNR is setting aside vast areas of crown land for tourist outfitters. The greater issue is the limited access traditional users have to our natural resources. GilllesBisson_MPPCottagers, anglers and hunters are all being kept off public land so that a sense of remoteness can be maintained for tourist outfitters.

The Public Lands Act, section 3, under the shoreline reservations for recreation and access section, outlines that 25% or more of crown land that borders a lake must be reserved for public use, yet this statute is frequently violated by the MNR.

My question to you is, what right do you have to violate the law and to restrict the access of traditional users to those lands?”

Hon. Linda Jeffrey: “I’m pleased to answer the question. Our government certainly recognizes the contribution the resource-based tourism sector provides to the economic prosperity of Ontario. We have been working with Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario. We have a long history and partnership of working together to sustainably manage our fish and our wildlife resources. LindaJeffrey_MNR_MinisterOur government is committed to improving the business climate and encouraging investments in those remote tourism areas in northern Ontario.

We understand the economic challenges that they face, and it’s certainly something that they’ve communicated to me. We work with our northern outfitters. We want to make sure that they have the resources, and we want to brag about what we do in northern Ontario. It’s a wonderful place to visit. We will work with them, and I’m pleased to make sure that we communicate on a regular basis.”

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): “Supplementary?”

Mr. Gilles Bisson: “Well, I had a really smart supplementary written out, but I’m saying there lies the problem: The minister doesn’t understand that you need to strike a balance between, yes, the need of the outfitter to make a living, but also people having traditional access to those lakes and areas that they’ve had for generations within their families in northern Ontario.
People are fed up. They’re not able to access lakes that their fathers and their forefathers have hunted and fished and camped and picked blueberries at for years and years. The minister stands up, doesn’t answer the question and says, “I’m working with outfitters.” Great, but what about all of the citizens in northern Ontario? What are you prepared to do for them?”

Hon. Linda Jeffrey: “As I said, we’ve been working with Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario as well as many other stakeholders. They came to meet me very early on, when I became minister in January. They have reflected to me what kinds of constraints they had on their business and how we could work together. In fact, in Rainy River, we gave $150,000 to help winterize the Harris Hill Resort. We offer year-round tourist opportunities.

We’re extraordinarily proud of the relationship we have with a lot of our outfitters in northern Ontario, something we strive to improve. We can always do better, and it is about finding a balance. It’s about protecting the north and providing business and economic development.

We will continue to work with them. We appreciate the participation that they give us, and we appreciate the business that they provide in northern Ontario. It’s something we want to strive to improve and grow, and I’m pleased to work with them in the future.”

Minister Jeffrey twice replied how much she enjoyed working with remote tourist operators and what a wonderful relationship the MNR has with these businesses (who cater mostly to out-of-province sportsmen).

More importantly, Minister Jeffrey ignored the questions of MPP Bisson about the public’s right, by law, to unhindered access to their own lands, and preferred lavishing praise on the exclusive remote tourism industry.

Surely, these questions deserve a better answer than was not given by the Minister.

(Note:  The MNR may be in contravention of the NAFTA by closing to the general public, many of the $75M/yr provincially-subsidized forestry and bush roads.  The Ontario government has maintained to the US that public funds did not amount to a subsidy to the forest industry as the “public will also have free access to the roads”.)

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • timber November 7, 2010, 8:10 am

    Gilles was quoting the Public Lands Act sec 3 which is explained in this link…….
    http://publicdocs.mnr.gov.on.ca/view.asp?Document_ID=1970&Attachment_ID=7522……it states, “the intent of this legislation is to provide for ‘adequate sustained’ access and recreational opportunities (on public lakes) for present and future generations of Ontarians” and goes on to say that disposition (by selling or leasing shorelots) will not interfere with the public’s right (to access lakes on which public lands border).
    Clearly the Minister is misinformed, incompetent and arrogant.
    This mess which was created by all levels of the Ministry of Natural Resources while under the direction of the office of the deputy Minister must be attended to by McGuinty. The complexity of it begs for a public enquiry.
    Good work Gilles.

  • timber November 7, 2010, 8:18 am
  • Cory Lago January 29, 2011, 6:49 pm

    Do not forget the 150 million in grants over the last 5 years and the 350 million in conditional loans to the forest industry, on top of the 75 million a year for forest access roads. The government pays for 100% of primary forest roads and 50% of secondary forest roads (our money). They will now be using the boreal caribou to close down roads near you and steer away from being confronted by the United States as the above being subsidies, as they can now use the excuse that they are saving a species at risk and therefore can close forest roads.

  • Yvette Rath February 3, 2011, 6:59 pm

    And this my friends, is what we fight for at the OLA (Ontario Landowners Association).
    We are NOT here to break laws, but to see that no one else does either.
    Alas, what a sad, sad story this one is, but it is like so very many others.
    Our government is selling off what belongs to us in Ontario!

    • Cory Lago February 4, 2011, 9:10 am

      Across northwest and northeastern Ontario each community is dealing with the same issues, our Mayors should be having conference calls and meet with each other to be one voice on these issues. This is beyond individual groups, the politicians need to be pressured by a coalition of municipalities, for the betterment of their residents.

      • remi lorteau February 10, 2011, 8:18 pm

        Its all smoke & mirrors, my friends living in a democracy is wonderful is it NOT. the days of accessing the boreal forest has we once did are a mere dream. you can thank the woodland industry & the tourist industry with the help of the MNR they are all part & parcel of the collusionary agreement called an RSA – Resources Stewardship Agreement. An agreement between a woodlands Co.& tourist operator, & in most cases which restrict access to lakes & roads as they see as exclusive use for their business only. What other business in this province gets that kind of protection? That is what you call protectionism. “DEMOCRACY is that form of government in which the supreme power rests with the PEOPLE”.

  • Robert Clemence June 24, 2011, 9:17 am

    The question remains unanswered and the Minister odviously has no intention of addressing the concerns of Ontarians. Interestingly though is that these tourism lobbyists approached her office just after her recieving this post. Had they approached her predecessor they hopefully would’ve got the boot. Getting tired of American outfitters profitting from the resources our tax dollars and license fees pay for. Tourists, welcome to Ontario but not at the expense of the people who call this province home.

  • Paul Mahu June 26, 2011, 8:58 am

    why in the world is this woman running the MNR in the first place —- politicians amaze me with their lack of qualifications or genuine interest in the posistion they hold. If i had a chance I would ask her how many times she held a fishing rod or rifle —- I am sure it would be limited to the times she was on the Going Fishing show or Izumi’s show ….. just a feeel good presentation those shows were.

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