Study impact of MNR cuts first

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Natural Resources announced that, as a result of budget cuts, it would be undertaking a considerable restructuring of how it delivers programs and services in the north and across all of Ontario.
While MNR minister Michael Gravelle made it clear that significant cuts would be coming, he’s repeatedly refused to specify where the cuts will be made and what their long-term impacts—whether recreational, economic, or environmental—will be.
As northerners, we appreciate the important role the Ministry of Natural Resources plays in our daily lives.
It is charged with many important duties, including ensuring that sustainable development occurs within our resource-based economy, protecting wildlife and fish stocks to ensure their long-term viability, protecting the public from dangerous wildlife encounters, and protecting our vital infrastructure from out-of-control wildfires, among others.
While it’s important for governments to “trim the fat” and ensure taxpayers get the most value for their tax dollar, it also is important that they look at the bigger picture and make decisions that ensure both short- and long-term sustainability, government-wide.
For instance, cuts to Ontario’s “BearWise” program may help the MNR meet a financial target. But if some of those responsibilities are downloaded onto provincial or municipal police officers, are taxpayers actually saving money?
What if officers are called in to work overtime in order to deal with dangerous bears? What other duties are they neglecting in favour of wildlife management?
The same is true of the minister’s decision to contract outdoor hunting and fishing licensing to a company in Tennessee. While the cost of labour may have decreased, we also are now employing fewer people in Ontario as a result of this decision.
That equates to lost revenue for the provincial and federal governments through taxes, and for local economies that these Ontarian employees would spend in our communities.
Unfortunately, this is what occurs when ministries—and even governments—are treated as independent silos, where an individual bottom line trumps all others.
This was one of the major shortcomings of the former Mike Harris P.C. government’s decision to download responsibility for social services onto municipalities. It’s true it helped the province balance its budget, but at a tremendous cost to the municipal bottom line.
What they forget is it all comes out of the same pocket, and this piecemeal approach ultimately costs you more.
Despite government assurances that consultations will occur, these cuts continue to happen—and will happen despite the premier’s decision to prorogue Queen’s Park and lock out MPPs.
On Oct. 16, I was scheduled to participate in a one-on-one debate with Minister Gravelle to discuss these cuts and to suggest alternatives to job losses. Unfortunately, the lock-out cancelled this debate.
While I am deeply disappointed with the decision to close Queen’s Park, I’m also aware that any excuse that previously existed to hold off on these consultations is now gone.
It is for this reason that I’m requesting that Minister Gravelle join me and undertake thorough consultations across Ontario about the future of the MNR.
These services are too important to our future to make cuts without knowing the full story.