That’s the message the City of Dryden is hoping to send with its ongoing campaign to bring attention to the plight of Northern Ontario’s forestry sector.
Two weeks ago, city officials organized a town hall-style meeting to address growing concerns about the health of the industry, and have since mailed brochures and buttons to about 5,000 homes in that area.
Their actions come in the wake of a eye-opening report from the Minister’s Council on Forest Sector Competitiveness—a document that declared the forestry industry in “crisis” and put forth 26 recommendations on how the remedy the situation, including lowering electricity costs.
The key now, said Dryden City Manager Arie Hoogenboom, is getting Queen’s Park to take notice—and then take action.
“We’re trying to educate the south and we’re also trying to educate our own people,” Hoogenboom said. “The reality is we have to get the province to accept the recommendations of the Minister’s Council.”
In an attempt to sway the powers-that-be, the Dryden campaigners are urging residents to phone, write, fax, or e-mail Premier Dalton McGuinty or Finance minister Greg Sorbara, and even have provided the contact info for each in their brochure.
“You’ve got to educate your people and you’ve got to motivate them,” stressed Hoogenboom. “The key is they’ve got to know what the issue is and then they’ve got to do something about it.
“If we can’t show that we, ourselves, are concerned about the status of the forestry industry, then how can we convince southern Ontario that [the regulations] have to change.”
That’s where municipalities across Northwestern Ontario might be able to lend a hand, Hoogenboom suggested.
“I would certainly encourage other communities to be involved,” he said. “The more communities that get on board, the more people that phone, write, e-mail, fax, [the more influential they’ll be].
“What we’re looking at is taking a bit of a leadership role in the region,” he added.
Just two days after Abitibi-Consolidated announced it was shutting down one paper machine at its mill in Kenora and idling the other one indefinitely, Fort Frances Mayor Dan Onichuk said the people of Northwestern Ontario have nothing to lose by voicing their opinions to the suits in Toronto.
“United we stand, divided we fall—that’s the old saying and it still holds true today,” Mayor Onichuk said. “It all comes to what political clout you’ve got and if we don’t [work together], you’ve got a lot less political clout.
“Politicians tend to wake up when everybody is supporting [a cause], when everyone is singing the song and telling them to go do it,” he remarked.
Mayor Onichuk added because Fort Frances has so many ties with Kenora, Dryden, and other towns in the region (for example, the communities are grouped under the same health unit), what happens in one municipality undoubtedly will affect the others.
“Certainly, we’re going to support Kenora and Dryden,” he said, adding that if asked, town council here would consider distributing Dryden’s information brochure in this area.
For more information on Dryden’s “The Forest Industry Crisis: We Care” campaign, including an online version of the brochure that was handed out, visit www.dryden.ca