NDP MPs and MPPs from across Northern Ontario were in Thunder Bay on Monday demanding immediate federal and provincial government action to deal with the region’s growing forestry jobs crisis.
“We are here today because we are worried about what has happened, and what will happen, to Ontario’s forestry sector if the provincial and federal governments do not take action,” said Ontario NDP leader and Kenora-Rainy River MPP Howard Hampton.
Hampton was joined at a press conference by MPP Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay) and MPs Bruce Hyer (Thunder Bay-Superior North) and John Rafferty (Thunder Bay-Rainy River), along with representatives of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) and Iain Angus, a former MP and MPP who now serves on Thunder Bay city council.
The NDP legislators are calling for a host of measures designed to sustain forestry jobs and provide assistance to those workers facing job losses, including implementation of an industrial hydro rate; creation of a Jobs Protection Commissioner; establishment of a federal loan guarantee program for struggling companies; and an overhaul of the Employment Insurance (EI) program.
“While the rest of Canada is just starting to see the impact of a looming recession, Northern Ontario has been struggling for years with devastating job losses in the forestry sector,” noted Rafferty. “That’s why we’re calling for these practical measures.”
“Stephen Harper’s inaction is taking a serious toll on my riding,” echoed Hyer. “I have been hearing from struggling workers and their families.
“Shutdowns at Marathon Pulp, Longlac Wood Industries, Domtar, Thunder Bay Fine Papers—just to name a few—are causing terrible hardship here,” he added.
Rafferty noted the unfairness of the present EI program.
“Over the past 20 years, successive Conservative and Liberal governments have slowly dismantled our employment insurance system, reducing benefits and limiting coverage,” he charged. “This has had a disproportionate impact on Ontario workers.”
Bisson, meanwhile, had sharp words for the McGuinty government, which has been largely missing in action during the forestry crisis.
“Dalton McGuinty has been largely missing in action while our mills and plants close down,” he said. “The McGuinty government’s policy of driving industrial hydro rates through the roof is killing one paper mill after another.
“It’s time the McGuinty Liberals reverse their disastrous hydro policies!” stressed Bisson.