Round table members miffed over province’s slap in the face

After 14 months of hard work, some members of the Boreal West Round Table are fuming over the lack of response they received from the province on a final report they didn’t see–even though it was a report they supposedly endorsed.
Fort Frances resident Jack Hedman, who sits on the round table as an representative of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, charged the public was “being fed a bag of goods,” noting all the public input wasn’t included because the province upped its deadline.
“We haven’t heard from two-thirds of the people on this thing,” he argued last week. “I guess the fact that really bothers me is that we went on the record as saying that we were going to listen.”
With the process “scuttled,” Hedman filed a minority report refusing to endorse the one submitted. But so far, he hasn’t received a response from Natural Resources minister John Snobelen.
“I have been waiting very patiently to hear something from the provincial government that I fear I’ve waited too long,” Hedman said. “I’m just surprised that nobody has screamed long and hard.”
Bruce Peterson also turned in a minority report, as did Verne Hollett and Pat Sayeau, who submitted one jointly. Dave Christianson said he didn’t file a minority report because he was waiting to see the final draft–something that still hasn’t happened.
Early in July, Christianson said the round table met at Quetico and made major steps in a collaboration in the forestry and remote tourism areas. The group agreed to have its first recommendations in by the end of September but the province “pulled the rug out” and said the deadline for recommendations was July 30.
That left the group just three weeks to put together its recommendations. But while round table members were privy to the first two drafts (which Hollett said were endorsed by the majority but not unanimously), draft three escaped their final perusal.
“We were nowhere near finished,” Christianson said, stressing it still required two or three more drafts.
While they were told they would get copies in the days that followed, members received a memo from the MNR saying it wouldn’t come until Aug. 10. Almost two months later, there’s still no sign of the report–nor any indication as to where they go from here.
“I’m p—-d off totally at the ignorance that was shown to me by the MNR,” Christianson fumed, adding he felt that left him in a precarious position with the people he was there to represent.
“I think, in fairness, it would have been useful to let us see the final report,” Peterson added. “I didn’t endorse it. I indicated that at the last meeting.”
“To my knowledge, nobody has seen it,” echoed Hollett, admitting he had concerns about it.
“I’m appalled,” Hedman charged. “Nobody seems to be aware of what’s happening.”
But round table chair Bob Michels stressed tight timelines was the reason why members didn’t see the final draft that went off to the ministry. As for public comments, he said they weren’t seeing anything new.
“They essentially did see 99 percent of [the final report],” he said from Toronto yesterday, adding the minority reports also were submitted.
“At that point, it would’ve been fairly minor changes,” agreed Lois Brown, communication officer for the ministry on the “Lands for Life” issues. “Clearly, they know what’s in it.”
The three round table chairs are working now with ministry reps and a consultant to put together one consolidated report, which Michels felt would be made public in the next few weeks. He assured the chairmen were making sure the integrity of each was protected, adding the principles in the different reports varied very little.
If there are differences, Michels stressed any contradictory cases would remain in the consolidated report.
But whether round table members, or the public, will be able to verify that is up in the air. Brown said she didn’t know if the three “round table” reports would be released with the consolidated document.
She added Snobelen has made very few comments about any of the reports–including the minority ones–and won’t until the consolidated report is released.
Meanwhile, what the role of the “round tables” will be from here is up in the air. Christianson noted there still was to be public consultation but he wasn’t sure if that would be done by the ministry or by the round tables.
“Most of us on the round table would prefer the latter because it would give us an opportunity to save face,” he noted.
But Michels felt the round tables’ work basically was complete. And while he could understand how some were feeling brushed off by the province, he assured when members finally get a look at what is delivered, they will see the tremendous contribution their efforts made to the use of Crown land in Ontario.
“I think that [the Boreal West Round Table] has done more than anybody ever thought they would deliver,” he said.
With the round table so close to reaching consensus on major issues, including between forestry and remote-based tourism, Christianson and Hedman were disappointed and frustrated they couldn’t see the process through to its completion.
Peterson agreed what was intended wasn’t accomplished but he and Hollett weren’t optimistic round table members ever would come to a consensus on Crown land use. They felt members brought their biases to the table and wouldn’t budge on the issues.
“The bottom line is there was about four of us who were willing to do that,” Hollett said, adding the others merely were paying it lip service.