Town planning forestry summit

Following in the footsteps of its counterpart in Dryden, town council here directed administration earlier this week to undertake the planning of a “community summit” to address growing concerns about the health of the province’s forestry sector.
Coun. Tannis Drysdale, who represents Fort Frances on the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA), put forth the idea at Monday night’s meeting and the rest of council was quick to fall in line.
“Let’s be clear about this, this is not just a pulp and paper industry problem, and it’s not a northern problem and it sure isn’t inevitable,” Coun. Drysdale said.
“It was an industry in growth,” she stressed. “It is no longer that way and our political leaders need to hear it.”
Last month’s forum in Dryden, where about 70 percent of the economy is tied to the forestry sector, drew about 370 concerned residents and attracted widespread media attention.
When reached Tuesday, Coun. Drysdale was optimistic at least that many people would be interested in attending a meeting here. After all, the people of Fort Frances seem to realize how important this industry is, she said.
“I think people are aware the forestry industry, not just the pulp and paper industry, is critical in Northwest Ontario,” Coun. Drysdale said. “Our citizens are really aware how important this industry is to our economy, to our jobs, to our children’s jobs.
“The forestry industry is our mainstay and we must support it,” she stressed.
The goal of the Dryden campaign, said city manager Arie Hoogenboom, was to urge citizens to pressure Queen’s Park to move on a lengthy list of recommendations put forth in a report released by a forestry sector competitiveness council in mid-June.
Buttons emblazoned with the phrase “The Forest Industry Crisis: We Care” were handed out at the Dryden meeting while an information packet was mailed out to about 5,000 homes throughout the region.
Included in that package was contact information for Premier Dalton McGuinty and Finance minister Greg Sorbara. Residents were encouraged to write, phone, fax, or e-mail their offices.
“You’ve got to educate your people and you’ve got to motivate them,” Hoogenboom told the Times two weeks ago. “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,” he reasoned.
Coun. Drysdale said both the style and purpose of the forum here will be very similar to the July 19 meeting held in Dryden—which came just eight days before Abitibi-Consolidated announced was shutting down its mill in Kenora in October.
That forum included presentations by Dryden Mayor Anne Krassilowsky, union rep Cecil Makowski, and Norm Bush, vice-president of Weyerhauser.
Speakers for the town hall-style meeting here have yet to be determined, but Coun. Drysdale said she’d like to have representatives from both the municipal and federal government, as well as officials from the industry and labour unions.
The date for the forestry summit has yet to be determined, but likely will be held sometime in September.