NEOMA vows to fight caribou policy – by Wayne Snider (Timmins Daily Press – February 17, 2012)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

Municipal leaders from across Northeastern Ontario are turning up the heat on the provincial government over its caribou protection plan. And if the mountain refuses to come to Mohammed, then Mohammed will go to the mountain. Ideally, they are hoping for visits both ways.

Thursday in Timmins, members of the North Eastern Ontario Municipal Association (NEOMA) had a lengthy discussion about beefing up its lobby effort. Plans include holding a special lobby day as a group in Queen’s Park, possibly hiring a professional lobbyist or consultant to help with ongoing efforts, and even calling out provincial leaders to visit the Northeast.

Timmins Coun. Mike Doody said he would like to see Premier Dalton McGuinty and others come North to see first hand the impact government policy has on their communities.

“Why can’t we call a Northern Summit?” Doody asked. “The premier has never been to Timmins or visited NEOMA. But not just the premier, we need the leaders from all the parties here so we can tell them where we stand on these issues.”

Doody was expressing the frustration his counterparts from across the region feel with major issues impacting the North. They believe their input has been ignored to cater to Southern Ontario-based special interest groups.

“Our people think this premier wants Northern Ontario to be a park,” he said. “We have to get tough — challenge them.

“They represent us and take our taxes … and if they don’t show up (for the summit), then we should tell them that they’re gone.”

While issues such as the Far North Act and high energy costs have fuelled the frustration, Cochrane Mayor Peter Politis is fearful the impact caribou protection will have on forestry. The plan for the Abitibi River Forest (located between Nighthawk and Smooth Rock Falls), calls for an immediate reduction in harvest volume of 25% with volume losses up to 65% after 20 years.

“Make no mistake about it, there will be communities that shut down,” he said.

“You cannot take half of the forest away and not have communities suffer.

“This issue is not about caribou versus big bad industry. It’s about one species being pitted against another, with the other species being us.”

Politis has been urging a professional lobby effort to counteract the numerous environmental groups he feels has been dictating the government’s direction on the issue.”

MPP Gilles Bisson (NDP — Timmins-James Bay) offered to help NEOMA set up a special lobby day in Queen’s Park, where Northern leaders could meet with his counterparts of all political stripes.

“We have serious issues that have to be discussed,” he said. “If these concerns aren’t addressed, then our communities will suffer.

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