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THUNDER BAY CHAMBER SUCCESSFUL IN ADVANCING RESOURCE ISSUES 2010 AGM

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THUNDER BAY, ON - May 5, 2010 - The Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce is very pleased to announce that two key recommendations, which it brought to the 2010 Ontario Chambers of Commerce (OCC) AGM in Windsor over the weekend, were passed by the delegates.  The resolution calling on the Provincial Government to withdraw the Far North Act immediately, and a resolution for the Province to permanently protect a minimum of 26 million cubic metres/year of available fibre (for utilization of existing mills and new entrants) were approved, and now become OCC policy.  

A further resolution concerning the effects of electricity price increases on the retention and attraction of industry, particularly in Northern Ontario, was referred to a new Energy Task Force which will consider the impacts of government policies on electricity rates on existing and potential new industry.

“We were very pleased at the reception and support we received from Chambers around the Province for our recommendations to the Government” stated Harold Wilson, President of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, who had fielded questions on our resolutions from delegates.  “Both of our resolutions addressed issues about developing and growing our Northern Ontario economy, and the impacts on business when minimal consultation and ineffective input take place”.  Chamber Chair of the Board Craig Urquhart also promoted the resolutions.  “Forestry and mining remain important parts of our economy, even with the new business sectors that have been growing, and it was great to get these core industry resolutions supported at this level.  The OCC has great weight when it meets with government representatives”, stated Mr. Urquhart.

NOACC President Barry Streib also participated, and noted that the resolutions had received important input and support at the NOACC Annual meeting two weeks earlier in Sioux Lookout.

Over 67 Chambers throughout the Province were represented with voting delegates at the OCC meeting, which provides individual Chambers with the annual opportunity to present recommendations to the Provincial Government on major business issues, in addition to presentations on a wide range of issues affecting business owners and operators.


FOREST TENURE REFORM
(Submitted by the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce)

Issue:

There is a need to establish in law, through regulations, that there will be 26 million cubic metres of available fibre for industrial use on a sustainable basis for the creation of wealth in the Province of Ontario. (This is consistent with the statement made by Minister Gravelle on November 26, 2009 at the Provincial Wood Supply Competitive Process announcement in Thunder Bay).
Background:

The Forest Tenure issue has long range implications for the future of Northern Ontario.  Most of the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines & Forestry August 2009 Strategic Discussion document concentrated on suggestions to improve current forest management, when the more important issue is where do we want the Forest Industry to be in Ontario.  Much of the document concentrates on issues related to managing the forests, not better maximizing the value of the forest resources, which should include better paying, and skilled jobs, investment, research and development. 

Our core forestry enterprises may be undergoing "a major transformation", but they still need to be supported by having the Province establish the ability to access long term fibre sources and reasonably priced energy to allow for the development of expensive infrastructure.  We welcome opportunities for new entrants, either as partners or new direct users.  We need to “diversify the forest industry portfolio” and have set measureable goals.  Wood pellets should be utilizing the “wood waste” stream, not replacing current usage for high quality fibre.

At one time, Ontario had a policy of highest and best use of the sustainable fibre. This was approached by ensuring that the ‘best’ wood first went to a sawmill, with the residue then transported to a pulp and paper processor. With the advent of biofuels, and the creation of pellets, this policy must continue to apply but with a focus on highest and best employment creation possible.  The main processor of fibre should continue to the sawmill, with that residual going to pulp and paper and the remainder, including slash, burned and diseased fibre being allocated to the bioenergy field.

The government of Ontario also needs to commit to socio-economic impact assessments associated with any legislation, regulation or policy that impacts the forest sector. For example, the Wood Turtle Habitat Regulation received Cabinet level approval without any socio-economic assessment.

MNDM&F needs to provide clear measurables/objectives associated with the tenure and pricing review. At a Toronto public session sponsored by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) and the Ivey Foundation, MNDM&F publicly stated that the overall objective of the tenure and pricing reform was “the health of the forest”. This is unacceptable – government must provide clear and measurable objectives that include job retention and creation, overall/sector wide access to fibre, and competitive fibre costs (top quartile in Canada).

RECOMMENDATIONS:

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce urges the Government of Ontario to:

1. Permanently protect a minimum of 26 million cubic metres/year of available fibre for utilization of existing mills and new entrants, even if it is not being used (provided the Provincial Wood Supply Competitive Process is pursued), and that the government ensure that the existing operational land base is not further eroded; and 
2. Conduct and release publicly socio-economic impact assessments of all legislation, regulation and policies that could reduce the provincial fibre supply and/or reduce access to the land base/natural resources.

WITHDRAWAL OF THE FAR NORTH ACT
(Submitted by the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce)

Issue:

The Far North Act, initiated by the Provincial Government to set aside “at least 225,000 square kilometres of the Far North in an interconnected network of protected areas” which represents 50% of the land under review, has been the subject of numerous requests to have the Act withdrawn before it moves to second reading, likely in the Spring of 2010, as it will detract and delay effective development of the region. 

Background:

 (Map identifying the Area under consideration for preserving 50% of the Far North, greater than 225,000 sq. km.
Source: MNR Website)

The Far North Act (Bill 191) was first presented in July, 2008.

The arbitrariness of setting aside 50% of the land north of the undertaking, without identifying which 50%, creates considerable uncertainty over all of the territory, and then embarking on a multi-decade planning process is also detrimental to strategic development of the region.  Business investment and addressing new opportunities is hindered by uncertainty.   As it is currently written, the Act has the potential to paralyze future developments in Ontario’s far north. These investments are coming at a time when the Provincial Government should be welcoming opportunities for new revenue generation. 
  
In a News Release July 22, 2009, Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy, announced that “Chiefs across Nishnawbe Aski are calling on the Government of Ontario to immediately withdraw Bill 191.”  Grand Chief Stan Beardy continued “This legislation will set aside 225,000 square kilometres as a protected area within our homelands without our consultation, accommodation or consent and will lock down the land to prevent First Nations, the poorest people of Canada, from achieving economic independence by preventing the development needed to build our communities and strengthen the Ontario economy”.  A rally against the Act was held August 6.

The Act was imposed, not the result of consultations and recommendations coming from the North during the lengthy Northern Growth Plan consultations.  It was requested by Municipal leaders and the Northwestern Ontario Associated Chambers of Commerce that reference to the Far North Act be removed from the Proposed Growth Plan for Northern Ontario.

A recent Fraser Institute study showed that Ontario was falling in our ranking on mining investment. There is a lot of competition for mining dollars throughout the world, and unless there are clear rules that are well-founded and implemented, the Province is not going to fully realize that investment.

In the 2010 Provincial Speech from the Throne delivered March 8, the Government referred specifically to the region known as the “”Ring of Fire”, “said to contain one of the largest chromite deposits in the world, a key ingredient in stainless steel.  There is no substitute for chromite. There is no North American producer of chromite. It's the most promising mining opportunity in Canada in a century.”  It immediately followed up with “Together, we will create Ontario jobs and support northern families as we continue to protect 50 per cent of the northern Boreal Forest.” 

This continued framing of potential development within the Far North Act, which has yet to be passed, is not supporting investment.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce urges the Government of Ontario to:

1. Withdraw the Far North Act immediately; and 
2. Set up a process through the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines & Forestry to consider how to address the issues of enhanced planning and sustainability without the arbitrary removal of 50% of the land base.

 

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