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What did we miss?

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With a common voice, area reeves, mayors, and chiefs came out in support of Fort Frances council last night to pass a resolution holding the provincial government accountable for making wood from the Crossroute Forest available to any new operator of the idled mill here.

It was a great night in the packed Council Chambers, with overflow standing in the doorways leading to the room and others watching the proceedings on TV in the committee room downstairs. Citizens and presenters arrived well before the meeting to watch and hear council debate the merits of a resolution that Coun. Doug Judson had presented to council under emergency issues that had to be dealt with immediately on Feb. 11.

Council did not debate or discuss the resolution in front of the crowd. They listened to the speakers and then, with platitudes, praised everyone for their attendance and commitment to bring jobs, economic growth, and opportunities for businesses across the district. Council also asked those on hand to continue in the struggle to have wood fibre guaranteed by any operator of the Fort Frances mill.

Mayor June Caul indicated council had not had time to discuss or debate the eloquent resolution that was put forward on Feb. 11. Coun. Judson moved to table the resolution, with Coun. Andrew Hallikas seconding the motion. The remarks had been prepared well in advance of the special meeting. The meeting ended.

No councillor dissented. The decision to not act on the resolution was made well before the council left their meeting room downstairs to come to Council Chambers. The decision to not act on the resolution was made well before the two-hour-plus committee of the whole meeting that preceded the public special council meeting.

By no councillor dissenting in tabling the motion, in fact council had been meeting and discussing its options.

What did we miss? For more than a week, although not meeting together in one room, council constantly was meeting through e-mails and discussing through e-mails the changing landscape of the negotiations. Council had received legal opinion of the resolution. Mayor June Caul indicated some movement had taken place in negotiations.

A local person who works with the buyer following the meeting indicated the success of the negotiations totally is dependent on securing wood fibre from the Crossroute Forest and that the ministers have the authority to change the Sustainable Forest Licence with a stroke of a pen.

Council asked Christine Hampton Brown, who started an online petition that had gained more than 1,200 signatures prior to the meeting, to make it available in hard copy and asked those attending to flood the ministers' and premier's offices with mail demanding that the Crossroute Forest be made available to any potential buyer of the Fort Frances mill.

The crowd was behind the council.

Yet in all the words spoken, council hesitated to pass a resolution that had more force than the letters from citizens. What did we miss? In urgency, council will wait another 6 days.

—Jim Cumming

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