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Lobbying needed


As the recent outcry over Ron MacLean’s contract dispute with the CBC showed, decisions can be overturned if enough people raise their voices in protest.

That same grassroots “power” now is needed among Northwestern Ontario residents to pressure the provincial government to provide adequate funding to the University of Guelph so the Thunder Bay research station can remain open beyond Oct. 31.

The reason is twofold. First, staff at the Thunder Bay station help analyze and compile data collected from trials conducted at the Emo research station, among other things. And closing it by month’s end would wipe out a whole year of research.

But even more important, there are fears the Emo station is not viable without the Thunder Bay one—and will be next on the chopping block.

While that would not affect many jobs here in Rainy River District, there’s no question the Emo research station conducts trials which could have far-reaching ramifications for local farmers. Research there also extends to the forest industry, with the on-going hybrid poplar trial having the potential to revolutionize tree harvesting in Northwestern Ontario.

NDP leader and local MPP Howard Hampton already has written to Northern Development and Mines minister Jim Wilson, urging him to step in and provide the necessary funding to the University of Guelph.

The Northwestern Ontario Associated Chambers of Commerce also has jumped on board in the fight to keep the Thunder Bay station open. As NOACC president Tannis Drysdale said, “The lobby effort until now has been pretty quiet. It is incumbent on all of us to make the pressure and to make it known that we care about research stations.”

Agricultural research conducted in Northwestern Ontario is crucial to district farmers. But if we all don’t start making noise, and quickly, it soon will be yet another victim of government cutbacks.

And it will be us who wind up bearing the real cost.

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