In the early days of the election campaign, the issues are taxes, health care, and education. The most important issue, however, is largely being ignored.
Environmental protection is the single best investment we can make for our future. We need, therefore, a government that will protect the biological, physical, and chemical components of the natural environment; a government that will secure healthy, sustainable communities for our children and theirs; a government that recognizes the inextricable link between the state of the natural environment and our physical, social, and economic well-being.
The Harris government’s environmental record, however, has been dismal; rot with short-term thinking rather than long.
In the early 1990s, the NDP government introduced strong, bold initiatives to protect the future of Ontarians, which the Tories later dismantled. Tory changes to the Planning Act, for example, moved land use planning back into the 1950s. Still later, with the “Lands for Life” land use strategy, Premier Mike Harris failed to protect the majority of those areas most in need of conservation.
What’s more, in “completing” Ontario’s parks system, the Harris government cut a sweetheart deal with forestry companies by promising to relax the current 260-ha clear-cut limit, as well as financial compensation for land withdrawn from forest licences.
On the other side, there has been no provision of funds for future expansion of the parks system beyond the arbitrary 12 percent of the land and water base. And the Harris government has guaranteed the forest industry no further loss of their land base.
Even without changes to the land base, forest companies will find it increasingly difficult over the next 20 years to supply mills with economical wood. Regardless, the Harris government failed to bolster single-industry mill towns, like Fort Frances, by encouraging value-added and secondary manufacturing, which can generate five times more employment per cubic metre harvested than newsprint manufacturing.
Furthermore, the Harris government lacked the desire to create new jobs and diversify northern economics. Eco-tourism is the fastest-growing sector of the tourism industry yet the Tories have done nothing to expand and market Northern Ontario’s eco-tourism opportunities.
Clearly, Premier Mike Harris has not demonstrated an understanding of the inherent connection between ecological health and human physical, social, and economic health; he has not demonstrated a commitment to a more diverse, more economically stable north; and he has not shown a genuine concern for the next generation—and beyond.
(B. Ed., Hons. B.Sc.;
Fish & Wildlife