it's hard to believe that tory-run Ontario could get any worse, environmentally speaking. In the past month alone, the Ministry of Natural Resources has created a new provincial park that allows for commercial hunt camps, and issued new logging rules that will allow for unlimited clear-cuts.
Now comes news via an e-mail leaked to the Animal Alliance of Canada that the Tories may be planning to bring back the highly controversial spring bear hunt, which was cancelled two years ago.
According to this message, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) received assurances on this score from the government in recent private meetings at an OFAH conference in Hamilton.
The office of Natural Resources Minister Jerry Ouellette confirms that the hunt's return is indeed on the table.
A committee appointed by the minister is expected to report soon.
"It is under review," a spokesperson says.
It does seem that as long as Jerry Ouellette is minister, he will continue acting as broker for the hunting and industry lobbies.
Says Animal Alliance spokesperson Liz White, "Jerry will send me invitations to his fundraisers but won't sit down with me to discuss policy. He won't return my calls."
An avid big game hunter and angler who ran a lumber operation before he entered politics, Ouellette's left a long trail of chopped trees and dead wildlife in his wake since his appointment. He's catered outright to special interests with a TV promo spot for the U.S.-based National Rifle Association (NRA).
Insiders say the obscure MPP from Oshawa was given the MNR posting as payback for helping Ernie Eves win the PC leadership. Ouellette, with the aid of "outdoors organizations," organized hunters to join the Tories and vote for Eves, or so the story goes.
He hass demonstrated over and over that he's the wrong person for the job and ought to be replaced.
Ouelette's mishandling of the Kawartha Highlands, a rugged central Ontario wilderness area, is another recent example.
After hearing from over 2,200 people at a cost of half a million dollars, a government-appointed stakeholder committee recommended that the area be protected as a provincial park. This proposal received widespread support from local communities and environmental groups.
However, rather than implementing the committee's recommendation, Ouellette instead introduced the Recreation Reserves Act, by which he attempted to turn the Kawarthas into a reserve for ATV (all-terrain vehicle) users, snowmobilers, sport hunters and commercial hunt camps. The bill didn't even mention the word "environment."
Realizing that this was a political firestorm that needed to be settled before an election could be called, the Eves government appointed MPP Chris Hodgson to come in and clean up the messy situation.
I was sitting in the members gallery at Queen's Park a few weeks back when it was announced that the Kawartha Highlands would be designated a provincial park. Ouellette grimaced and slouched in his chair.
Tory sources who have asked not to be named told me it was because of Ouellette's earlier antics that the premier decided to push the minister aside and deliver the announcement himself.
When I put it to Ouellette's spokesperson that the minister is seen as too cozy with the hunting lobby, the reply is, "We're not going to kill everything. That would be silly."