Save the MNR!
When you think of Ontario, what comes to mind?
For many of us, Ontario means the Canadian Shield. It
means forests and lakes. It means fish and wildlife. It means NATURE.
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources is
responsible for managing and protecting the natural world in Ontario on behalf
of all its citizens. Yet in the last 15 years, the MNR has seen this crucial
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union represents
over 4,300 MNR employees. We are devoted to restoring and rebuilding the MNR so
it can once again do the job that Ontarians want and expect it to do.
For more information about OPSEU, visit
Former Tory government cut hundreds of jobs
December 20, 2007 OPSEU Regional Vice-President
(Region 4) David Lundy sets the record straight on job losses in the
Brockville area. more..
Auditor General's report highlights need to protect
December 11, 2007 The
Auditor-General's report today reinforced longstanding
concerns of the union representing workers in the
Ministry of Natural Resources.
The funding crisis and the report of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario
On April 24, 2007, the Environmental Commissioner of
Ontario (ECO) told the public what staff in the Ministry of Natural Resources
already knew: The MNR does not have the money, the people, or the expertise
required to do its work.
In his report,
Doing Less with Less, Commissioner Gord Miller said that, in real
terms, the MNR budget was 18 per cent lower in 2006-07 than it was in 1992-93.
View videos by the
Environmental Commissioner. On a per capita basis, Miller said, MNR funding has gone from $72 per Ontario
citizen to just $49 – a 32 per cent cut. As a result, staff levels at the MNR
have dropped from over 5,300 full-time equivalent positions to roughly 3,500
Yet while budgets and staff have been cut back, the
MNR’s workload has grown. The MNR’s job is to be “the steward of Ontario’s
provincial parks, forests, fisheries, wildlife, mineral aggregates, petroleum
resources and the Crown land and water that make up 87 per cent of the
province.” It’s a big job that grows more complex every year. The ministry is
responsible for enforcing 53 different laws.
There is no part of the MNR that is not suffering, the
ECO report says.
Doing Less with Less looks at how the MNR is unable to
do its work in four key areas: aggregates, provincial parks, fish and wildlife
monitoring, and enforcement of conservation laws.
The aggregate industry
Ontario needs gravel. Our economy uses 14 tonnes of it
per person per year. While the Mike Harris government moved to a model of
increased self-regulation for the aggregate industry – a model that the current
government has not changed – the MNR is still responsible for overseeing some
6,000 pits and quarries. And while the ministry did hire a few more aggregate
inspectors in January 2007, “Some individual inspectors are responsible for as
many as 600 aggregate operations, although it is estimated that a staff person
can effectively oversee a maximum of 150 sites,” the Environmental Commissioner
As well, the ministry is unable to keep track of
abandoned pits and quarries to see if they are being rehabilitated by their
operators as required by law. The MNR believes 2,700 sites should be
rehabilitated. The industry says about 70 of them are a priority. The MNR can’t
do a thing about it.
Ontario spends less per campsite, per visit, and per
hectare of protected area than almost any other jurisdiction in North America.
For a detailed look at the state of our provincial parks, please visit the OPSEU
Fish and Wildlife monitoring
The total budget for the MNR’s Fish and Wildlife
Program (FWP) is about $74 million. Of this, the Ontario government contributes
just $12 million. The rest comes from fees collected from hunters, fishers, and
The FWP is supposed to protect species at risk, control
invasive species, manage wildlife diseases, stock fish, lead the government’s
biodiversity strategy, and much, much more. Right now, the MNR cannot even count
fish and wildlife, let alone monitor them. “Considerable evidence exists that
MNR lacks the capacity to meet its current obligations to conduct fish and
wildlife inventory, monitoring, assessment and reporting activities, despite the
efforts and expertise of its staff,” the Environmental Commissioner says. “The
burden on MNR to protect and manage our natural heritage will continue to grow
and its lack of capacity to provide adequate information for sound decision
making will become increasingly apparent.”
Enforcing conservation laws
About 200 Conservation
Officers (COs) are responsible for enforcing some 30 pieces of legislation
across the vast territory of Ontario.
The job of Conservation
Officers is to catch poachers, enforce firearms and boating laws, stop the
illegal trade in endangered species or wildlife parts, inspect fish markets,
respond to tips from the public, and more. But right now, COs can’t do what they
need to do. Every year, new logging roads open up vast areas of forest and new
lakes to hunting, fishing, and trapping. Since 1992-93, however, the number of
COs is down by about 20 per cent. What is equally bad is that COs no longer have
the budgets necessary to keep patrol vehicles in the field.
As a result, enforcement activity is falling. From
2004-05 to 2005-06, MNR statistics showed an 11 per cent reduction in the number
of fish and wildlife charges Conservation Officers laid, a 19 per cent reduction
in the number of convictions, and a 25 per cent reduction in the amount of fines
It all adds up to a field
day for poachers.
Historically, MNR offices
across Ontario were meeting places for all citizens who cared about natural
resources. No more. All MNR offices have closed their doors to the public. Now,
citizens who want information can’t get it, and citizens who have information
about what’s happening in “the bush” have no one to pass it on to.
Regulation of industry
Natural resources like
timber, gravel, oil, and gas contribute tens of billions of dollars to
Ontario’s economy every year. Hunting and fishing provide a livelihood for
thousands of outpost camp operators, guides, and other workers. The MNR is
responsible for ensuring compliance with laws and regulations related to private
use of public resources.
In 1996, the Mike Harris
government moved aggressively toward self-regulation for all resource-related
industries. Hundreds of staff involved in industry regulation lost their jobs.
Ongoing budget pressures since 2003 have not improved the situation.
The problem with resource
extraction today is not that resource violations may be occurring; it is simply
that, with so few staff, the MNR often has no way of knowing whether they are
occurring or not, let alone preventing them.
Sign our petition
To sign our online petition and help save the MNR,
To view signatures from our 2006 petition
For more information on the
OPSEU campaign to Save the MNR, please contact the members of the OPSEU
Enforcement and Renewal Committee for the Ministry:
Peter Wall, Hearst:
Dave Fluri, North Bay:
Ed Evens, Sioux Lookout: