Wednesday 4 November 1992
Ministry of Natural Resources
Hon Bud Wildman, minister
George Tough, deputy minister
John F. Goodman, assistant deputy minister, corporate services division
Ray A. Riley, assistant deputy minister, operations
STANDING COMMITTEE ON ESTIMATES
*Chair / Président: Jackson, Cameron (Burlington South/-Sud PC)
*Acting Chair / Président suppléant: Haeck, Christel (St Catharines-Brock ND)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Présidente: Marland, Margaret (Mississauga South/-Sud PC)
*Bisson, Giles (Cochrane South/-Sud ND)
*Carr, Gary (Oakville South/-Sud PC)
*Eddy, Ron (Brant-Haldimand L)
Ferguson, Will, (Kitchener ND)
Frankford, Robert (Scarborough East/-Est ND)
*Lessard, Wayne (Windsor-Walkerville ND)
O'Connor, Larry (Durham-York ND)
Perruzza, Anthony (Downsview ND)
Ramsay, David (Timiskaming L)
Sorbara, Gregory S. (York Centre L)
Substitutions / Membres remplaçants:
*Brown, Michael A. (Algoma-Manitoulin L) for Mr Sorbara
*Haeck, Christel (St Catharines-Brock ND) for Mr Ferguson
*Johnson, Paul R. (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings/Prince Edward-Lennox-Hastings-Sud ND) for Mr Frankford
*Rizzo, Tony (Oakwood ND) for Mr Perruzza
*Wood, Len (Cochrane North/-Nord ND) for Mr O'Connor
*In attendance / présents
Clerk / Greffier: Decker, Todd
The committee met at 1540 in committee room 2.
MINISTRY OF NATURAL RESOURCES
The Chair (Mr Cameron Jackson): I'd like to call to order the standing committee on estimates. We have convened today to begin the estimates of the Ministry of Natural Resources. We have six hours of estimates that have been assigned to us by the House and I'd like to welcome the minister, the Honourable Bud Wildman.
Minister, you have up to 30 minutes to present your opening statement. If you'd please introduce your deputy we'll proceed in rotation: Mr Brown and then Mr Carr who, I understand, is going to present the concerns of the third party.
Mr Brown, do you have a question?
Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): Perhaps, before we get started, you could indicate to us what the ground rules will be in terms of the rotation questioning.
The Chair: I always try to leave that until after the opening statements are completed and let the committee get a sense of the minister's and the committee's feeling, and then they might feel comfortable enough to try any number of options. I try to respect the minister's wish and the committee's wish and you may wish to order up your approach differently. I generally wait until the first phase is completed before we lock in how we'll proceed, but the standing orders require that we proceed with the half-hour rotations, with opening statements and the final rebuttal. So Minister, we're in your hands.
Hon Bud Wildman (Minister of Natural Resources): Thank you, Mr Chair. I'd like to introduce George Tough. Most of you know that George is the Deputy Minister of Natural Resources, and it's a new experience for me to be sitting in this chair beside George. Usually I sit over where Mike's sitting -- in the past -- and have at him during these estimates, but I'm sure we'll get used to this new approach.
I'm pleased to present the estimates of the Ministry of Natural Resources for the fiscal year 1992-93. As Ontario's lead conservation agency, the Ministry of Natural Resources is the steward of provincial parks, forests, fisheries, wildlife, mineral aggregates, fossil fuels and crown lands and waters, which make up 87% of the province.
As you may have noticed from the estimates briefing book, our estimates are organized along different lines this year. If you look at pages 2 and 3 of the briefing book, the reason for this is that these are the first estimates to reflect the new organizational structure of the ministry after reorganization.
To deliver its mandate effectively, the ministry is now organized into four divisions: policy, operations, corporate services and information services. Our accounting procedures reflect these changes. However, let me assure the members of the committee that I, or members of the ministry staff, will be able to respond fully to any specific questions about spending estimates that may be asked in terms of the kind of structure we had in the past.
Over the past year, the ministry has accomplished a great deal over a wide range of policy and program areas. These achievements, which have come despite a climate of unprecedented fiscal pressure, demonstrate our strong commitment to developing the sustainability of Ontario's natural resources.
We remain committed to the provincial government's principal agenda of creating jobs, maintaining essential public services and controlling the deficit. A number of current initiatives support this agenda.
The forest industry action group, sustainable forestry and water efficiency strategy are contributing to long-term economic renewal.
Holistic approaches to managing resources on an ecosystem basis are being developed through the wildlife strategy, endangered spaces, and the revised strategic plan for Ontario's fisheries, SPOF II, as well as sustainable forestry.
Aboriginal self-government is being advanced through a number of initiatives.
The ministry fully supports the province's pay equity and employment equity initiatives and we might discuss those at greater length later.
The ministry's reorganization has provided some 250 additional staff to front-line positions, and more will be deployed over time, leading to a better resource resource management and improved customer service where the resources are and where the people who use those resources are.
Agreements signed with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union have enabled the ministry to convert more than 970 long-term contract positions to the permanent civil service. This is an important development and an indication of our commitment to treating better the people who deliver the services of the ministry and who are so important to the ministry's program.
Also, the ministry is relocating 700 main office positions to Peterborough and 200 positions to Haileybury as part of the Ontario government relocation program. The decisions of course were made prior to the change of government and were confirmed by this government. Advance moves are under way to both communities.
This year we have faced a number of very serious fiscal and strategic challenges. Fiscally, we are trying to cope with a series of expenditure reductions that began in 1990-91 as a result of the fiscal situation faced by the government. Along with 14 other ministries, our 1992-93 operating budget was reduced as part of the provincial government's plan to control the deficit.
At the same time, we are restructuring our policy focus to ensure the long-term health of ecosystems and the continued availability of the resource base for present and future generations.
We also face the need to make significant changes as a result of legislation and policy developments by other ministries; for example, aboriginal self-government initiatives, the upcoming environmental bill of rights and the terms and conditions to be set by the class environmental assessment on timber management, which we are hopeful will report in mid-1993.
We are honouring the job security guarantees made to staff as a result of our reorganization and relocation.
As a ministry, we must deal with our fiscal and strategic challenges in an open, creative and positive way. We are managing our expenditures carefully to ensure that we meet our corporate goals and objectives.
We are reviewing ministry programs to identify ways to become more efficient and effective, and putting a greater emphasis on quality service, teamwork, staff empowerment, improvements in technology and business practices, and increased consultation with the public, our staff, clients and partners.
To be prudent and responsible stewards of Ontario's natural resources, we must ensure that our policy process recognizes, but is not overwhelmed by, the continuing need for fiscal constraint. As much as possible, we must guard against actions which would severely limit our options in future to deliver resource management programs or erode the current infrastructure, which represents an investment in the future of this province.
In the time remaining, therefore, I'd like to describe the ministry's goal and strategic directions and some of our major achievements over the past year.
The ministry's overall goal, as stated in its strategic directions document, Direction '90s, is to contribute to the environmental, social and economic wellbeing of Ontario through the sustainable development of natural resources.
Our focus on sustainable development places an emphasis on sustainability as well as on development. In other words, we are moving towards an ecosystem approach to resource management which integrates environmental concerns with economic considerations at every stage of policy development and implementation.
We've identified three strategies which will contribute to developing the sustainability of Ontario's natural resources. They are valuing resources, partnerships and an improved knowledge base.
Within MNR, partnerships are important to how we deliver our mandate. Our management framework for partnerships includes definitions, policies, principles and guidelines designed to assist managers to implement partnerships.
In May, the ministry won the Institute of Public Administration of Canada's gold award for innovative management in government for our commitment to partnerships. Entries came from all provinces and levels of government in Canada which were in the competition, so it is a great achievement to be selected.
I'd like to deal with these three strategies.
The first is valuing resources. This recognizes that the value placed on a resource must reflect the costs of its depletion and renewal as well as the full benefits of preservation. It must go beyond economic value to reflect the relative worth of a much broader range of values: social, cultural, environmental, spiritual and aesthetic.
Improving our knowledge base will help us to make the right decisions on developing sustainability and an ecosystem approach to resource management. Ontario has put the importance of sound scientific research programs high on its agenda.
To achieve our goals, we need information and knowledge that is timely, relevant and accurate. We also need information technology to achieve important social goals in empowering communities and groups through access to information. We're working on several programs to enhance our knowledge base through our information resources division. These include:
-- Developing and using geographic information systems, or GIS, tools to help resource managers to plan and make faster and better decisions and help to better examine the relationship between resources.
-- Developing a GIS-based integrated natural resources inventory system. When completed, this common database will provide automated access to a wide range of resource information for our staff, partners and clients.
-- Continuing our work, in partnership with other ministries, municipalities, agencies and industry on the Ontario base mapping program, the foundation for most land-based digital information systems in Ontario.
-- Creating and marketing an attractive, bilingual Ontario wall map showing the whole province on the same scale on one sheet so we don't have the problem we've had for so long in the north with the north on the back of the map at a different scale.
Obviously, all of this is taking place in a difficult fiscal situation. As I mentioned earlier, MNR is committed to doing its share to help control the provincial deficit. During the 1992-93 fiscal year, we've had to defer or eliminate some program spending while continuing to promote key initiatives in support of our strategic directions and the province's agenda.
While our overall 1992-93 base budget is 0.5% less than our 1991-92 base, you must take into account that some of our 1992-93 increases are for ministry relocation, conversion of almost 1,000 employees to full-time employees, and inclusion of an average amount, over the last five years, for emergency firefighting are part of this year's base. They do not represent a real increase in program funding. Also, of course, we've been affected by in-year reduction. In terms of our ability to carry out the ministry's programs, therefore, our effective spending power has been reduced by more than 8% or over $50 million.
As part of our commitment to consultation on the MNR planning process, senior MNR staff and I met with representatives of more than 20 ministry client groups in September to outline the ministry's fiscal situation and to discuss some of the options we are developing to address these pressures. We will continue to seek the advice and involvement of our partners on an ongoing basis to ensure that we understand their views and concerns before any major decisions are taken.
In May 1991, I announced Ontario's commitment to sustainable forestry, a program that will change the direction of forest management in Ontario. Through the sustainable forestry program, we've begun to talk about holistic forest management in Ontario; that is, management of forest ecosystems.
The sustainable forestry program includes a series of policy, research and development initiatives designed to ensure healthy forest ecosystems while managing for a diverse range of values and benefits. They represent our first steps in translating the principles of sustainable forestry into action.
Sustainable forestry initiatives include:
An independent audit of lands harvested over the last 20 years in the northern boreal forest: The audit is due later this fall and will report on the impact of artificial and natural regeneration in those cutover areas.
A comprehensive forest policy framework is being developed by an independent panel through public consultation and is due by the end of 1992. This will provide us with a framework for forest policy for the first time in the province. We've had many many timber and wildlife policies. This is an attempt to have an integrated forestry policy.
We're also carrying out research and development into alternative methods to current silviculture practices for long-term ecosystem research and demonstration forestry.
We're also cutting back on aerial spraying of chemical herbicides and funding more research into effective alternatives to chemicals, such as the famous sheep experiment you probably heard about near Chapleau.
We have instituted four pilot projects for community forestry, one in Elk Lake, one in the Highway 11 corridor, one at Geraldton and one at Wikwemikong on Manitoulin Island. These are allowing these communities to increase decision-making in the management of their local forests.
A policy advisory committee is developing recommendations for a strategy for the conservation of Ontario's old-growth forest ecosystems as well.
I mentioned earlier the forest industry action group, which is a business, labour and government partnership begun in January 1992 and is working to tackle the many challenges facing Ontario's forest products industry in the current difficult market situation and for the future.
We are developing a new private woodlands strategy and have invited public comment on proposed changes to the Trees Act that would enable local governments to pass tree-cutting bylaws. I suspect we will be discussing this later on in the estimates debate.
There is also a project that will add to the ministry's knowledge of forest values and, along with a new forest revenue system, will reflect the true financial value of the resource.
In other forestry initiatives, 158 million trees were planted in Ontario this year; that's about 480,000 less than the previous year. Our forest regeneration program planted 128 million trees on crown land. An additional 30 million were planted on private land with the help of volunteers, private land owners, municipalities, first nations and other groups through a program called Operation Tree Plant, which the ministry undertook in cooperation with the Ontario Forestry Association.
In March, the ministry restructured its provincial nursery program to meet changing demand and to make our nursery operations more efficient and effective. The Chapleau and Gogama nurseries will stop production of bareroot seedlings in 1992, and the Midhurst and Thunder Bay nurseries will stop production no later than 1993. We will continue to grow bareroot seedlings in our other six nurseries and we will be able to meet the demand for bareroot stock in the province.
The ministry also cancelled its 1992 spraying programs for spruce and jack pine budwork in northern Ontario and for gypsy moth in southern Ontario, to reallocate $3.8 million in funding for higher-priority provincial forestry projects. The cancellation of the program is not expected to affect the health of the northern crown forest. In southern Ontario, the ministry developed an agreement to allow municipalities to arrange for spraying on private land to deal with gypsy moth.
As most of you I'm sure are aware, I'm also the minister responsible for native affairs as well as Minister of Natural Resources. It has been suggested from time to time that this may be a conflict of interest. On the contrary, I consider having the two portfolios to be an advantage, since in many cases resource issues and aboriginal issues are intertwined. Central to both portfolios is the sound management of the province's natural resources. If there were two different ministers in these portfolios, they would be faced with dealing with issues that have to be resolved, and they would be dealing with one another to resolve them. Having just one minister, it's my responsibility to resolve them for the benefit of the aboriginal people of the province and the non-native people of Ontario, to ensure proper resource management.
The Ministry of Natural Resources has put in place a number of policies and initiatives to support the province's aboriginal agenda. These include:
We have developed the interim enforcement policy, which deals with the aboriginal rights to hunt and fish for food which, as you know, has been confirmed by a number of court decisions, particularly the Sparrow decision and the Sioui decision by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Also, we are carrying out some discussions with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and the leadership of the aboriginal organizations in Ontario over definitions of conservation and how we can meet our obligations to protect conservation while at the same time ensuring that aboriginal people can exercise the rights they have in the Constitution and that have been upheld by the courts.
We are spending $1.4 million to continue to upgrade our ability to fight forest fires in remote northern communities and are reviewing fire management needs and practices in the far north. Of course, this has been an issue for many of the remote aboriginal communities where almost every year people are evacuated to places like Geraldton or Red Lake, usually because of smoke problems related to forest fires in the vicinity of their communities. These communities want to ensure that this can be changed in future and that we can avoid as many evacuations as possible.
We're also sponsoring a working committee with the Wabessemoong or Whitedog first nation near Kenora to plan and implement comanagement of natural resources on lands traditionally used by first nation members off their reserve. So far, this is an enormously successful development and a real change in the relationship between the provincial government, non-native communities and Whitedog. We're hopeful that it will have very beneficial results, both for the people of Whitedog and the surrounding communities.
We're establishing an interministerial team to deal with aboriginal concerns and resource development issues in the Moose River Basin in northeastern Ontario.
Also, we are involving aboriginal people in consultations on our endangered spaces project, which I'll speak about in a moment, which will establish new provincial parks and protected areas.
As part of our commitment to protecting Ontario's natural heritage, I announced in January that Ontario will accelerate the process of completing its endangered spaces protection program by the year 2000. This includes creating new parks and protected areas that have desired features not currently protected in Ontario.
As you know, 1993 is the centennial year for the Ontario provincial parks system. During that centennial celebration, the ministry hopes it will be in a position to announce some immediate additions to the parks and protected areas system in at least five site districts across the province.
The Ministry of Natural Resources is the lead agency in a provincial water efficiency strategy as well, the goal of which is to achieve zero growth in water use by the year 2011 through reduced use in homes, industries and government buildings. The strategy will provide immediate environmental and economic benefits and is part of the government's overall concern for water quality and better water management in the province. We have carried out an extensive consultation involving government, municipalities, the private sector, environmental groups and many other groups on this initiative, and so far it has met with overall enthusiastic support.
In June, the wetlands policy statement, a new protection measure for the Ontario wetlands, came into effect. It was issued under section 3 of the Planning Act. The policy directs municipalities and planning authorities to identify and protect provincially significant wetlands in southern Ontario and in northern Ontario. We are currently carrying on the classification of wetlands in the province, particularly in the north.
We have taken steps to enhance the protection, natural heritage and recreation values of Lake Superior Provincial Park, which happens to be in my own riding. Under the terms of the preliminary park management plan, which was released in July for public comment, logging will no longer be permitted in the park. At the same time, natural environment zones in the park will increase by 768 square kilometres. The decision to end logging was made following a review of timber management in the park and wide public consultation.
In August, the ministry invited the public to participate in the development of the class environmental assessment for provincial park management. At the same time, an information booklet about the management of Ontario's provincial parks and the parks class environmental assessment was widely distributed. The response has been good, and there will be further opportunities for the public to provide input and comments.
I want to deal with the matter of enforcement, which has been the subject of some controversy. The ministry remains committed to conservation and protection of Ontario's fish and wildlife resources. To achieve sustainable development, we need the public to understand and comply with the principles, practices, rules and regulations of conservation.
Conservation officers are an important part of the ministry's team that ensures compliance with the province's laws and regulations governing resources.
There has been no reduction this year in the number of conservation officers in Ontario. After reviewing concerns that we needed to provide a stronger enforcement presence on statutory holidays and in potential emergency situations, we have assigned officers to work on all statutory holidays for the balance of this fiscal year. We are also working with officers to develop a more flexible scheduling program to ensure that staff are on duty as required outside of normal working hours.
The ministry's increased involvement with the successful Crime Stoppers program is also helping to ensure greater protection of fish and wildlife through greater public involvement.
As I said earlier, we are committed to managing resources on an ecosystem basis in Ontario. The revised Strategic Plan for Ontario Fisheries, known as SPOF II, demonstrates the province's commitment to moving towards this approach. The plan focuses on effective management of healthy aquatic ecosystems rather than on single species or water bodies. The province adopted SPOF II as a policy direction in June 1991 and approved the implementation plan in June 1992.
Ontario commercial fishing operators will soon begin paying a royalty of 2% on the value of the fish they catch. The decision to charge a royalty is consistent with the strategy of valuing resources and with the principles of SPOF II. A joint MNR-industry committee will establish procedures for administering the royalty and will discuss the need for making future adjustments. The royalty will provide the province with up to $1 million annually in revenue if the harvest is good.
In response to long-standing requests by the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and other outdoors groups, Ontario will introduce a new weatherproof outdoors card on January 1, 1993. The cost of the card will be $6. This fee will cover the cost of bringing in the program; the startup costs are somewhere in the neighbourhood of $5 million. It is not a revenue generator for the province. The new card will make it easier to buy licences and will set the stage for future improvements to our licensing system, which will benefit hunters and anglers, licence issuers and ministry staff, and make the whole process more efficient.
Starting in 1993, resident anglers and hunters will need the card to buy a licence and to legally hunt or fish. A licence will be a sticker attached to the back of the card, eliminating the need for most paper licences. You'll be able to have all of your licences -- fish, small game, birds, moose, deer -- on the same card, and it will be waterproof so if you drop it in the snow or in the water, you won't be fishing around for a wet piece of paper.
Several changes are being proposed to Ontario's hunting and sports fishing licence system following extensive public consultation during the recent fishing and hunting licence review. We will be increasing the licence fee for the first time in three years. The amount works out to an annualized percentage increase of about 6.8% over three years, but in future, increases will be done on the basis of the rate of inflation on a yearly basis.
Among the proposed changes are a new conservation sports fishing licence, three-year licences, a new seven-day and a one-day licence for non-resident anglers, and a new fee structure, as I said, which reflects the greater cost of managing our fisheries and wildlife. The changes are designed to make the system more user-friendly and respond to the needs of the province's anglers and hunters and the tourism industry.
Throughout the past year, the ministry has worked with various federal, provincial and other agencies on initiatives to protect fish and wildlife species from disease, predators and overharvest.
In January, at my request, the federal government stopped shipments into Ontario of red deer that may be infected with a parasite not native to Ontario.
With the Canadian Wildlife Service, the ministry made changes to this fall's hunting season to protect Canada geese that breed on southern James Bay, in the James Bay lowlands.
Also, I'd like to add that I've read in the press, as many of you may have done, a report quoting officials of the Canadian Wildlife Service and the Ministry of Natural Resources regarding an undercover operation which led to many charges against hunters who had participated in the goose hunt on the James Bay lowlands. I was really gratified to see the comments particularly of the officials of the Canadian Wildlife Service about what they observed in regard to the aboriginal guides' approaches to the hunt and the statements that the guides were in fact trying to protect the resource and were advising hunters when they were overhunting. I think that may give us some evidence of what actually is happening when it is not known that enforcement officers are present, that in fact the aboriginal guides in the area are committed to the proper conservation of the resource.
With the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the Canadian Wildlife Service, Agriculture Canada and several US agencies, we are monitoring the impact of Newcastle disease, a viral infection that affects waterfowl.
With New York state, we are monitoring the status of Lake Ontario populations of alewife, a principal source of food for salmon and trout.
The ministry has also formed partnerships with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters to help slow the spread of zebra mussels and to rehabilitate bobwhite quail populations in southwestern Ontario.
This year the government was able to redirect funds to a number of ministry priorities through its Jobs Ontario initiative. In June and July, I announced a series of projects through the Jobs Ontario Capital fund in which MNR spent a total of $15 million to create more than 600 seasonal and longer-term jobs.
This year we also spent more than $11.5 million to provide summer jobs for more than 3,300 young people through the Environmental Youth Corps, Ontario Rangers -- the former Junior Rangers program -- Jobs Ontario Youth and Summer Experience programs.
Ladies and gentlemen of the committee, these are some of the accomplishments and challenges that have faced the Ministry of Natural Resources in 1992-93. Within the current fiscal environment, the ministry will continue to focus on its corporate goals and strategies as well as the government's policy agenda, to guide how it can best develop sustainability of Ontario's natural resources.
Obviously, there are many more ministry programs which I have not had time to discuss in my opening remarks and that I expect we will be dealing with during the estimates debate. I'd be happy to address any of these programs with committee members as we proceed through the estimates.
The Chair: Thank you, Minister. Mr Brown.
Mr Brown: The first thing I would like to do is congratulate the ministry on winning the gold medal from the Institute of Public Administration. As a northern MPP who deals with ministry staff on a rather regular basis, as I think all northern MPPs do in their own constituencies, I have always found, and I'm sure all members have always found, that the personnel and the staff of the ministry have always been most helpful and do a good job in serving the needs of myself and therefore my constituents. I think you should be commended on this award.
Hon Mr Wildman: Thank you.
Mr Brown: The second thing I think I should say is that this is a more complex ministry. In my six months as critic I'm developing more and more and more a sense of the complexities both of the land use issues and the various groups and needs in society today. As we go forward, I can only wish the minister and the ministry well in coping with that great diversity.
One of the things I find interesting, though, is what you said, Bud: "I have said before and Mr Tough, the deputy minister, is familiar with the view, that I think it is very difficult for MNR to continue to try to do more with less. A conjuror can do that, but Mr Tough and his colleagues are only competent conjurors so far."
Hon Mr Wildman: It's a nice phrase, eh?
Mr Brown: Yes, a nice turn of phrase. "I do not know how much they can do by sleight of hand to ensure that the ministry appears to be doing more when it in fact is budgeting less. How are we regenerating the forest without adequately ensuring that we are adding more to the budget to enable us to cut that backlog?"
That was Mr Wildman, estimates 1990.
I think we're all aware that the province is in difficult financial straits. We know that the provincial budget, on the expenditure side, has risen about 12% in real terms, adjusted for inflation, in only two years. That is a significant and huge increase in the spending of the province of Ontario. While revenues have not kept pace, we know that spending sure has.
When we look at the ministry and we look at your estimates, we find that there is a decrease, as you have pointed out in your opening statement, Minister, of a considerable amount of dollars in real terms. We are concerned. We're concerned that the words we hear do not match the numbers terribly well. We're concerned that the numbers are telling us something different.
If I look at the 1992-93 estimates, I notice that ministry administration is radically up. I assume -- you can help me with this -- that that is mostly relocation costs, but perhaps later on you can clarify that. What I thought was odd or at least different and needed some explanation is the line "Information Resources and Policy," which is increased 23% this year over the actual expenditure last year. We look at operations, and it is a 5.6% decrease.
That causes me some concern. Just looking at those numbers tells me that the actual work on the ground must be less, but that we're spending more money on information -- nice pamphlets, great stuff -- we're spending more money on studies, we're spending more money on a lot of things, and it's coming totally at the expense of what's happening on the ground. We would appreciate an explanation of how the priorities can be that far different: 23% increase for information resources and policy versus a 5.6% decrease for actually doing something.
In opposition you do not have the ability to have huge staffs to follow these things carefully, so this is an opportunity for us and for all members to understand some of the things that are going on.
We also notice in the estimates that there are 326 more employees in the ministry this year. We find that a little confusing, to say the least when we're seeing operations cut back. The other question that relates to that: What is the actual spending on salaries, wages and benefits for the employees of the ministry, year over year? For us, that would be a better indication than the pie charts. I'm not a big fan of the pie chart way of demonstrating because the pies often depend on how large they really are rather than the actual numbers. Perhaps the ministry could help us along those lines.
One of our great concerns over on this side is forest regeneration. We look at the estimates and we are not encouraged. There is a graph in here somewhere that shows the tending on land to be going in a downward slide that Eddie the Eagle wouldn't attempt to run down. It is untenable. I don't understand the policy of the ministry, and would appreciate some explanation of how we can cut that kind of money and that kind of work out of the forestry section and not expect, over the years, to be in a deficit situation that is worse than it is now.
The minister, over many years when he was sitting in this seat, would say the same thing I do. We know there is a great deficit, I guess is the way to explain it, in terms of regeneration on Ontario's crown lands. That didn't happen under this government, it didn't happen under the Liberal government and it didn't happen under Tory governments. It happened under all governments.
Hon Mr Wildman: The last 50 years.
Mr Brown: Yes. It is something where I think there's a great opportunity for the ministry to be correcting in this time of slightly decreased forest harvest. This would be a time when we could be making up for some lost ground if we had proactive forestry initiatives, regeneration, in the crown forests. Instead, we're going the other way rather radically. I find that difficult to understand and would appreciate some explanation of those issues.
I, like many other members, have heard from people in the crown nurseries and in the private tree seedling operations. They are very concerned about the future of those enterprises and crown units. I know that particularly the people in the tree seedling industry, that is, the private industry, are very concerned that they know nothing about what contracts are available for next year, which of course makes life very difficult for them in terms of doing planning for the next season. I would like some information on where we stand on those particular issues.
The famous Trees Act: I have now in my possession several hundred or maybe even a thousand cards protesting that particular initiative. We want some indication from the government about where we're at on that, what amendments might be suggested. Well, in fact we haven't seen any real legislation; we've only seen the consultation document. There's great concern among the northwestern loggers and northeastern loggers, both of which have been in to see me about those. I'm sure there is widespread concern, at least, about that issue in many parts of Ontario.
As recently as yesterday, it was brought to my attention that although the minister says he does not anticipate a real problem with dropping the spraying programs for spruce budworm and jack pine budworm, I have had the concern expressed that these are potentially a real problem in the very near future in the Muskoka area, I believe, and then some concern to the north of that. In the absence of alternatives that aren't presently acknowledged, we're wondering what the ministry's plans are there. It is fine to say, "We're not going to spray," but you had better have something else you're going to do if there's a problem in the forest. Without an alternative, I think it may be something very unacceptable to Ontario.
Changing a little bit, I'm concerned about the endangered spaces, in that as we move forward with this initiative, it seems to me we have numerous parks -- I wouldn't know the exact number; maybe the ministry can tell us -- that have not had park plans drawn for them as yet. As we proceed to look at new provincial lands in the provincial park system, I'm wondering where we're at with the crown land that is now provincial park and why we can't do something about dealing with those parks. I'm concerned about the parks in general. I'm concerned that the fees for those parks have increased this year. I want to know what the expectation of the ministry is for increased revenues from those parks. I noticed somewhere, in one of your charts here in estimates, that you were looking for increased usage of the parks. I'm not sure that's happening.
Hon Mr Wildman: This year it was up 13%.
Mr Brown: That's good, and your revenues more than that, I would take it.
Hon Mr Wildman: But they're not moneymakers, as you know.
Mr Brown: Yes, I know. The other issue along the lines of parks, and this is often much larger than parks, is the conservation authorities. I've visited several of those conservation authorities.
Hon Mr Wildman: Sorry; when I said up 13%, I was talking about last year. The weather this year had an effect on us.
Mr Brown: No kidding.
We talk about downloading. The conservation authorities are having great difficulty with an in-year subtraction of 5% from their allocation, which caused great difficulties for the people doing the great work -- and I believe it to be great work -- in the conservation authorities of this province.
I was not terribly familiar with conservation authorities and how they worked until I had the opportunity to visit some of them. Once you start to understand what they're doing out there and the dollars they're spending, they appear, at least to me, to be providing the province with an essential service that is cost-effective. It seems to me, being managed locally, they are doing very well, but are having great difficulties adjusting to the funding cutbacks.
When we move on, we talk a little bit about sporting issues -- the licence fees. This was a great issue for the minister at one point, when the minister was thoroughly convinced the government couldn't keep track of them in terms of the money coming in, although there was an attempt -- and I don't quite understand the logic of why we just give up trying to keep track of the expenditure of those funds.
Hon Mr Wildman: You mean the sports fishing?
Mr Brown: The sports fishing licence; sorry. It doesn't seem to me to be too onerous a task. It seems to be something the ministry could quite easily accomplish, yet we're seeing that totally removed from one of the things the ministry hopes to do.
The introduction of the outdoors card also concerns me to some extent. I may come at this a little bit differently from some. One of the things is the accessibility concern I have for the outdoors card in that I have -- and I'm sure the minister has in his own riding -- numerous places that issue licences on the spot. I know, under this system, that will be radically reduced, or at least I understand it will be radically reduced. If I'm wrong, then tell me.
Hon Mr Wildman: I think if we go to a computerized system in the future, that may be reduced, but we're not at that stage yet.
Mr Brown: There's great concern, and of course there's always the concern, of cost, because everything in the Ministry of Natural Resources today is: You pay more and you get less. That's the reality of what these budget numbers are telling me. People are concerned and always concerned, and the public has a right to be concerned when government is saying, "You pay more and you get less."
We understand that the zebra mussel program has been cut in half in terms of dollars. Partnerships are fine, but spending half as much money is an interesting way to approach what is a very serious problem in this province. We understand that the purple loosestrife program does not have funding, and that only through the Environmental Youth Corps is any work being done whatever.
We have concerns relating to the land use permits on crown land and the leases, and I think we can talk about that in more detail later.
We are also a little bit concerned -- well, more than a little bit. We are wondering about the progress of Bill 162 and where the minister sees that on the legislative agenda. I know that his good friend Mr Cooke has more to say about it than he does. Where is that on the legislative agenda? We would like an assurance from Mr Wildman that when we get second reading of 162, which I presume will happen some time, there will be public hearings to deal with some of the more contentious sections of those bills.
The other issue, I guess, relates directly to Mr Wildman's comments on being both the Minister of Natural Resources and the minister responsible for the native affairs directorate. As he knows, I and our party do not share his view on the way to resolve that.
The difficulty I see in the position is that nobody is necessarily clear about who's representing his or her particular interests under this present system and that it is difficult for people from the first nations, and people not from the first nations, to know which hat Mr Wildman is wearing at which particular time. As we go through the process of dealing with the land claims -- which, as Mr Wildman will know, I've been quite supportive of doing -- there's a difficulty in the communities, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, in understanding how this process works and how you get input into it at a particular time.
I would like the minister, as the Minister of Natural Resources, wearing the Minister of Natural Resources hat, to tell me what he thinks are the objectives of the Ministry of Natural Resources in dealing with these claims. Some time when he's at estimates for native affairs, he can tell them what he thinks his role is there, because it is very difficult for people to understand how these questions can in fact be settled when there is not a clear advocate for one side or the other. That's our concern.
I realize that the idea is to bring people together, not take them apart, but we think this system of using one minister for both has a potential of not satisfying either interest group. That's just a difference in approach that our party sees.
I'm also concerned on the land claims, and I think Mr Wildman would share my concern, that there is a difficulty in paying the price for correcting the wrong. What I'm concerned about are the third parties that are involved in these land claims. If the province of Ontario has the responsibility to correct the wrongs that have been done, to set things right, it seems unreasonable to me and to many people that only a small group of Ontarians will pay the price for correcting the wrong.
I would like the minister to assure us of third-party compensation in those cases, not only to individuals but to communities that can be affected, because if we cannot get a general consensus across this province on how to deal with these issues, it is going to be very difficult for any government to settle these issues in a way that is acceptable to all the people of Ontario.
While I have a lot more to talk about, I think I'll save it for direct questions.
The Chair: Mr Carr.
Mr Gary Carr (Oakville South): I welcome this opportunity to outline some of the concerns that I share with the PC caucus as well as the critic for Natural Resources, the member for Simcoe East, who is unable to be here.
Hon Mr Wildman: I understand he's out hunting.
Mr Carr: He has prepared some remarks, and I will say that up front, not to distance myself from the statement but rather to give him the credit where it's due. He has prepared a statement which I will read and get some of the points that he wanted to make.
I'd like to focus a major portion of my remarks on how this minister's misguided policies are threatening Ontario's forest management and jobs throughout the province. Then I would like to outline some of the areas we will be covering in more detail during our questioning of the minister.
We are very concerned that our forest management infrastructure is now being threatened by a government that has little regard for the long-term consequences of its actions.
It should be noted that it was the PC member from Nipissing who launched a major tending initiative back in 1985, because he believed, with the support of the government of the day, that this kind of investment in Ontario's forest was a direct investment in Ontario's wellbeing. This tending initiative was a multimillion-dollar program designed to complement accelerated efforts by both government and industry to grow and plant enough trees to sustain our forests and to sustain them environmentally as well as industrially.
While we make no claims of perfection, Ontario Progressive Conservatives take pride in the success of what we call an integrated approach to forest management during the 1980s. It was an approach that included the development and implementation of world-leading forest management agreements in partnership with the private sector. There was a renewed focus in terms of accelerated growing, planting and tending, as I've already indicated. It was also supported by a comprehensive fire management and pest control infrastructure among the best in the world.
During the 1980s, there was a vision and a plan with respect to forest renewal and sustainability in the province of Ontario. But I really don't think that's the case today. Somewhere along the line, driven in large part, I suspect, by quick fixes, narrow issues and vested interests, government has lopsided this commitment to our forest environment. The government has closed its eyes to the vision and set aside the plan. Instead, what's been happening today is we're now drifting directionless from pollster to Premier to headline to crisis. What's worse is we've now had a number of major policy decisions on the part of the current government that run counter to responsible resource management.
On February 12 of this year, the Minister of Natural Resources announced Operation Tree Plant, a stunning retreat in terms of Ontario's commitment to tree planting. Despite the fancy and somewhat misleading name of the program, what it means is the Ontario government is actually planting 35 million fewer trees this year as part of its traditional obligations. Sure, many of these trees will get planted, but probably in the wrong place and without proper tending afterwards at the expense of growing and unfulfilled needs elsewhere in the province.
This is not responsible and professional forest management. It is simply an ad hoc consolidation prize driven by a decision in the Premier's office to cut spending regardless of the consequences.
Then on March 24, the minister dropped the other shoe. He announced that four of Ontario's 10 tree nurseries will be closing, with two facilities in 1992 and the Thunder Bay and Midhurst sites in 1993. Again, this decision wasn't made on the basis of any long-term forest management consideration, vision or planning, but because of fiscal desperation.
Sure, they are attempting to put a good face on these policy changes in order to justify what they are doing, but by any objective measure, there isn't any question that what's happening seriously threatens forest regeneration and the future of our province's forest products industry.
The implications of this minister's misguided forest policy on the tree seedling industry and all those employed in it is obviously devastating. The ramifications for our forest are equally forbidding.
Obviously, this government's commitment to Ontario's forest is dead. Private nurseries are being methodically and deliberately put out of business because of this government's misguided forest policy. Let's face it, if the NDP were in opposition instead of government, it would be yelling and screaming about what's going on until it was blue in the face.
Hon Mr Wildman: Perhaps green in the face.
Mr Carr: Green in the face.
To add insult to injury, beyond the repercussions for the forestry industry itelf, these decisions are made at the height of a recession when we need this kind of investment the most.
The major effects of the MNR expenditure cuts will be felt in northern Ontario.
The Ontario Silviculture Association, an organization of companies that plant trees, estimates that 2,000 to 3,000 jobs, mostly for students, were eliminated in their industry this summer.
The ministry itself estimates that the closing of the four tree nurseries will cost 50 permanent staff and 180 temporary positions.
Thunder Bay city council recently endorsed a report from the local Tree Seedling Growers' Association which called on the NDP to ensure that 165 million trees are planted annually.
In the Thunder Bay region alone, the minister's cutbacks are costing an estimated 770 jobs, but the impact is being felt all across the province.
The cuts in the forestry regeneration program seriously jeopardize the future of our provincial forest products industry, an industry which supplies some 160,000 jobs in 40 communities.
What this minister and his government colleagues don't seem to understand is that if that forest industry cannot be assured of a reliable supply of wood in the future, investment will be directed to other jurisdictions.
Clearly, this government needs to be heading in a new direction.
At the same time, the industry is under pressure in terms of increased international competition, new and stronger environmental requirements, and cutbacks in pest control programs.
All this and more, and yet after two years in office we still don't have any comprehensive vision or management plan from the current administration.
I believe the solution lies in making a new and positive commitment to Ontario's forests, one that's bolstered by a long-term, comprehensive plan and sound professional management.
Mr Chairman, what I'd like to do too, now that I've finished the prepared remarks from Mr McLean, is to look for your guidance, whether timewise we should go on to a reply or start into questions.
Hon Mr Wildman: I'd like to reserve it for him later. If it's okay with my friend from Algoma-Manitoulin it's fine with me.
The Chair: I'd like to thank the Chairman for that suggestion. The member has up to 30 minutes to use any way he wishes, and he can yield the time or defer the time or utilize it for asking questions.
Mr Carr: Why don't I ask the questions then?
The Chair: If you so wish. The minister has 27 minutes for a rebuttal to respond to the opening statements. If you wish to proceed to ask some questions now, you have a fair bit of time. You have about another 20 minutes, actually. What would you like to do?
Mr Carr: The only concern I've got is, if I give up the time now, do we lose it? I'm looking for the Chair's guidance.
The Chair: No. Actually, if you suggest you want to use the time, you will get the time, but you are going to have to use some of it today because we're here till 6 o'clock. So I can't lead you. You have to tell me.
Mr Carr: I'll go into a couple of questions, but if there is some time reserved --
The Chair: You have 20 more minutes allocated to you, Mr Carr, and if you'd like to ask questions, please proceed. I'll tell you when your 30 minutes have expired.
Mr Carr: Okay, terrific. I'll start with your statement that you began with earlier today. On page 2 you talked about "agreements signed," and it's a bit of a long question if you attempt to follow me here, "with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union have enabled the ministry to convert 970 long-term contract positions to the permanent civil service." On page 3 you go on to say, "We are honouring the job security guarantees made to staff as a result of our reorganization and relocation." Before that you talk about, "Fiscally, we are trying to cope with a series of expenditure reductions that began back in 1990-91."
In other words, it seems to be that you're putting more people in. You're saying you're not losing any jobs, and yet you're spending less.
Hon Mr Wildman: Keep in mind those people are already working for us as non-classified people.
Mr Carr: But presumably, obviously they're getting at least the same amount. But you're saying on page 3 that you're honouring the commitments. If you're meeting payrolls with less money, what number of people have, for whatever reasons, decided not to relocate as part of the relocation/reorganization? We must still be down staffwise. How much will we be looking at overall?
Hon Mr Wildman: Do you want me to respond?
Mr Carr: No, I'll just keep going. I just wanted to make sure you had the questions.
There was a bit of a clarification on page 11 regarding the fishing and hunting licence review. It isn't in the written words here, but you said several changes are being proposed to the hunting and sports fishing licences, and you said the increase -- I think it was an ad lib -- was something in the neighbourhood of 6%, and you made a commitment to only increase it the rate of inflation. I wanted to know how many years that would be for. Is that just next year?
Hon Mr Wildman: On an annual basis.
Mr Carr: What period of time are we looking at? As long as you remain the minister? That was just a bit of clarification with that.
With regard to the ministry relocation -- and this is more of an update, which I guess you can probably get into maybe even in your reply -- some of the key issues that we will be looking at as a result of how many --
[Failure of sound system]
-- the job loss will be, and also a little bit of an idea --
The Chair: Excuse me, Mr Carr. I'm sorry, your mike's off.
Mr Carr: The red light's on.
Mr Brown: This was not planned.
Mr Carr: I used to see a lot of red lights in my former days, as a matter of fact. They're usually behind me now, hence the reason I'm here; if I could stop pucks, I probably wouldn't be. But we're having fun here anyway.
With regard to the conservation authorities, along the same lines, as you know, there are a number of caucus members, I suspect right across both parties, who have been approached by some of the local conservation authorities with regard to concerns over the cutbacks and subsequent operating problems. We'd like to get a bit of an idea, so that we can pass that information along, of exactly what your long-term plans are regarding that.
Also, with regard to the forest industry action group, a year ago I believe the minister appointed John Valley to head the forest industry action group to develop recommendations and action plans for improving the competitiveness of Ontario's forest industry. We have some questions regarding the work of the action group to date. We would like to know if the minister could fill us in on the plans for the future and what their assessment is of the Ontario forest industry. We're thinking more in terms of not only their work but the minister and the ministry's perceptions of what the plans should be, taking into account what this group has done. What I'm asking for is a little bit of a game plan with regard to the Ontario forestry industry.
Some of the other questions that we would like to discuss will be the gypsy moth program. Earlier this year the minister announced that the $3.8-million gypsy moth program was cancelled. I know he touched on it a little bit. We'd like to know the effects of the cancellation and what the plans will be for next year, and in terms of what the effects will be, if the minister could give us an honest assessment of what he sees happening.
With regard to the conservation officers' budget cuts, as you know, this is one that has been raised in the Legislature on a number of occasions. We still have some concerns over the levels of service in the ministry, and I know the minister did talk a little bit about some of the staffing, but could he give us some idea of his long-term plans and commitments and visions in that area?
Also, I know the minister touched on some of the areas of agreement with the aboriginals. Through the questioning over the next day, we have a few questions regarding native land claims and negotiations, particularly with regard to Algonquin Park. Again, on a number of occasions Mr McLean has expressed some concern regarding the secrecy of these negotiations. The recent release of the agreement signed on October 13 further illustrates this point. Could the minister give us an update of how that transpired and again go into a little bit more detail?
Also, regarding the operating costs within the ministry, with particular interest on the increases in the salaries and percentage increases, the staffing seems to be sometimes questionable during this economic recession -- if he could clarify that.
There's also the issue of the spending priorities. Earlier we talked about the effects of the minister's expenditure cuts and what it will do to the northern Ontario economy -- in the statement, rather. Interest groups involved with the forest industry have argued that they are continually putting money into government treasuries through the stumpage fees and licences. However, it's rarely returned through reforestation and other essential programs. This, I suspect, has been a long-standing concern. If the minister could just give us his idea and visions of what he sees -- maybe more than anything, probably, a justification for some of that.
I think I will leave it at that for now. That will give the minister some of the major concerns. Obviously, we have quite a few other questions that we will be having over the next day or so. We appreciate the minister and the staff being able to provide the information and we look forward to the answers and our ongoing discussions.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Carr. I should indicate, as well, to committee that the Chair has not received any special requests for individuals to attend before the committee. If there are, it is helpful to the minister and his staff to invite those individuals to attend.
Secondly, if there are any additional questions you'd like to table with the committee, they can be given to the clerk. Since the committee will have a week when we're not sitting and the staff are still working, that gives them an opportunity to prepare the responses to assist this committee when we reconvene on Tuesday the 17th, I'm told by the clerk. So we will receive any additional questions if you have them, and that is helpful to everyone.
Minister, I believe you have some time now for response.
Hon Mr Wildman: I want to thank my colleagues for their remarks, particularly Mike. I want to thank you for your complimentary remarks about the dedication and work of the staff of the Ministry of Natural Resources. I served as critic for many years, as you know, for my party. As you did, I was careful to point out that the ministry plays a very important role, particularly in our part of the province, and that the staff has always carried out its duties in a dedicated and responsible and --
Mr Brown: Professional.
Hon Mr Wildman: -- professional manner. I accept that we are dealing with a very complex and diverse ministry. We are responsible for the management of the resources across Ontario, and that leads to many diverse issues, as you've indicated, sometimes matters that have to be dealt with that are in conflict with one another, whether one's dealing with forestry management as opposed to remote tourism or aboriginal issues and so on.
One doesn't really just have to point to aboriginal issues. This minister, as Minister of Natural Resources, has to deal with conflicting issues all the time: whether we put a road into a lake that is a remote tourist operator's lodge location and we have the forest industry that wants to cut in the area. Of course, if a road is built, the local rod and gun club members want to be able to use that road to get in and hunt, fish and so on. So your comments with regard to my position as minister responsible for aboriginal issues as well as Minister of Natural Resources should, I think, take into account as well, that just as Minister of Natural Resources you have many conflicting issues and matters, and different groups you have to speak on behalf of sometimes are in conflict with one another. I'll deal with that at considerable length in a moment.
First, in dealing with forestry issues, both members of the opposition have raised this very serious problem. There's no question, despite what Mr Carr indicated, that we have a significant backlog in terms of regeneration and the cutover areas over the last 50 years in this province, if not longer. I recall reading at some length some years ago a report done in 1947 or 1948 by Kennedy, which talked about the serious difficulties we were facing in terms of regeneration. So while Mr Carr may think that his predecessors in his party had a great vision, they also had a great backlog.
This is something we have to deal with and have to face, all of us, whether it's industry or government. Society as a whole has a difficult situation that we have to face. I think part of the reason we've had this difficulty is that in the past, as I said in my earlier remarks, we have never had a forest policy that has taken into account timber values, which are of course very important in terms of the pulp and paper industry, the lumber industry and the many communities in northern Ontario that are dependent on those industries; but also the tourist values and the considerable economic benefit that provides for the province and particularly small communities in remote northern Ontario; the recreational values; fish and wildlife habitat; the aesthetic values of wilderness and wilderness preservation; old growth.
We have never had a comprehensive policy, and this government and this minister are determined to develop such a policy. We came into office with a commitment to dealing with the need for the development of this policy, and we are meeting that obligation. It would perhaps have been easier to develop the policy and carry out the widespread consultation that we are doing around the development of forest policy in the province in a time when we had increasing revenues. I guess we could have continued as before in terms of plantation and regeneration programs, and when we had completed the consultation process and developed the policy, we then could move to implementation, keeping in mind also that we are going to be receiving the directives of the timber management EA assessment and will be responsible for implementing those initiatives related to the environmental assessment panel's decisions, which will be complementary, we believe, to our sustainable forestry initiative. The fact is that silviculture generally has been underfunded in this province since 1986, even in the good years when there were increasing revenues for government. We are now facing particularly difficult problems as a result of our revenue pressures, so we have faced a situation where we have been attempting to meet our obligations with regard to silviculture and regeneration specifically at a time when our revenues are down and we are committed to the consultation process to develop a comprehensive policy.
We are determined to continue to do that. We can't continue piecemeal, we can't continue the ad hoc approaches that previous governments and industry have carried out in terms of forest policy.
I think generally we have a buy-in from the public, various interest groups and the industry on the need to develop a sustainable approach, an ecosystem approach, to forest management, and we are committed to bringing that forward.
In terms of the backlog itself in particular, I indicated in my earlier remarks that the audit on the boreal forest will be coming down in the very near future, in the next few weeks, with its report on regeneration in the cutover areas of the boreal forest in northern Ontario over the last 20 years. That report, hopefully, will give us some indication of what kinds of regeneration, on which kinds of sites, have been successful and which ones haven't.
We may find that on particular types of sites, natural regeneration has been successful or as successful as artificial regeneration. On other types of sites we may find that particular approaches to artificial regeneration are more beneficial. When we get that -- and we get it very soon -- and when we also have the benefit of the comprehensive forest policy panel's report, we will have a better idea of how we should approach proper forest management in the future.
I indicated in my remarks that we are determined to develop new partnerships, recognizing that we are moving into a new management regime and that we are facing very difficult fiscal pressures. We will be discussing with the industry and our partners new approaches and new ways of financing regeneration in the province. I'm looking forward to having considerable discussion over the next weeks and months with the industry to determine what approaches might be taken to improve the amounts of moneys available for regeneration of the various kinds we will be engaged in, and of course which types of regeneration would be most beneficial across northern Ontario in particular but across the whole province.
It was suggested by Mr Brown that we were spending a lot of money on information resources and policy, an increase of 23%, while our operations are down, and that we are putting more money into studies than into anything else, or at least at the expense of operations on the ground. I guess you could interpret it that way, but I think it's important for us to recognize that without proper information, the emphasis I placed in my opening remarks on an information and knowledge base, we are not going to be able to turn around the mismanagement of the resources we've faced over the last few years. When I say mismanagement, I'm not being critical of anyone in the ministry; they were simply operating in a system that placed a particular timber value perhaps above other values, and it also placed them in a particular situation with regard to regeneration, which I hope we will be able to turn around.
I think it's important, though, that we don't do this unilaterally, that we properly consult with the industry and environmental groups, with the tourist industry, with representatives of communities in northern Ontario and across the province. And this takes time; it has taken a little bit of time. I think it's quite remarkable, though, that we are going to get the report of the audit, for instance, in the amount of time we set aside. It was an enormous task. It was also not a very long time for the comprehensive panel to continue its work and complete it for next year, particularly when you consider how long we've been at the timber management EA. I thought it was important we do that.
Mr Brown: Who chairs that?
Hon Mr Wildman: It's not chaired by Elie, if that's what you're suggesting. But I'm sure we'll get a report, knowing what a patient man Elie is.
The Chair: Just how patient is he, and how long will we have to wait for it?
Hon Mr Wildman: Regeneration has always been a problem in this province for the last 50 to 70 years, whether it was the responsibility of the industry or the ministry. We've tried various regimes: we've had the ministry responsible; we've had the industry responsible; we've gone to the FMA agreements Mr Carr referred to, where the industry was responsible for carrying out the project under certain criteria and funding was provided by the public.
But we've never had enough dollars, whether it was the industry that was responsible directly or the government or a shared responsibility; the balance has never been proper. I think the processes we're engaged in now will help us to achieve a better balance for the future and then to enter into agreements and discussions about how we can ensure that the approaches we will be taking will be properly funded.
For some years now, the backlog has been growing because we haven't been regenerating everything that was cut over. On the other hand, we don't have a good handle -- and hopefully the audit will help us with this -- on the actual state of the resource on the areas that have not been artificially regenerated and assessed, the so-called NSR, not satisfactorily regenerated. Hopefully, the boreal forest audit will give us a better idea of what resources there are in some of those sites and how this might benefit the industry and the communities dependent on the industry in the future.
There were comments made by both my colleagues about the nurseries. The fact is that the nurseries that are owned and operated by the government, the bareroot stock, were operating only at 75% capacity last year, and if we had continued them they would have been operating this year at 45% capacity. That's not efficient and it's certainly not cost-effective. The fact is that the demand for bareroot stock has been declining for a number of reasons. It's harder to handle than container stock that is produced in the private nurseries, and as a result it costs more. It costs about $100 more per 1,000 seedlings to use bareroot stock than container stock, so the demand has been declining, although there are some sites on which it's better to use bareroot stock. We are confident that with the six nurseries we now have, we are going to be able to meet the demand for bareroot stock, and that it is going to be a more efficient operation than we've had in the past.
There are job guarantees for permanent staff that were alluded to in the context of relocation which also apply in terms of the permanent nursery staff.
The question of the seedling contracts for private seedling nurseries and for tree-planting companies has been raised. It is certainly true that normally we would be able to let the contracts in September. This year, we have been delayed because we have been looking at our fiscal situation and trying to determine how we can best meet our obligations. We hope we will be able to have the decisions made and the contracts arrived at before the end of this calendar year. We know that has given some difficulty to the private nurseries, but over the next few weeks we will be discussing with them how we can give them an indication of what the needs are going to be for the future. It's been pointed out that over the last number of years, approximately 165 million seedlings were planted each year. That's $1 a seedling, which works out to about $165 million, and this year we did not have that many dollars for planting. It was suggested though, I think, that we were planting approximately 33 million less trees, when in fact that's not the case. In fact, it was a little less than 500,000 fewer trees.
Through Operation Tree Plant we were able to plant, through the efforts of many different groups and individuals and land owners, 27 million trees in southern Ontario and approximately four million trees in northern Ontario. This is a tremendous success, and I think it's a tribute to the commitment of the people in Ontario to greening the province and to ensuring that we could plant those seedlings.
The Trees Act: I don't think I'm going to be in any way confrontational in pointing out to my friend the member for Algoma-Manitoulin that the Trees Act proposals and the review and the committee set up to review them were set up by his government, not mine. We are simply responding to the requests of a number of municipalities in the province that asked for the review and we're responding to the committee recommendations.
As you know, it's a very old act, first passed in 1946. I say it's old; that's the same age I am. It means that counties in southern Ontario can in fact pass bylaws that will control the cutting of trees on private lands and there are many counties in southern Ontario that have had bylaws for some time.
There are a number of other areas of the province that because of the way the act is set up, are not able to do this. Metropolitan Toronto, for instance, cannot pass such bylaws because it isn't a county government, and in those parts of northern Ontario where we do not have counties, the municipalities cannot pass such bylaws if they so wish.
I should point out that on the advisory committee there was a representative of a small northern municipality -- actually by coincidence, and it is just a coincidence, he's from my own constituency, Reeve Jim Slumskie of the township of St Joseph on St Joseph Island -- on that committee that made a number of recommendations. Two things have to be remembered. What we're talking about here is permissive legislation. It does not require a municipality to do anything. It simply gives a municipality the ability to pass a bylaw if its ratepayers wish such a bylaw to be passed. The recommendations of the committee are for a number of changes: increases in fines, enabling the municipalities that now cannot avail themselves of this permissive legislation to do so, if they wish.
We went into a second consultation because we wanted to ensure that we got the views of the public and all of the interest groups on the recommendations of the committee. That was to be finished in June, but because of the tremendous interest I extended it to the end of September. We are now in the process of analysing all the many, many views and expressions of opinion that we've received from across Ontario and that review, when it is completed, hopefully in the next month or so, will come forward with some recommendations to me. Then I will be determining what the government will do, if anything, and we'll be announcing that to the Legislature.
It's been a very widespread consultation and it's certainly not anything that either my predecessor, Mrs McLeod, or myself has tried to put over on anybody or sneak through. I'm not suggesting you said that, but that has been suggested by some of the people you quoted, for instance, the Northwestern Ontario Loggers Association.
The aerial spraying: The member for Algoma-Manitoulin indicated that he thought the cutback in spraying on budworm might be a problem in Muskoka. I suspect he meant gypsy moth in Muskoka. Gypsy moth is an exotic that has come into the province and has certainly caused a great deal of havoc in terms of defoliating trees, and it is a real problem, particularly in cottage country. It is not usually life-threatening to the tree, unless the tree is stressed in some other way, but it can be a real problem and aesthetically is certainly not very pleasant.
As I indicated in my remarks, in cutting the program we have made arrangements to allow municipalities to continue the program, and there are financial arrangements in terms of insurance and so on that we are involved with that will enable municipalities, if they wish to go ahead, to carry out the spraying program.
The budworm spraying in northern Ontario, particularly for jack pine and spruce, is an important issue, and we are hoping that the timber management EA will give us some further directions with regard to aerial spraying, among other things. But we don't believe a one-year cut in the spray program threatens the health of the forest.
There is a real question, though, on whether or not we should be doing aerial spraying, and if we should be, to what extent and on what kinds of sites we should be doing that kind of control, and whether or not we should be using chemical sprays.
I think there is a great deal of acceptance in terms of the use of Bt, which is an organic control agent, but that's why, as part of our sustainable forestry initiative, we are putting so much effort and resources into research, to look at how we can properly control pests and deal with the need for pesticides and herbicides that are not chemical-based but rather are organic, or whether we can use other agents. I mentioned the sheep program in terms of herbicides and dealing with unwanted vegetation, and we have VMAP, the vegetation management alternatives program, which is a program that's part of our sustainable forestry for looking at new ways and alternatives to chemical sprays.
Mr Brown: It keeps the wolves happy.
Hon Mr Wildman: Actually, we haven't had a lot of predator problems in this whole approach. That is one of the issues, though, that we have to look at.
The endangered species program: It is true that we have a number of parks in the province that we haven't completed management plans for. We are working on those management plans and it is largely related to the amount of resources that we have available to complete them. I mentioned in my remarks that we have completed the Lake Superior Provincial Park management plan, and we made a significant move to end logging in that provincial park.
The fees for provincial parks were mentioned. There has been a lot of controversy and concern raised by seniors in the province in that previously they did not have to pay during the week, on weekdays, and they paid half the fee on the weekend. This year, as part of our initiative to ensure accessibility to the parks, we extended that half-fee schedule to people who are mobility-disabled, and at the same time extended the half-fee level throughout the week to seniors as a way of balancing off. While there has been some concern raised, we are recognizing the contribution of seniors to the province by maintaining a half-fee level.
The conservation authorities: We have had a lot of controversy between the provincial government, conservation authorities and the municipalities in the province over proper funding for the conservation authorities. As a result of the disagreements and the two reviews that were gone through by the previous government, which never went anywhere, we set up a liaison committee involving the municipalities of Ontario, the conservation authorities association and the ministry staff, including myself. I chaired it. We went through a lot of discussion and came to significant agreements on, among other things, a funding formula. It was, frankly, surprising we were able to reach a consensus, considering the difference of views among all those involved.
We have obviously had difficulty, though, meeting the funding levels, and there have been cutbacks. We have cut back on the CA budget in an amount equivalent to the overall cutback of the ministry itself. We've done that, but we also transferred funds from capital to operating, first on a one-year basis and then we extended that on an ongoing basis.
I'm being told I'm at time. I would look forward to discussing questions around the changes in the fishing licenses, the outdoors card, zebra mussels and Bill 162 during our discussion of the estimates.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Minister. Now I'm very much in the committee's hands to entertain a brief discussion on how you wish to proceed with the remaining estimates.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Maybe just proceed the same way we have been, just dividing the time equally among the parties.
The Chair: Is there consensus in that regard? Mr Brown is agreeable. Mr Carr? That's fine.
Mr Bisson: I just wanted to make sure I was on the list for questions.
The Chair: I have you on the list. That's fine.
Mr Brown: Mr Chair, just to be fair to the government members who are here, perhaps we'll just divide the remaining time today into equal sections. The committee's not around for another two weeks, I guess.
The Chair: A week and a half; we won't meet for a full week. Okay, that's fine. Mr Brown, please proceed for what amounts to about 13 minutes.
Mr Brown: I appreciate the minister's comments, but I guess we fundamentally disagree that you can't chew gum and walk at the same time, which is essentially what the minister's saying about regeneration, I believe, and doing studies.
Hon Mr Wildman: I thought you were talking about me.
Mr Brown: Actually, it's Gerry Ford, but let's not get carried away. Fundamentally, I think you can be regenerating the forest while you're looking for new and improved and better ways.
Hon Mr Wildman: If you have the money.
Mr Brown: I guess that's the question, if you have money. When there's a 13% real increase in government expenditures across the board, we're looking at a ministry with a decline. Particularly as a northerner, I see the same thing happening in the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines: It's down about $58 million. We have some difficulty in the government's commitment to the industries that make the north operate when we have 18% unemployment.
The question I had that I don't think we got around to answering is the 326 additional employees the government is using under these estimates. We didn't quite understand.
Hon Mr Wildman: Do you want me to respond to that now?
Mr Brown: I guess that's what we're doing.
Hon Mr Wildman: I'd like George or one of the members of the staff to deal more specifically with that, but let's not get the impression here that we are not regenerating the forest. The fact is that we are regenerating the forest. My comments earlier, though, were to say that we aren't regenerating all cutover areas artificially. There may in fact be natural regeneration, and the boreal audit will help us with that on certain sites that will produce fibre that is useful and valuable for the industry and also produce forest growth that will provide for all the other values we think are important in terms of a forest policy. So we are regenerating the forests.
As I indicated to you, in terms of planting, which is just one very small part of regeneration -- an important part, but one part of it -- last year we only cut back about half a million seedlings, despite significant pressure.
The question of tending is one that is significant and very important. Hopefully, the audit will help us in that regard, in terms of giving us indications of where we should be going with tending. I guess you'll recall that during the period of the accord between 1985 and 1987, one of the agreements that the Liberals made to the NDP was that we would indeed have an on-the-ground audit in 1985. To give the government credit, it did in fact contract with Dr Baskerville of the University of New Brunswick to do work for the ministry in that regard. The work he did was useful, but it wasn't an on-the-ground audit. In fact, what he did was he came in and looked at the record-keeping of the ministry and looked at a number of the figures, and came to the conclusion that the inventory was not being properly used, among other things. That information was useful, but what should have taken place in 1985, when we had lots of money, did not take place. We did not have an on-the-ground audit, and we're having it now.
Mr Brown: You've got just as much money today as you ever had. You've just borrowed it instead.
Hon Mr Wildman: Well, if the member is suggesting we should increase borrowing and have a higher deficit --
Mr Brown: No, I'm not suggesting that.
Hon Mr Wildman: -- then I guess we could move in that regard. I don't think his friend Mr Carr would agree with that approach.
Mr Brown: No, and I'm not suggesting that, either.
Hon Mr Wildman: We could have done the audit seven years ago, and you didn't do it. You were overflowing with money -- the government, I mean -- in 1985. We were in a boom, there were more revenues than this province has ever seen, and we didn't do the audit. We should have done it.
We're damn sure that we're getting it done and it's going to be completed this month. We're going to have a report that will give us information that we could have acted on seven years ago, but we didn't because your government didn't do it.
The Chair: So there. That helps us a lot today.
Hon Mr Wildman: And we will be moving in this regard.
The Chair: Minister, if I might interrupt you, there are only 13 minutes allocated per group. We have a very short period of time. It would be helpful to Mr Brown -- otherwise, I'm sure he will give you 80 or 90 questions in writing. If we could maybe tighten it up a little, it would be helpful to the committee and more questions could be dealt with.
Mr Brown: Thank you, Mr Chair.
Hon Mr Wildman: All right. I'm sorry, Mr Chair. I was carried away with my enthusiasm about the boreal forest audit, which will indeed give us the information we should have had before and will help us to properly manage the resources.
The specific question was in regard to 320 additional staff. I did talk about the conversions, and perhaps George could talk about the specifics.
Mr George Tough: Thank you, Minister. There is no perfect way to measure the size of our unclassified staff. It fluctuates, as you know, from month to month, and you can see from the charts that were provided in the estimates book that that is probably the best way to measure that.
If everything else had stayed the same -- and Mr Carr talked about this as well -- when we did the conversions of those unclassified staff to the classified ranks, it would have increased the classified ranks by something like 943 people and it would have reduced the unclassified staff by the same amount. That didn't happen, according to these charts, because we had other forces at work, including a fire season, including some other activities that were going on there -- and they're noted in the document, such as the positive impact on the ministry staffing from the anti-recession program. So we have not added, as a permanent feature, to the complement of the ministry.
As the chart points out, we have added to the full-time classified staff by the conversion of those people who, I might just mention, were people who had 43 weeks a year employment with us. That was the cutoff point. I think we were quite quickly persuaded that this wasn't really seasonal employment and that they ought to be part of the classified staff. We got assistance from the centre to provide the additional salary and benefits associated with that, so that we did not increase the overall complement of the ministry by that action. I think that shows in the chart much better than it does in the table.
Hon Mr Wildman: I think, if we had the figures for this summer, that considering the very lucky situation we were in with regard to the fire season because of the wet summer we had, you'd see that the numbers would be somewhat less. We had a couple of major fires, but not very many.
Mr Brown: Perhaps a better way -- I think I asked this question too -- was what the year-to-year difference in payroll is.
Mr Tough: There is a payroll number for the year in question in the estimates. John, have you got that?
Mr John Goodman: I can give you a summary, Mr Chairman, of year-to-year. In the 1991-92 printed estimates, this ministry had a payroll in the order of $258.1 million. This year's printed estimates are $288.1 million. There's a difference there of $29.9 million. That's a result of a whole host of reasons, one being salary awards for the bargaining unit staff and money associated with the new initiatives that were provided under sustainable forestry and the other new initiatives. So in fact the actual salary and benefits has increased $29.9 million year-to-year from the printed estimates.
Hon Mr Wildman: There were a number of grievances with regard to categories, which were settled, and that led to an increase in the salary part.
Mr Goodman: Exactly. There was an engineers' grievance, there was a conservation --
Hon Mr Wildman: Conservation authority salaries have gone up, what, about 90% since 1989?
Mr Goodman: Yes.
Mr Brown: Just so I can understand this --
Hon Mr Wildman: Conservation officers, I mean.
Mr Brown: The numbers you've quoted -- we all know that in a fire season, if you have a particularly heavy fire season, the numbers sometimes become exaggerated -- that was a favourite question of yours, Mr Wildman -- when we compare budgets year-to-year because they never fully take into account a bad fire year. So you're saying on estimates it's up $29.9 million, taking out what might be the aberration caused by a bad fire season.
Mr Goodman: That's right.
Mr Brown: Okay. I want to come back to the forest-tending issue. If we look at the chart -- it is just about falling off the chart at the moment. So if we're talking natural regeneration and we're not out there doing that kind of ground and site preparation generally associated with doing that kind of thing, and if we're not tending the forests that are there, then the interesting thing about your comments about trees being planted -- I can't quite recall your number. You can help me. How many trees were actually planted on crown land? You're talking about 30 million being planted on private lands, but on crown land, the actual reduction was what?
Hon Mr Wildman: We are what, about 135?
Mr Goodman: It was 165 total.
Hon Mr Wildman: Trees -- I know, but on crown land?
Mr Goodman: Oh.
Hon Mr Wildman: No, on crown land I think it's about 139 or something.
I think the question of tending, though, is a very important one and I want to give one of my predecessors credit. Alan Pope, as Minister of Natural Resources, significantly increased the numbers of seedlings that were generated in seedling nurseries and also the numbers of seedlings planted each year. I think he would agree, and I think my colleague from the Conservative Party pointed out, that his leader, when he had a short sojourn as minister, indicated that there should be an increase in tending because we were planting a significantly larger number of seedlings but we weren't having a concomitant increase in tending. So while we were getting more seedlings into the ground, what was significant was how many trees would be growing in those sites five years, 10 years after the planting. Without proper tending, that was a problem. That still remains a problem and we must have a better commitment to tending.
The boreal forest audit may in fact tell us that in some areas we should be increasing site prep and tending; in other areas we should, perhaps, be doing less, depending on the various types of sites and the species involved, so we'll see.
Mr Brown: In the meantime, I'm looking at the chart. Compared to the 1987-88 we're at 20 million hectares below that -- I'm getting a signal from the Chairman -- and 50 million approximately below what it was in 1989-90. It is radical in the change.
Hon Mr Wildman: Yes, that's right.
Mr Brown: I guess we'll pursue this next time around.
The Chair: A brief response, if you wish, Minister, to that last question.
Hon Mr Wildman: No, I think I've already responded. I think I agree with my friend.
Mr Carr: I'll jump in with a question regarding my own area. It's regarding the Bronte Creek Provincial Park. I wanted to get some idea, and hopefully there will be somebody here who would be able to help us out with regard to an update on what's happening with Bronte in terms of the reasons behind it, where we're at, the discussions that have taken place and so on.
Hon Mr Wildman: Because of the fiscal pressures that the ministry was facing, the funding we had for parks and our commitment to partnerships, we tried to identify if there were any changes we could have in the parks program that would make it possible for us to continue operating parks across the province that might otherwise not be possible if we had a major cutback in the parks budget. We looked at Bronte, and Bronte, unlike many of the other parks that we operate in the province, is a very important recreational asset for the area where it's located, for the communities that you represent as well as, I guess, the Chair.
The Chair: I live a block and a half from it.
Hon Mr Wildman: The conservation authority had indicated some interest in taking over operation of Bronte. We decided that if we were able to make an arrangement with the conservation authority where it would take over the protection of the park and the park's values and the operation of the park, that would then free up enough resources for the ministry, in our parks budget, that would make it possible for us to continue operating many other parks that we might not have been able to at least keep green. We would have kept them green anyway.
What we did was enter into negotiations with the conservation authority, making clear that there were a number of base positions we were taking: that the park's values must be protected, that the asset must be protected and that there would have to be some security protections for the jobs of the people involved. We're currently involved in negotiations. I don't know if there's someone here who can bring me up to date on the exact situation we are in in terms of the negotiations. They have gone on a little longer than we thought they were going to take, because of our commitment to protecting the park's values.
Mr Carr: I don't know if they want to come forward. I don't see anybody.
Hon Mr Wildman: We can have that next time.
The Chair: Yes. Could we get a written update on that and/or could the individual attend for the next meeting for questioning?
Mr Carr: I guess what I could do is clarify it. First of all -- I meant to say this in the beginning -- having spent some time in estimates, I know that people are very proud of their ministry and have a great deal of detail in order, but the time is limited. Just by way of procedure, if I say thank you rather than interrupt you, it's because I've got what I want, without being too impolite, because I know we have staff who know a great deal --
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Carr.
Mr Carr: Politicians are excluded. The questions, specifically, are not only for Bronte. The questions I would have are, how much are we looking to save with Bronte and then across the province, and what's going to happen with the saving. On the answer you had with regard to the guarantees of staffing and keeping the parks intact and so on, could I get in hard copy what the criteria will be, the guidelines, and for how long and all the details? I think you have an idea of what we're looking at with that.
Hon Mr Wildman: We can get that for you. I just want to make one very brief comment, that our commitment is to maintaining and protecting those green spaces. Whatever final decisions might be taken, that remains our commitment.
Mr Carr: Okay, good. Thank you. I appreciate that very much.
With regard to the nursery closings, I'd like to get a little more specific. When you announced that four of the 10 would be closing, you talked a little bit about the capacity. Could you maybe explain to us how much will be saved and what will happen with that saving? I'm thinking now of what may happen with buildings and equipment. What are you anticipating the saving will be, and what's going to be done with that money? Does it get plowed back into the ministry, into your general revenue, or the province's? What's going to happen with some of the saving that was a result of it?
Hon Mr Wildman: Perhaps Ray Riley, as assistant deputy minister, would be able to make some comments. Just before he begins, though, I want to indicate that one of the criteria that we used for determining which of the nurseries might be closed was, first off, were they located in a community where there were not very many alternatives in employment? We kept those ones open. Also, were they located in communities where there might be other agencies that might be able to make use of those facilities, maintain the green space that might be associated with the nurseries and use the lab facilities or the greenhouse facilities for other things? Thunder Bay is an example of that, as one of the reasons we made that decision.
Perhaps, Ray, you could talk to the question of how much we would be saving and how that money might be used and how the facilities might be used in the future.
Mr Ray Riley: If my memory serves me correctly, the figure was about $4.5 million in total that we were looking at saving as a result of that closure, through the efficiencies of growing that stock more intensively in the remaining six nurseries. That money would have gone into other forestry initiatives in one format or another, but you can never trace those dollars through the system. What it gives you is some flexibility down the piece. Where did it go? I can't tell you, because there's money moving through the system all the time.
In the context of the buildings, in the context of the land base, we will be sitting on those facilities -- I'm thinking now of the two facilities up in Chapleau and Gogama -- for a period of time to see indeed what opportunities we may have to either turn them into other opportunities for the ministry or, conversely, turn them over to the communities; or there may well be development that may be looking at moving ahead in those communities, and if we can help in that context, good.
The Thunder Bay nursery is one of the largest ones we have. It has a lot of green space. Some of that will certainly go over to the conservation authority. Some of the other space will sit there until we get a plan put together that looks at opportunities and options around the focus, but we're at least a year away from pulling up stakes.
Some of the buildings will continue to be used by the ministry, particularly the cold storage facilities -- we will move stock through there -- and our northern Ontario technology development unit works out of that facility as well.
Hon Mr Wildman: Also, there may be some opportunities with regard to the university in Thunder Bay using --
Mr Riley: That's right.
Mr Carr: So what portion of that $4.5 million, if I get it right, would be involved in salaries?
Mr Riley: We had about 50 staff on full-time in the four of them. The rest would have been summer staff who would come in anywhere from six months to two weeks, depending on circumstances. A lot of that would have been -- I'm going to guess now.
Mr Carr: I'd like a percentage.
Mr Riley: Let's say 50%.
Hon Mr Wildman: There are job guarantees for those permanent staff, and that was one of the factors in determining which ones we closed. For instance, Thunder Bay and Midhurst, which will be closing next year, are located close to other MNR facilities. Those permanent staff then will be able to be transferred, with a job guarantee, within a 40-kilometre radius to other MNR operations.
Mr Carr: That $4.5 million is real? That's what the saving is? In other words, you don't say we saved that and then transfer it to another area. The saving was $4.5 million.
Mr Riley: That does not include the salaries of the permanent staff who would have been involved in those nurseries. That would involve though the temporary staff that would come on.
Mr Carr: Which is about 180. With regard to the displaced employees in the relocation, where did they all go? The 50 employees, where did they end up? Hon Mr Wildman: They will be deployed in other ministry operations where they can be fitted in.
Mr Carr: So nobody of the permanent lost their --
Hon Mr Wildman: No, no permanent loss. Also, we made a commitment to the temporary or the non-classified employees that we would attempt to get involved with the Ministry of Labour on job training or alternative types of adjustment programs.
Mr Carr: What you seem to be saying, Minister, is that it was driven more by a jobs consideration; in other words, you looked at the communities based on the jobs. That would seem to be strange.
Hon Mr Wildman: No, sorry. I don't want to give you the wrong impression. The first decision was made on the basis of efficiency of the remaining nurseries and the demand for bareroot stock. That was the decision on whether or not we would close nurseries. Then, when we made a decision that we didn't want to be operating at 45%, that we would hope to increase it to 75% -- not maintain but increase; I think I misspoke myself earlier -- then we had to decide where. When we looked at where we would, it was on the basis of the operation of the nursery itself; also, whether there were opportunities within a 40-kilometre radius for those permanent employees to find other employment in the ministry or in the government; and also the effect on the communities. In some of the communities, for instance Orono, as an example, that's really the only major employer for people, and we decided we wanted to protect the economic base it provides for that very small community.
Mr Carr: This is more for the minister, I guess, because it was a political consideration. When that decision was made, were you, as the minister, given a mandate in terms of percentages, the amount? I'm thinking now in terms of the treasury and the amount you were told. How did this come about? In other words, did they say to you, "We need $4 million" --
Hon Mr Wildman: No. That was something you said in your first remarks, which is completely invalid. These decisions were made by me. They weren't made by staff. They weren't made in the Premier's office. They were made by me. The decisions on the allocation of funds and how we allocate the budget are made by me. They are not made by anyone else. Mr Carr: In other words, you decided that we can reduce it by X amount in the decision, and it didn't come from the treasury.
Hon Mr Wildman: No. The overall allocation for the total operation of the ministry, of course, is determined through discussions with treasury board and at cabinet, but within that budget then those decisions are made by me on the advice of ministry staff.
The Chair: That begs the question the Chair normally asks: Are there any supplementary expenditures or supplementary estimates that were not tabled with the original, or are there any adjustments, any special requisitions or government initiatives that weren't envisaged at the time of the estimates?
Hon Mr Wildman: No. The Chair: So what we have in front of us is all we have in front of us.
Hon Mr Wildman: Yes, that's right. We did mention Jobs Ontario in here. That was in addition to our base budget, but that's mentioned in here.
Mr Brown: Could I have a clarification on that? That's in addition? That's not included in the total numbers you have before us?
Hon Mr Wildman: John Goodman, the assistant deputy minister can speak to that.
The Chair: Listen, Mr Bisson, since you interrupted me and I recognized you for a second time, the least I can do is clarify an important issue that has to deal with the funding. I hope I didn't interrupt your accounting. Please proceed.
Mr Goodman: The Jobs Ontario funding that was provided in here is not in the estimates that have been tabled. That included $15.7 million that the Ministry of Natural Resources received from that initiative that was put towards the jobs funding. That's not in the estimate figure.
The Chair: Can we a detailed description of that? I know the minister covered it, but it's customary for the committee to ask for that in a form which sets out where the expenditures are, how much will actually be approved and expended within this fiscal year, which is separate from that which has been assigned. That would be very much appreciated.
Hon Mr Wildman: Sure, we can give that to you.
Mr Brown: Mr Chair, on the same point --
The Chair: Well, I was stretching it slightly. You're not satisfied with all you're getting or --
Mr Brown: No. I'm just wondering, what was the program last year, Bud?
Hon Mr Wildman: The $700-million --
Mr Brown: Yes, anti-recession. I'm just trying to compare apples to apples. Was that number expressed in the budgets of the ministry last year, what moneys the ministry got?
Hon Mr Wildman: No, it was in addition as well.
Interjection: We can give you a written response.
Mr Wildman: We can give that to you.
The Chair: Since this estimate was done a year ago, as I recall --
Hon Mr Wildman: No, it wasn't. Two years ago.
The Chair: Okay. I apologize. I have been routinely asking ministries that question with respect to the anti-inflation package, so that would be helpful. Mr Brown, thank you. The staff will get to the information to the clerk for us.
Mr Bisson: I've just finished balancing all your estimates. They do balance, I can assure you.
Hon Mr Wildman: Thank you. We could have used you yesterday.
Mr Bisson: There are a number of things I'd like to ask, because if there is one ministry for a northern member that touches our constituents more, it's got to be Natural Resources. I think all of us recognize the other ministries and the roles they play around our daily lives, health care and other things, but probably the one thing we get in our constituency offices the most, other than workers' compensation, is the Ministry of Natural Resources.
I'd just like to start off by saying one thing; Mr Brown touched on it a while ago. I have nothing bad to say about ministry staff with whom I've dealt in my riding. They're exemplary, very good in the way they do things, very cooperative. In situations where we've had constituents come in and see us because they didn't get their moose tag, whatever it might be, any time we've followed up the ministry has always done a very good job. So don't take anything I say as a slight towards them, because we have a very good working relationship, probably one of the better ones.
Hon Mr Wildman: I'll take everything you say as a slight towards me.
Mr Bisson: With all of that, I'm going to take the shortest issues to deal with, because we haven't got the time.
The first one I'd like to ask you a couple of questions about is the question of hunting and fishing licences and the ID card. You will probably be aware that the ID card issue actually came out of my office about a year and a half ago. At the request of some people within our riding who issue cards, in order to go to a similar system they have in the province of Quebec, the suggestion we made at the time was that when we go to the card, it would be a one-time issuing licence. In other words, you pay your $6, and if you lose your card and you've got to come back two years or six years later, you issue again. From what I understand, it's $6 every three years.
Hon Mr Wildman: Yes, that's right, but I do want to say that your suggestions were part of the move, but the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters has been campaigning for this for some time.
Mr Bisson: I'm saying that for a reason. One of the things that's come back since then is that a lot of constituents have come in and said, "We don't mind paying the $6, but to pay it every three years, it looks basically as if we're having to pay for something we've already got." What's the idea behind the reissuance every three years? That's what I'm asking.
Hon Mr Wildman: I guess it's simply to keep track of the number of hunters and anglers. We're sending out how many, 1.5 million now? I think John Goodman wants to add something here. The initial cost of $6 million we expect will bring in about $5 million, and it will cover the cost. At some future date, we hope to move to a computerized system which will be more efficient and will save the ministry money and make it easier for the issuers to issue licences, but at this point we aren't going to be completing that because it has additional costs involved.
Mr Goodman: The card is not reissuable every three years. The card will serve you for the length of your --
Mr Bisson: Oh.
Hon Mr Wildman: Sorry. Did I misunderstand you? What is reissued every three years is a fishing licence. We're bringing in a possible three-year fishing licence.
Mr Goodman: When you buy a three-year fishing licence, the card comes free.
Hon Mr Wildman: Yes, we're going to offer the card for nothing if you buy a three-year fishing licence.
Mr Bisson: Just for clarification, what I've been told by people coming into the constituency office, and I've followed up with MNR staff locally in Timmins -- they're saying that the plastic ID card you get, you purchase for the price of $6, and after that every three years you've got to go pay another $6 to get --
Hon Mr Wildman: No, no. What they're confusing and what I confused when you raised this is that one of the of the changes we're proposing with the fishing licence is that you can buy a three-year licence, and if you do that, then you get the card for nothing.
Mr Bisson: So the card is as long as I keep it.
Mr Goodman: Yes, or until we can change the technology, as it is currently galloping along, to a real smart card. What you're going to get the first time round is a mag card with all the grandfathered data on it that will go with you. In the future, we'd like to use the smart card technology that would allow our conservation officers in the field to be able to use it and understand all the information that's required to deal with compliance.
Mr Bisson: It would be on a magnetic strip type of thing?
Hon Mr Wildman: They'd be able to run it through and find out if you had any charges outstanding, what your record was --
Mr Goodman: What licences you hold.
Hon Mr Wildman: -- whether you'd purchased your licences, whether you'd paid the fees.
Mr Bisson: That's good; you fixed my problem. So it's safe to say that if I keep that card for six years or five years or two years, I pay every time I lose it and go back and get another one. Okay, the other --
The Chair: This is very difficult for Hansard. It's very informative, but it's very difficult on Hansard. Even if you'd just pause when you interrupt, it would be a help to Hansard.
Mr Bisson: I'm glad to see I've given such confusion here. If we're confused here, you should imagine the constituents.
Okay, next question. The other thing is on the conservation licence. One of the things that's been put forward is the idea of getting a conservation licence for a fisherman like me who doesn't keep his fish -- catch and release, basically -- at half the cost.
Hon Mr Wildman: Not taking your limit.
Mr Bisson: That's right. What kind of response has the ministry had to that? We haven't had a heck of a lot within the riding, and I'm just wondering what kind of response it may have gotten.
Hon Mr Wildman: Generally it has been favourable. It obviously will remain to be seen how successful it will be, because it's largely going to be on an honour basis. Obviously, if a conservation officer happens to come upon a person and ask for the licence and sees that he has a conservation licence but is in fact carrying his full limit, then he'll be able to charge him. We're dependent that the responsible approach be taken by the anglers.
Mr Bisson: What I'm really interested in, Mr Minister, is the kind of response we've had with people applying for the conservation licence versus the regular licence. I'm just curious.
Hon Mr Wildman: We don't have it.
Mr Bisson: We don't have those data yet. Is there any time left, Mr Chair, or are we getting pretty well to the end here?
The Chair: About three minutes left on the clock.
Mr Bisson: I won't deal with the moose licence stuff. I do have some suggestions I'd like to put forward, because I realize the difficulty that's been and the work that's been done.
Mr Bisson: The PA has told me we've got it fixed. My licence guy is leaving. Listen, I'm just going to stop on this. There are only three minutes. There are some other issues I want to raise, but they're somewhat complex and I won't have a chance to finish.
Hon Mr Wildman: Perhaps you could put them and we could bring the answers for you the next time.
Mr Bisson: No, I'm going to ask you right upfront. We don't have time right now. I'll do it in the next estimates.
I just want to mention one thing, though, that I caught in the paper a while back. Apparently the Ministry of Natural Resources was contracted to Zimbabwe, I think it was, to put together a management -- I don't know exactly what it was. Apparently the government of Zimbabwe was out looking not only in Canada but in other places to find somebody who can bring the expertise to their particular nation to help them along. Can you tell me a little about that? I've had a couple of questions about it.
Hon Mr Wildman: It's through CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency, the federal government, to assist in information resource data development with Zimbabwe. It's a very exciting project that we are able to help the African country with. We could bring details for you for the next committee. It doesn't cost us anything; it's paid through the federal government through CIDA.
Mr Bisson: I'm just more curious about how Ontario was chosen. They weren't very explicit in that.
Hon Mr Wildman: They chose us because we were seen around the world as a leader in resource management data.
Mr Bisson: So they came to Ontario. It wasn't a competition thing.
Hon Mr Wildman: I guess they applied through the federal government for assistance, and the federal government looked around and concluded that Ontario was the leading agency, and asked if Ontario would be prepared to become involved. Mr Bisson: Very good. I see we're at 6 o'clock. I won't have time at this point.
The Chair: Are there any other requests for the ministry staff? Seeing none, this committee stands adjourned until Tuesday, November 17, at which time we will continue with the estimates of the Ministry of Natural Resources. This committee stands adjourned.
The committee adjourned at 1800.