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North's development being crippled by environmental policies: Michels.

North's development being crippled by environmental policies: Michels

Economic growth and the environmental protection movement were the focus of a panel discussion during the summer meeting of the Ontario Industrial Development Council Inc. (OIDC) in Sudbury.

One economic official from Northern Ontario said that unfortunately the majority of the growth occurs in southern Ontario, while the most of the environmental protection efforts have targetted Northern Ontario.

"Ontario has steadfastly refused to manage and plan its economic growth so that it helps to diversify, stabilize and renew the economies of the resource-based communities," Bob Michels, the general manager of the Atikokan Economic Development Corporation, told the audience.

"As well, our development efforts are being crippled by the application of environmental standards designed to resolve a southern Ontario crisis rather than address the environmental protection needs of the north."

The OIDC is an organization composed of economic development officials from across the province.

Michels pointed to the continual industrialization of the Golden Horseshoe and its impact on roads, health and housing as an example of the failure of southern Ontario to heed its own environmental lessons.

"There is southern Ontario and the other Ontario," he said.

"When the last round of new automobile plants was announced by the Ontario government, did anyone call for an environmental assessment? Did anyone chain themselves to bulldozers excavating the plant sites? Were highways blocked by protesters?" he asked rhetorically.

Michels noted that while Temagami is a well-known example of the loss of prime land to a local economy, it is not the first. He told the audience that the formation of Quetico Park in northwestern Ontario 20 years ago resulted in the loss of half of the land available to mining, logging and most tourist operations in the Atikokan District.

"No one in the south sees the ludicrous illogic of establishing tree and animal museums in the north. Things don't live in a museum.

"There is other unexplainable logic at play. Some are striving to maintain an over-mature, emphysemic forest which has little capacity to regenerate CO-2 into oxygen when what we need is energetic, new-growth forest."

Despite the fact that he decried the withdrawal of land from potential development, Michels said he knows the world is an environmental mess and that only changes in corporate and individual behavior will save the planet.

"We need to get away from growth for growth sake," he said.

Peter McFadden, an economic development official for Waterloo, said the environmental movement can also disrupt development efforts by changing the political climate of a community.

"To some people it (growth) is a threat," he said. "If a municipal government shifts from a rational to a political style of decision-making, it can result in a no-growth attitude.

"The public begins to perceive growth as a threat to their lifestyle."

The Waterloo official said there are several red flags which appear whenever a climate changes from pro-growth to no-growth.

He told the officials gathered at the meeting that an increase in calls for more services, a shortage of affordable housing, an increase in negative media coverage, a shift in the political composition of municipal governments and an increase in the amount of red tape developers must wade through are signals that the mood concerning development is shifting.

McFadden also offered advice on avoiding knee-jerk reactions from town councils. He told the audience to communicate with councils on a regular basis, make an effort to assist councillors in understanding the economics of development, bureaucracize economic development departments in order to discourage tinkering by politicians and cultivate relationships with members of the municipal government.
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Title Annotation:Northern Ontario; Bob Michels
Author:Krejlgaard, Chris
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Aug 1, 1990
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