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Save Our North expands its horizons.

Campaign organizers plan to speak out during next federal election

The Timmins-based Save Our North campaign is promising to make the preservation of resource-based industries a federal election issue.

"Resource industries across the country are in crisis and are being ignored. As the Save Our North campaign evolves, it will start involving other groups. We will see more balance within the message," says Pat Ross, president of the Ontario Tree Seedling Growers Association which joined Save Our North in March.

Campaign chairman Steve Parry says the movement will likely become a national lobby of community groups.

"The way we see it developing is each industry will develop their own platform. We will work together, but basically it is a loose coalition, and an effective one," Parry says.

"One of the things we are looking at is we have to continue to consolidate the movement in this province by trying to get a broader base in the resource industry. We will try to garner support from other groups," adds Bill McGuinty, a member of Save Our North and president of the Northern Ontario Prospectors Association.

Fenton Scott, president of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, is hoping that the campaign spreads across the country.

"I hope it (the campaign) will be duplicated across the country. It was a spontaneous movement and these people have done a fantastic job," he says.

Parry suggests that Canada's resource-based communities could be a force to be reckoned with at election time.

"It is by far the largest voting block in the country," he explains.

CAMPAIGN ORIGIN

Save Our North began as a coalition of Timmins-based members of the mining industry. It has been in existence four months, advertising its message on television and making presentations to municipal councils for support.

The campaign is being backed by increasing number of industry associations, which include the Prospectors and Developers of Canada, the Northern Ontario Prospectors Association, the Ontario Mining Association and the Ontario Tree Seedling Growers Association.

The tree seedling growers joined to protest the Ministry of Natural Resource's 40-per-cent cut in funding for the purchase of seedlings, site preparation and the planting of trees and seeds.

"Our problem is there seems to be no long-term planning by the government. The next few years (of forestry) are a black hole as far as we are concerned," says Ross.

To date, Save Our North's efforts have been focussed on the provincial government, resulting in a statement of support for the mining industry from Premier Bob Rae.

Save Our North claims that the province is overlooking mining at the expense of establishing more manufacturing and high-tech businesses.

"We are world leaders in most of these (mining) industries," argues Parry. "We need people to recognize that we have the best in mining technology."

McGuinty clarifies that Save Our North is not looking for government bail-outs.

"They (government) cannot afford to bail out every town in Northern Ontario. The long-term solution is through healthy and viable industries," adds Parry.

Members of the Save Our North campaign are requesting that the province review several areas where they believe government impedes investment in the mining industry. These concern land use, duplication of government legislation and access to government information services.

LAND ACCESS

Scott explains that prospectors' access to land is currently being held up by unsettled Native land claims.

"The government flatly refuses to cut a deal with the aboriginal people, and as long as the uncertainty is there, investment is discouraged," he explains.

John MacDougall, the federal MP for Timiskaming and junior minister for Energy, Mines and Resources, is sympathetic, but adds that land claims are a provincial matter.

"The biggest problem facing the industry is land use and the climate for investment. You need to give people opportunities to get on the land," he says.

However, Cochrane South MPP Gilles Bisson says the land claim issue is being resolved.

"It's a tough issue," Bisson admits. "We have a situation now where we are entering into agreements with them. They have never given up their rights and we are negotiating under an interim agreement. Governments are coming in line with what the Supreme Court of Canada is saying."

DUPLICATION

Duplication by the federal and provincial governments is a sore point for the mining industry, particularly when it concerns environmental regulations.

"Someone needs to decide who is in charge," says Scott. "We have a host of government regulations and departments."

However, Bisson claims the province is making it easier to obtain a mineral exploration permit, and MacDougall suggests that the federal government is attempting to eliminate bureaucracy with its environmental Bill C-13.

"Bill C-13 is a good start. It tries to get away from provincial law," he says.

Scott remains hopeful about the federal bill.

"Their regulations are six months away, and we won't know the effect until the regulations come out. Again it is very difficult for anyone investing because of that uncertainty."

The mining industry charges that a similar bill passed by the province following the Hagersville tire fire has discouraged investment in exploration.

Under the provincial bill (Bill 220) liability for environmental problems is assigned to people who have title to the land. This means a prospector who has staked a property and obtained a lease could be forced to pay the cleanup costs for an environmental problem caused by a mine previously operated at that location.

Environment Minister Ruth Grier has promised to re-evaluate the controversial bill, and has admitted that it was probably passed by the former Liberal government without a full assessment of its impact on business.

SURVEYS

The availability of government geological surveys and statistical information is important to investors, says Scott. He is particularly disappointed with the federal government's offerings.

"They have a lot of data, but it is not very useful to us. What they had in the past was useful, but what they are generating now isn't," he says.

MacDougall disagrees.

"We just finished signing a deal investing $2.1 billion in geological and geoscience. If people have problems with the data, they haven't told me."

Bisson says the province is developing a computerized database of maps and geological information. Its intent is to make the information available.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:movement for preservation of resource-based industries
Author:Brown, Stewart
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:May 1, 1992
Words:1036
Previous Article:Broadening the base reduces costs.
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