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20 2011

What Trumps What? Jobs or the Caribou?

Syndicated from: Steve Paikin

As photo ops go, it was one of Greenpeace's better efforts.   In front of Toronto's Union Station, close to where the Ontario Forest Industry Association (OFIA) was having its annual general meeting, Greenpeace staged a mock funeral for the woodland caribou.   The environmental interest group was trying to show how the Ontario government's Endangered Species Act will fail to secure the future of this animal, because it allows industry to chop down too many trees.   Ironically, the industry doesn't appear to be any happier with the government. It fears losing even more jobs and more mill closures, unless it can harvest the wood it needs to keep business afloat.   When Natural Resources Minister Linda Jeffrey spoke at the OFIA's 68th annual conference to tell the industry what was (and wasn't) in her bill, she was greeted by the association's president in a way I've never seen take place before.   The custom at these things is to have the minister speak, followed by a polite thank you by the association.   Instead, OFIA's Jaime Lim figuratively took out one of her industry's 2x4's, and whacked the minister over the head with it.    OFIA's Jaime Lim. There's no truth to the rumour that she'd like to whack this government with the wood in this shot.    "We have families that have been running their businesses for six generations, for 165 years in some cases," Lim told Minister Jeffrey.   "Those people say we need practical policies that keep people working. You've admitted there will be job losses. We undertstand Greenpeace's street theatre. But we don't give a damn. Why, out of 182 species threatened over the last six years, are we talking about this critter?" Lim asked.   I talked to Minister Jeffrey after her speech. Was she offended at Lim's taking her to task in front of a roomful of her members?   "That's standard M.O. for Jaime," she said. "I'd have been surprised if she didn't do that."   Jeffrey represents the riding of Brampton Springdale and is candid when asked how much knowledge she had about issues in the ministry of natural resources before her appointment.   "Zip," she said. "It was a huge learning curve. It's like drinking from a firehose. But now, out of 10, I'm about a seven. But I'll keep listening to people until we get this bill right."   In fact, Jeffrey took her Endangered Species Act on the road to northern Ontario (Dryden, Hearst, Thunder Bay, and Toronto) for public hearings. She'd like the act passed before the summer arrives, no doubt in part so the act doesn't become an issue in some key northern ridings before the October election.    OFIA's Jaime Lim thanks Ontario PC Party Leader Tim Hudak for speaking at her conference.    Meantime, Jaime Lim will continue to fight the good fight for the 200,000 jobs in the 260 communities, paying $2.7 billion in wages, representing $14 billion in sales, and paying $2.3 billion annually to the Canadian government's coffers (and $800 million to Queen's Park) in taxes.   And with all due respect to the woodland caribou, she's not going to worry too much about that critter.  "This is no time to be silent. We need to embrace a culture of wood."  

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