Topic Title: MNR Cutting Jobs Posting Date: 08/16/2013
Source: The Chronicle Journal Section & Page: Editorial August 16, 2013
Full Article: MNR, where’s the communication?
Friday, August 16, 2013
When the smoke clears, it is going to be anyone’s guess what the Ministry of Natural Resources is going to look like here in the Northwest after this latest round of restructuring.
MNR officials say there will be more employees in the region and offices will remain open after the plan is rolled out. But that remains to be seen.
The biggest beef we have with the MNR restructuring plan is in the way it was released.
Why the Ontario Public Service Employees Union had to sound the alarm before the ministry released any information to the public is a concern. For a ministry that issues news release after news release on everything from park attractions to rabies vaccine drops, but it can’t tool together a news release announcing a major initiative, such as a restructuring plan, is beyond understanding.
Kenora NDP MPP Sarah Campbell says she is “very concerned with the impact these cuts will have and the secretive way the government has been in implementing these changes. It is not right that the union for the affected employees, and not the government, has stepped forward with the details.
“To date, previous cuts in the MNR, including the outsourcing of jobs to the U.S. and cuts to the Bearwise program, have not been properly co-ordinated. A full disclosure of the ministry’s plans could help ensure smooth transitions are made.
“Ultimately, people and industry have a right to know what the long-term plan is. By waiting for the news to come out via a union’s press release and refusing to disclose its plans, the government is failing to operate in an open and transparent manner.”
We agree with Campbell’s sentiments.
Being a little more up front about job cuts and the future of the ministry would be appreciated.
“In the Northwest, the decisions made by the MNR have a major impact on vital industries such as tourism, forestry and mining,” Campbell said. “People have the right to know how these cuts will impact them and if they will put the institutional knowledge that exists in our smaller communities at risk.”
Yes, they do.
Hopefully the ministry will be more transparent about its plans in the future and share them in a timely manner.
Northwestern Ontario Sportsmen’s Alliance executive director John Kaplanis says his organization will be watching closely to see what new and vacant jobs will be filled in the Northwest (the MNR says there will be a net increase of 36 positions), and to ensure the MNR is working toward improving and growing its fish and wildlife programming in Northwestern Ontario.
So we will.
First, it is disappointing to note that the initial release of the information about the cutting of some 100 plus jobs at OMNR province wide, comes from OPSEU and not the government itself. Clearly OMNR and the Ontario Liberals have an accountability issue and it is the voting public that will have the final say on that matter in the next election. The ongoing lack of transparency with in OMNR has dogged everything from the information surrounding increasing bear attacks to questions over the status of our moose population, and now we are seeing the same trend internally with the most recent staffing cuts and no explanation for why.
These staffing cuts are bleeding OMNR from the inside out. Keep in mind that pretty much all of the positions that have been axed are those at the bottom of the OMNR staffing hierarchy. So we're not seeing cuts to management positions or top level bureaucracy but rather the cuts are from lower earning staff that provide valued services to the public. This affects programs in fishery and wildlife management and wildlife population monitoring and assessment.
OMNR's 2012 total budget was approximately $700 million dollars. Of that, a mere $30-35 million is devoted to managing the Northwest Region. NOSA believes the north is getting the proverbial short end of the stick considering the vast total of Crown Land area that constitutes the region's geographic land base. One of the big questions NOSA is asking is; why is OMNR spending so much of their budget in the south, in Toronto and Peterborough?
While it is no secret that OMNR is underfunded and unable to sustain a demanding budget, NOSA has recently made a number of recommendations to OMNR in hopes that their Special Purpose Account (SPA) can be increased by generating revenue from new funding sources. NOSA believes that in order to restore OMNR to the world class Natural Resource agency that it once was, there needs to be new methods of doing business with those stakeholders that inject revenue into the Special Purpose Account which provides the majority of funding for Fish and Wildlife programming. Currently hunting, fishing and trapping license sales, fees and royalties account for about 70 percent of the Fish and Wildlife program. So clearly by affording more opportunity to hunt, fish and trap in the province of Ontario, there will be an increase in revenue generation for this agency. But NOSA questions the OMNR's commitment to making this happen, when the agency's direction has for many years been driven by special interest environmental organizations; organizations that not only oppose hunting, fishing and trapping but they also inject no funding to the SPA.
The need for a complete overhaul of OMNR's management philosophy desperately needs to change. When other provinces and states are kicking Ontario's butt in the wildlife revenue generating department and offering hunting and fishing tourism opportunities that Ontario once ranked number one in, such as the spring bear hunt - it doesn't take much to figure out that the Ontario Government is sending a message to the world saying "we're not open for business in the outdoors". So when OMNR's little remaining revenue is largely devoted to schemes in things like caribou management and Species-At-Risk policy development, it doesn't leave much left over to keep front line staff in the northwest to count fish, moose and bears.
NOSA is urging NOMA and all northern municipalities and townships to lobby their local MPPs to do more to address the funding issues at OMNR thus giving Ontario's northern economy the boost it needs to get back on track. Municipalities should be demanding OMNR to intelligently market and manage our sustainable and renewable wildlife and natural resource wealth to the benefit of the region as this huge potential currently sits idle.
Northwestern Ontario Sportsmen's Alliance