Wynne, Horwath and Mauro should give up the hate on caribou

If Canada seriously wants to be a “first world” country, it can stop trying to run the 27th-largest forest reserve in the world like a back yard.

Here’s a tip for Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, the New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horwath and incoming premier John Robarts and new mayors Bill Mauro of Richmond Hill and Gloria Lindsay Luby of North York: They shouldn’t have their support base whipped up into an angry mob about what seems to be little more than dump truck traffic in a tiny protected area, simply to make a point.

Grassy Narrows contains large numbers of caribou and moose, even if some of them were given away to the Alaskan Range while they were still valuable to Alberta. For years there have been conflicts between loggers and hunting people because a quarter of the caribou herd is older than 50, so it could be forced to go extinct unless it is logged.

Now, with world protectionist policies on the rise because of much more effective protections for trees and other resources on lands owned by governments and businesses outside of the Canadian tax regime, the Canadian government wants to send an investment signal to the tech industry by offering to sell to mills and recyclers a scheme to protect the cars and furniture made in its protected wilderness areas.

By undercutting the $22 million-a-year federal scheme by offering to subsidize the Ontario scheme, the Ontario government could end up paying factories less for the same products.

Apparently, the prime minister’s economic development minister Jason Kenney thought he had the devil right in his pajamas by bringing his vigorous defense of aboriginal rights and title issues up against an initiative that often seems to be off the rails.

The grudging opposition from Howe, “Tiwi” Nation and LaSalle First Nations is understandable because the matter, like most disputes over public lands and areas, is deeply personal and difficult. But that is not a good reason to make demands.

Rationing public resources into two or more supposedly irrevocable policy programs with the government as the sole arbiter is an expensive and unnecessary exercise in stupidity and will benefit almost no one except the bureaucrats who run things.

Add to that some questions about the paperwork and procedure required to get a caribou calf – and this last one is worth pondering – and we end up with a program that takes a few times as long and has the same result.

As a general rule, timber revenues should be left in the public revenue fund, which has adequate room to manage the subsidies and the still-justified management of a flexible forest program.

Moreover, the great majority of caribou could be brought back into a herd by removing the armory of fences, roads and trails through the heart of the pristine protected area.

There was no shortage of tools and techniques, and no neglect of actually taking public land and allowing it to grow and regenerate within the rules of the Forest Act when caribou and woodland caribou were a far more abundant and arable species than today’s caribou are.

Successful farming and forestry operations will be in good supply of food and fiber from forests in Ontario, the Maritimes and British Columbia.

With a little initiative by the leadership, these areas could be managed to capitalize on conservation results at a time when parks and the wildlife and nutraceutical industries are doing well, and climate change threatens an extensive flowering of a wide variety of special interest businesses, none of which will be pursued through a bureaucratic rule-making process.

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