Retiring Kenora Mayor Dave Canfield was greatly encouraged that there's an attentive ear on forest industry issues at Queen's Park.
The Ford government's plan to reach out to industry stakeholders and mill towns this fall to solicit their feedback in laying the groundwork of a growth-oriented provincial forestry strategy was called "fantastic" by the long-time northwestern Ontario politician.
Canfield will be a few months into his post-mayoral retirement by the time the roundtable reaches his hometown in early February, but the ardent supporter of the forest sector plans to be in attendance.
Sessions begin in Sault Ste. Marie on Nov. 15, with stops scheduled for Kitchener, Kapuskasing, North Bay, Thunder Bay, Pembroke, and Timmins before wrapping up in Hearst in mid-May.
"If you have the right people at the table and the government is serious about it, there are some real good opportunities," said Canfield, who worked as a crane operator over a 32-year forest industry career.
Kenora is home to two forest products mills, and Greg Rickford, the minister responsible for energy, Northern development and mines, and Indigenous affairs.
His cabinet colleague Jeff Yurek, the natural resources and forestry minister, is calling for a strategy that will "unleash" Ontario's forest industry potential, an industry that annually generates more than $15 billion in revenues for Ontario's economy and provides employment for 150,000.
"We are creating the conditions that help the forestry industry to innovate, attract investment, and create jobs and prosperity for the North and for all communities that depend on the sector," Yurek said in a Sept. 27 news release.
Canfield hopes the Ford government makes good on its campaign promise to cut red tape by reducing "over-regulation" in the sector.
For the last decade, Canfield and other Northern leaders had been fighting an ongoing battle with the previous Wynne government's campaign to activate the Endangered Species Act, a piece of pro-environmental legislation that industry supporters claimed would add costly duplication to the wildlife and habitat protections already included in the Crown Forest Sustainability Act.
Mayors and industry groups said it threatened forestry jobs and Northern communities.
The last government "dropped the ball" in consulting with Northerners, said Canfield, who often took issue that well-funded environmental groups held influence in shaping public policy that, he insists, was based...