FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 18, 2014
QUEEN’S PARK – Haldimand-Norfolk MPP wants to see more accountability from the Ministry of Natural Resources Special Purpose Account (SPA), especially in light of proposals to increase fees.
The ministry’s Special Purpose Account receives revenue from hunting and fishing licenses and fines issued for violations issued by conservation officers. It is supposed to be spent on fish and wildlife programs. Barrett has heard concerns from local hunters and anglers about how that money is being used. As well, Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner raised red flags about MNR’s management efforts.
Barrett’s Opposition colleague Jeff Yurek raised the matter in the Ontario Legislature this week, questioning the accountability of the SPA.
“I’ve talked to a number of hunters and anglers and they tell me that the fees for licences continue to go up with fewer services being offered,” said Yurek. “We’ve seen this government squander money with no accountability for too long. The Ministry is failing on accountability by not providing timely and relevant information on the SPA to those who actually foot the bill.”
The concern about the fees is due to ministry staff examining new revenue tools, including increasing fishing and hunting license fees, and ending free fishing licenses for seniors. Currently, Ontario is in the top three most expensive provinces for small game hunting, deer hunting and fishing licenses. But, for the avid outdoorsperson, who wants all three licenses, Ontario is the most expensive.
“Ontario has the highest electricity rates, highest debt and highest fishing and hunting licence fees,” Barrett said. “Now a government that is not providing accountability about how the licence money is spent is proposing to make licenses even more expensive. That’s not acceptable.”
The SPA’s original purpose was to provide extra funding for fish and wildlife programs, not be its sole source of revenue. Barrett has long been a critic of cuts to MNR’s budget from general revenue and increasing reliance on the SPA.
“This is the carrot or stick theory yet again,” Barrett said. “The ministry notes decreasing revenues so it hikes fees instead of trying harder to attract new anglers and hunters. It’s not entirely surprising given this government’s record of punitive measures such as hiking electricity rates to encourage power conservation.”
For more information, contact MPP Toby Barrett at 519-428-0446