Working indoors at Queen’s Park for the great outdoors

By MPP Toby Barrett 

We are blessed with a diverse natural environment across Haldimand-Norfolk, and it’s with mixed feelings I’m back in the big city to work indoors at Queen’s Park.   

Like so many I represent, I enjoy working and playing outdoors. I’ve been fortunate to work indoors in Toronto addressing the outdoors with my various assigned positions over the years to the Ministries of Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture.   

Here’s a look at what I’ve been up to lately. Hard on the heels of Camo Day, and the National Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Heritage Day, when the Legislature first convened, I had an opportunity in the House to talk about trees and moose.  

On the 100th Anniversary of National Forest Week, I explained to the House that Ontario has more than 71 million hectares of diverse forest cover—that would be 175,444,821 acres —renowned internationally for being looked after in a sustainable way.   

Our forest sector employs 147,000 directly and indirectly, generating $18 billion annually. Every year, almost 73 million trees are planted and over 200 million seeds spread. 

We want to ensure our fish and wildlife remain healthy and abundant—a difficult task that requires vigilant oversight as circumstances are always changing. One of the more challenging species to manage is the Canadian moose, which was my topic during question period the first week back. 

There are concerns about the moose draw system and its fairness. Some hunters have been applying year after year for a tag but never received one.  Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry John Yakabuski explained in order to protect the population of the species, we are proposing stricter calf tag quotas, new bow hunting seasons and quotas for moose.  

North America’s Great Lakes are important for native species and support thousands of different plants and animals. However, these lakes are facing pollutants, excess nutrients and invasive species. This generated a series of formal questions from me to Environment Minister Jeff Yurek. 

Some of the exciting news stemming from my questions is that the provincial and federal governments released a draft of the new Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health. Ontario is also investing up to $1.67 million for the new Great Lakes Local Action Fund, with up to $50,000 for projects led by local groups. 

Another recent question to Minister Yakabuski concerned Chronic Wasting Disease.  CWD is a progressive, fatal disease that affects members of the cervid family—deer, elk, moose and caribou. CWD can upset the balance in an ecosystem and can ultimately threaten the safety of our food supply.  

Last December, our government announced a CWD prevention and response plan to ensure approaches are in place to minimize the risk of the disease entering or spreading within Ontario. Additionally, this summer we proposed to prohibit the import of live, captive cervids from outside of the province. 

Farming represents outdoor living. In September, Minister of Agriculture Ernie Hardeman and I announced over $7.9 million in funding through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) to fund a variety of initiatives. Examples would be planting over-wintering cover crops to improve soil health, reduce soil erosion losses and prevent phosphorous from going into Lake Erie. 

Although I much prefer to work in the riding, I am fortunate to work indoors at Queen’s Park for the betterment of the great outdoors. 

Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk