QUEEN’S PARK – Leeds-Grenville MPP Steve Clark says plans by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) to close the Ontario Tree Seed Plant in Angus puts the future of the Ferguson Forest Centre in North Grenville along with 13 full-time jobs and the more than $1 million it spends in the local economy every year in jeopardy.
The issue was raised this week during Question Period for the second time by Clark’s colleague and Ontario PC House Leader Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson, whose riding is home to the seed plant.
“I was pleased MPP Wilson highlighted the fact this short-sighted decision by MNRF will have devastating repercussions across the province, including here in Leeds-Grenville,” said Clark. “That’s why I support MPP Wilson’s call for the ministry to delay closing the plant next September by up to five years to allow for a proper transition.”
Ferguson Forest Centre CEO Ed Patchell wrote to Clark this month to alert him of the threat MNRF’s plans pose to the centre, which began operating in 1946.
In his letter, Patchell stated: If the closure of the Angus Seed Plant goes forward as planned, it will be hard, if not impossible for the Ferguson Forest Centre to continue to provide appropriately seed sourced forest seedlings for eastern Ontario.
Assuming that the Forest Centre survives the impacts of the seed plant’s closure (currently we employ the equivalent of 13 full time staff and spend over $1 million in the local economy annually), the future production from the Centre will not likely be the most appropriate seedlings for eastern Ontario, impacting reforestation programs and Conservation Authority programs as well as the 50 million provincial tree planting program throughout eastern and central Ontario.
Clark expressed frustration over the government’s failure to acknowledge the serious concerns being raised and the alternatives proposed by the Ontario Tree Seed Coalition to keep the Seed Plant operational.
“Industry experts weren’t consulted on this and are warning the minister her plan is ‘unreasonable’ and ‘irresponsible.’ It’s time for her to put the closure on hold and work with the industry, including the Ferguson Forest Centre, on alternatives” said Clark. “The cost of closing the seed plant won’t only be measured in lost jobs and economic activity, but the potential loss of important environmental initiatives that keep our forests healthy and sustainable.”