Conservative MPPs Jeff Yurek and Toby Barrett are looking for more accountability regarding the management of the Special Purpose Account (SPA) from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MRNF).
Earlier this year the ministry increased fishing and hunting fees and has proposed to start charging seniors for fishing licences.
Barrett, MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk, has heard concerns from local hunters and anglers about how that money is being used and points out that Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner has also raised red flags about the MNRF management efforts.
Barrett has long been a critic of cuts to the MNRF’s budget from general revenue and increasing reliance on the SPA. “The SPA’s original purpose was to provide extra funding for fish and wildlife programs, not be its sole source of revenue,” said a recent release from his office.
Yurek, Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP, questioned newly appointed Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry Bill Mauro on the matter in the Ontario Legislature last week. Mauro replied, “It makes complete sense to everyone that there should be a review of the account, that’s what has occurred. No final decisions have been made.”
Mauro also noted that there was a posting on the Environmental Registry and responses are being looked at internally now.
“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. “The ministry is failing on accountability by not providing timely and relevant information on the SPA to those who actually foot the bill.”
In 1995, the then Ministry of Natural Resources committed to dedicating all fish and wildlife licence revenues to fish and wildlife programs and created the SPA. By law, all revenue received under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act is put into this account.
Any funds not spent at the end of the fiscal year are protected in the account and are available for fish and wildlife management in future years.
The MNRF website indicates that the annual revenues for the SPA currently average about $57 million annually, based on a 3-year Outdoors Card cycle.