Bracebridge Ministry of Natural Resources not closing… for now
MUSKOKA — There are no immediate plans to close the Ministry of Natural Resources office in Bracebridge. However, ministry officials do say that there is potential for the office to close in the near future as a result of recent government cuts.
Jolanta Kowalski, senior media relations officer with the MNR, said there are plans to consolidate some smaller facilities but nothing has been determined at this point.
“No decisions have been made yet regarding specific office closures,” said Kowalski.
The new provincial budget directed the MNR to cut $50 million from its budget.
“Our goal over the next three years is to move to a more focused, efficient and regionally based field service delivery organization,” said Kowalski. “This would result in some office consolidation and the closure of some of MNR’s smaller facilities, but MNR will continue to maintain a strong field presence across the province.”
One area that has already experienced cuts is the Bear Wise education and response program. The MNR now has 21 technicians working in 15 communities in northern Ontario, down from 48 in 25 communities. However, the Bracebridge office of the MNR did not lose any bear technicians.
Ed Evens, president of Ontario Public Service Employees Union Local 703 in Sioux Lookout and an elected representative for OPSEU members at MNR, said he believes that these changes will lead to significantly more bears being shot by police and homeowners.
“There are certain things people can do to prevent bear-human conflict such as keeping your garbage picked up and all the things they’re saying but it gets to the point where that’s just not working and nothing is working. So the people that were laid off are the people that would deal with those situations,” said Evens.
The cuts mean that the MNR will no longer be relocating bears that are having issues with a property owner.
People who are in danger from a bear are now encouraged to call the police for help.
“Police aren’t really prepared or trained to deal with bear issues. If they’re chasing a bear there may be other more pressing priorities they could be attending to,” Evens said.
This time of year there is also a risk of shooting a mother bear which would leave her cubs abandoned.