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 Analysis             Ontario Farmer - March 30, 2004

Environment officials get an earfull

Local politicians chide fisheries and environment staff for not taking farm concerns into consideration

  Federal Fisheries and Environment rules on access of grazing cattle to waterways have been a hot topic in rural Canada for the past few years. So miffed farmers might find some comfort in the lecture that Liberal and Conservative MPs gave officials from the two departments over their handling of the issue.
   Liberal Rose-Marie Ur told a meeting of the Commons agriculture committee that officials from the two departments go to meetings with farmers "but you don't listen. You don't take into consideration what you're hearing. This is the frustration out there, that you don't understand the situation."
   Chairman Paul Steckle added that farmers live in fear that the demands for exclusionary fencing along waterways could put them out of business. "Our farmers right now just cannot undertake another one of these kinds of issues. We need some assurance from you that this is not going to happen."
   "We are in a situation where farmers today, a good friend of

 

 

  ALEX BINKLEY

The writer is a veteran national affairs reporter based in Ottawa


 mine's brother, did away with himself in the dairy business. We don't need another one of these kinds of things to cause further people to take these kinds of actions."
  Mark Eyeking, the parliamentary secretary for agriculture, said if governments and environmentalists are so adamant about farmers changing their practices, they should pay for it.
   "Because the way the farmers see it now, it's just a bunch of urban people ganging up on them and wanting them to change their whole lifestyle and everything they're doing. You have to encourage them all to get to the table and say, if they want to get it done, somebody has to pay for it."
  Conservative MP Rick Borot-

 

sik added that, since 1999 in Manitoba, the fisheries department has "caused me nothing but consternation and difficulties. It seems your enforcement officers certainly take their responsibilities very seriously."
   "Why is it that when a small municipality wishes to put a culvert in to replace a bridge, which is over a creek that runs only two weeks out of the year, DFO has the tendency of coming down on that with hobnail boots? But when there is a circumstance in Asessippi Lake in Manitoba where there has been overfishing by the First Nations, DFO throws its arms up and says, 'It's not our responsibili-ty'."
   The officials said the departments are required by law to protect fisheries habitat and that they try to be co-operative at first. The MPs said that stern warning letters from the Justice Department and armed Fisheries officers don't seem like a co-operative approach to most farmers.
   Unfortunately the meeting ended without any evidence that the officials understood the message the MPs tried to deliver to them.


 
 

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