PC and NDP MPPs declare support to restore Ontario Ranger Program
TORONTO, Sept. 25, 2013
TORONTO, Sept. 25, 2013 /CNW/ - MPPs representing the Conservative and
New Democratic parties have joined a growing call to have the
provincial government overturn its decision one year ago to cancel the
popular Ontario Ranger Program.
"We can work something out to get this program back," Progressive
Conservative MPP Laurie Scott (Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock) told a
noon hour gathering of almost 75 supporters of the defunct program at
Queen's Park yesterday. "The Ontario Ranger Program brought together
young people, urban and rural. The impact on them has been life
Added NDP MPP Jon Vanthof (Timiskaming-Cochrane): The ranger program is
not just about the Ministry of Natural Resources or a youth program. It
is a program to preserve our culture in Ontario that people from around
the world identify us with."
Organized by the Friends of the Ontario Ranger Program, the Queen's Park
lobbying effort also attracted federal MP Olivia Chow (Trinity-Spadina)
who herself was a 17-year old Ontario Junior Ranger working at Pancake
Bay Provincial Park north of Sault Ste Marie in the summer of 1974.
"I grew up in the St. Jamestown housing complex in downtown Toronto and
never saw the nighttime stars," said Chow. "As a ranger in northern
Ontario I finally saw the stars. I fell in love with northern Ontario
and the program shaped my life completely."
Former Minister of Natural Resources, Michael Gravelle (Thunder
Bay-Superior North) and current MNR minister David Orazietti (Sault Ste
Marie) also attended yesterday's event but did not speak.
The Liberal government's abrupt decision to cut the $1.6 million program
from the provincial budget in September 2012 led to formation of a
grassroots campaign to restore the environmental and youth program in
the 2014 provincial budget. More than 70,000 young people participated
in the 68-year program which emphasized environmental stewardship,
maintenance of provincial parks, life skills and team-building.
Participants were selected by lottery and, for many, introduced young
people to regions of Ontario far outside their home communities.
At yesterday's event members of the Friends campaign announced their
plans to mount a province-wide petition campaign to have the ministry
restore the ranger program in time for next summer.
Toronto lawyer Maureen Ward, who is active in the campaign to restore
the program, told yesterday's gathering that the rangers program was
more than daily work in a wilderness environment. "For the young people
involved it was value-added. We learned as much about ourselves as we
did about those around us."