Orazietti ready to take on heavier workload as MinisterMonday, February 11, 2013 by: Darren Taylor
Sault Ste. Marie MPP David Orazietti was sworn in Monday in Toronto as Ontario’s new Minister of Natural Resources.
This is Orazietti’s first cabinet post since being elected MPP in 2003.
He replaces Michael Gravelle in that post.
New Premier Kathleen Wynne, Orazietti, and the rest of Wynne’s cabinet members were sworn in at an official ceremony today in the Ontario Legislature.
Wynne’s team consists of mostly new faces in the cabinet.
Political observers have described Wynne’s new cabinet as an attempt to make the embattled Liberal minority government appear “fresh and new” after the departure of Dalton McGuinty and several key cabinet ministers.
Wynne will try to put her own stamp on the Liberal government before the next election, as political observers speculate whether the opposition Progressive Conservatives and the NDP will work with her government, or bring it down, forcing an election.
The government’s financial challenges are considerable, and Orazietti will have to deal with Natural Resources issues such as mill closures and grievances over public access to MNR lands.
Speaking to SooToday.com Monday evening, Orazietti said that while he is honoured to have been chosen for the MNR post and ready to take on an increased workload, he is also aware that whenever the next provincial election is, some local voters will remain upset over several issues, such as the loss of longtime Sault employer St. Mary’s Paper from the community’s economic landscape.
Orazietti said “we put funding in place through various aid packages for the forestry sector, but there are factors affecting that, such as the much higher Canadian dollar affecting competitiveness, and the dollar is expected to remain the same for the short to medium term, but there are mills elsewhere in Atikokan and White River where new jobs have been created, and we’re looking at ways to create new jobs in that sector.”
There are also groups protesting restricted public access to recreational MNR lands, stating there have been many unexplained road closures to areas that were once easily accessible, and that currently, only well-to-do tourists are being granted fly-in access to these lands.
To that issue, Orazietti responded “I’m going to be scheduling meetings with MNR staff and I will be looking at that issue, it’s important to me. I would say that Crown lands are just that, lands for all people to enjoy and individuals should have that access.”
Orazietti stated that while he is busy with his new portfolio, local issues such as preservation of jobs at Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) as it goes through its’ modernization process will remain a top priority for him.
On another issue, he added “the commitment we’ve made to postsecondary education has been enormous through infrastructure and tuition reduction benefits. Postsecondary education remains an important investment for our government. We’ve seen spikes in enrollment for both Algoma University and Sault College. I’m going to work toward further investment for those institutions, their potential is tremendous.”
Regarding a recent report to City Council recommending urgency in construction of a deep-water port for Essar Steel Algoma, Tenaris and other stakeholders, Orazietti told us “I have not been approached by Essar to seek provincial financial support for a harbour facility in our community, but I would be pleased do everything I can to bring provincial resources for workers at Essar and in the rest of our community.”
Orazietti emphasized that regardless of his new province-wide duties, he will remain accessible to Sault Ste. Marie constituents, pointing out that he will have staff in Toronto assisting with Ministry duties while he sees to local matters.