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Northern Municipalities concerned about private members bill

Tuesday, March 04, 2014   by: SooToday.com Staff
NEWS RELEASES

FEDERATION OF NORTHERN
ONTARIO MUNICIPALITIES

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FONOM delegates attend ROMA/OGRA

The Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities had an opportunity to meet one-on-one with Premier Wynne and several Cabinet Ministers at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association/Ontario Good Roads Association (ROMA/OGRA) Combined Conference February 23-26, 2014 at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto.

The ROMA/OGRA conference represents one of the largest of its kind that brings together municipal leaders from across the province.

It provides an opportunity for municipal delegates to network and share information on best practices and address local challenges.

The annual conference also enabled attendees to meet with Cabinet Ministers and the Premier directly and engage in a dialogue on issues of importance.

FONOM delegates continued their lobbying efforts on behalf of northern Ontario municipalities and voiced their concern on several issues including the forestry industry, provincial parks, and infrastructure to support municipal development needs, transportation and resource based industries.

FONOM also addressed a particular private members bill which if passed, has the potential to hurt northern industries and economies by allowing radical activist groups to make false claims about community dependent companies without impunity.

This legislation has been of great concern to many municipal leaders across the north.

President, Al Spacek stated that “progress has been made with the provincial government and opposition” in respect to this bill.

In order to build on the strengths of the North and ensure long-term sustainability it is important that “northern industries, communities and government work together harmoniously” says Spacek.

FONOM looks forward to furthering the discussions on issues that were addressed during ROMA/OGRA with the province.

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Bill 83 will protect groups making false claims

The Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM) is concerned that the passing of Bill 83 would protect and encourage groups intent on making baseless and false claims, and remove any recourse against this destructive activity.

With the Supreme Court ruling that lawsuits cannot be used to suppress legitimate expressions of dissent, there is no need for Bill 83.

Individuals and organizations making legitimate claims are already protected against lawsuits designed to suppress free speech.

This bill would give individuals and organizations with grievances the cover to launch fabricated and baseless attacks against companies they don’t like.

“We’ve watched Greenpeace launch attack after attack on Resolute Forest Products, making outrageous claims that were totally false,” said Al Spacek, Mayor of Kapuskasing and President of FONOM. “Greenpeace was forced to retract their false statements. Unfortunately, it hasn’t stopped them from making new allegations, and now the Ontario government is poised to give these groups free reign to expand their irresponsible activity.”

The past decade has been especially difficult for northern Ontario communities. Irresponsible threats against companies operating sustainably in the forestry sector have suppressed economic activity in the region.

These attacks have created a hostile environment for responsible companies to conduct business, and have left residents and communities uncertain of the future.

FONOM supports public participation in debates, but believes Bill 83 goes too far in protecting irresponsible and inflammatory actions that genuinely hurt identifiable groups and organizations.

FONOM urges MPPs from all parties to reconsider their support for Bill 83 as it is currently written.

Organizations intent on damaging responsible businesses should not be protected by legislation.

Valid lawsuits should not be thrown out in favour of preserving public debate when that debate is rooted in fabrications.

“The law should not protect a lie,” said Spacek. “There should be no freedom to make false accusations. We support MPPs working to amend the bill to clearly differentiate between these activities and those that do genuinely contribute to public participation.”

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