Is Toller off-target?

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MRC Pontiac’s warden, Jane Toller, has been proposing multiple bootstrap projects for the Pontiac. Great to see such a pro-active warden! Her efforts to revive the forestry industry, also covered by the Journal’s Francois Carrier, show a real potential for traditional forestry here. Investors…?

Toller’s proposal for an “Energy From Waste” (EFW) facility, plus some tourism stimulants, have all failed to win much support. Now she’s shifted to Renfrew, talking up the EFW, modified to be “user-owned”, not Pontiac-owned, with waste trucked here from across Eastern Ontario… Why such a struggle to generate support for these projects?

They are being sold as providing “jobs” (echoing Conservative Party promises – “jobs”, with zero details.) But, frankly, is it “jobs” that we need? Do we even have the people to fill many new jobs, after years of population out-flow?

Local businesses, retailers, and hospitality sector are searching for people to fill jobs they already have. Ms. Toller’s own restaurant and convention centre seem repeatedly in search of a chef and staff. We hear this need almost daily. It says we really need more people – only then, more jobs.

The Pontiac offers beautiful attractions – great rivers & forests, lakes, clean air & water, plus under-utilized residences in almost every town – so why not attract new residents, including immigrants? These people fill jobs, more importantly they generate more business, jobs, and new investment. More people would create a dynamism that Pontiac still lacks.

Next, let’s look at “jobs”. Is hauling out our trees, or hauling in garbage, the best we can do?

This is a new era! In BC, Indigenous nations are “renting out” their forests to carbon-pricing plans. They’re selling forest-based carbon credits on a world market, supporting multiple communities – this aids planting more trees and protecting the forests they already have. No prohibitive investment in sawmills, planers, chippers, trucks and loaders. Other areas are attracting federal (and U.N.) funds for “nature conservation areas” and “Indigenous Protected & Conserved Areas (IPCAs)” = $500 million for creating jobs to patrol, protect and expand forests and wild-water resources. The UN funds “historical-cultural significant zones”, like our “crossroads Pontiac” where the Great Boreal Forest meets historic pioneer small-scale farming.

Once-poor areas are using gov’t grants and projects funded by foundations to “rewild” or rebuild forests and zones – just like our own. There’s the research position the MRC needs! And if burning waste creates gases and floating ash, why burn? Squeeze that waste into building blocks. Today offers so many non-destructive, renewable – even weird! – projects that do create jobs and attract tourists.

Ms. Toller has only cracked the door!