Criticisms of Sault MPP David Orazietti’s Ministry of Natural Resources got lost in the forest of this month’s report by Ontario’s Auditor General.

Auditor General of Ontario Bonnie Lysyk. QMI file photo

Auditor General of Ontario Bonnie Lysyk. QMI file photo

Bonnie Lysyk’s assessments of the fat-cat operation of Ontario Power Generation and the provincial government’s customary faulty financial figuring on the sale of Ontario Northland grabbed the headlines.

But the Dec. 10 report also included a two-pronged probe of the MNR that has largely gone unreported.

One chapter is a progress review of 2011 auditor’s recommendations on forest management. The other deals with some thorough and comprehensive research by AG staff this year on the state of provincial parks.

Both paint a picture of a ministry whose good intentions are too often unrealized because of inadequate staffing and funding.

The parks study points this out with disturbing frequency, sometimes noting how the MNR fails to achieve levels of service of its counterparts elsewhere in Canada.

One piece of good news for minister Orazietti is that Lysyk agreed the MNR had valid financial reasons for converting 10 parks, nine of them in Northern Ontario, from operating to non-operating status last year. It has since reversed that decision for three northern sites.

But the auditor would prefer the MNR lower fees at less-visited northern parks to increase their use and raise fees at popular southern ones to boost revenues, an idea the report said the ministry has not fully explored.

By Tom Mills, Sault Star
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