A London-area MPP’s proposed bill to tighten rules about how the government spends money generated from hunting and licensing fees has been shot down at Queen’s Park.

Progressive Conservative MPP Jeff Yurek on Wednesday introduced a private members bill to beef up spending requirements surrounding the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s so-called special purpose account (SPA), a fund that collects nearly $75 million annually from licensing fees paid by anglers and hunters in Ontario.

The money is supposed be spent on wildlife management and to improve angling and hunting across the province, but the handling of the fund has come under fire in recent years for a lack of transparency and questionable expenditures.

The bill was rejected Thursday — just hours after a Southwestern Ontario group representing hunters and anglers applauded the proposed legislation, calling it long overdue.

“It has flown under the radar for long enough,” Ken Currah, director of the Aylmer Stakeholders Committee, said of the fund.

Troubling details about how the fund was used emerged after the Aylmer group — representing 1,400 Southwestern Ontario landowners, hunters and farmers — applied for $10,000 to evaluate deer populations in the Elgin, Middlesex and Oxford wildlife zone.

The organization was denied its appeal, prompting it to file a freedom-of-information request to get the details of how the fund was being spent.

After years of delay, the ministry turned over a list of expenditures for 2011-2012. Included on this list was $65,000 to buy and sell a house, $4,000 for rental accommodations and $12,251 for psychologists.

By Dale Carruthers, The London Free Press
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