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Clare Dear, Aylmer District Stakeholders

Ministry spends $209.6M from angling, hunting licence revenues - but not a cent on fish and wildlife species

Ontario anglers and hunters are still waiting for the Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry to explain how its spending of $190,000 on stove oil is improving angling and hunting in this province.

The hits just keep on coming, but the tunes aren't music to the ears of the Aylmer District Stakeholders Committee (ADSC). The ADSC, a small committee formed in 1999-2000 at the request of the Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry (MNRF: formerly MNR), represents a group of concerned residents, including about 1,500 farmers, landowners, hunters and associated fish and wildlife business representatives across Elgin, Middlesex and Oxford counties within the MNRF's Southwestern Ontario Wildlife Management Units 91 and 92. The group has been trying since 2012 to obtain a detailed breakdown from the Ministry as to how the province is spending revenue generated by the sales of angling and hunting licences – revenue that totalled about $74 million in the 2015-16 fiscal year alone.

Last August, the ADSC did receive a 13-page statement covering 2011-12 revenues ($63 million) and a list of expenditures that totalled $68 million. It included such payouts as $69,000 for housing accommodations and $55,000 on various medical services. The ADSC felt these items, and numerous others, seemed to be far outside the designated use of those revenues – and the statement didn't include a single mention of a fish or a wildlife species. So the ADSC continued to seek more up-to-date information and now they have received 15 more pages of line-by-line expenditures covering three fiscal years (2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15) – and the explanations continue to be bizarre. Here are a few random items:

  • $29,420 for tuition fees and textbooks for ministry employees.
  • $189,800 for stove oil.
  • $1,731,240 for motor vehicle and non-heating fuels.
  • $517,900 for "non-hospitality" meetings, but $19,930 for "hospitality" meetings.
  • $330,000 for building and office space leases and rent, then $71,680 for repairs to those rented or leased buildings and offices, expenditures that are typically paid by the property owner.
  • $268,890 for repairs or maintenance of leased engineering structures.
  • The latest CBC report of unclaimed $3.5M in fines would have been Special Purpose Account (SPA) funds.

This is significant – and disturbing to the ADSC -- because when licence fees for angling in Ontario were introduced years ago, Ontario residents were told the revenue raised by angling and hunting licence fees, royalties and fines would be earmarked as separate from the province's general budget in what the government refers to as a Special Purpose Account (SPA.) That revenue would then be reinvested annually to "improve angling and hunting in Ontario," according to the Ministry's own Sport Regulations Summaries. Ontario anglers and hunters are still waiting for an explanation as to how the spending of $190,000 on stove oil, for example, is improving angling and hunting in this province.

Adding to the ADSC's frustration is the realization of the staggering amount of revenue and expenditures the Ministry has handled during the 20-year history of the Special Purpose Account, which was initiated in 1996:

  • In the 1998-99 fiscal year, the Account advertised approximate revenues of $43M; in 2000-01, revenues were $50M; in 2011-12, $63.1M; in 2012-13, $74M; in 2013-14, $65.8M; in 2014-15, $69.8M, and in 2015, $74M. From 1996 to 2015, subjectively guesstimating the gaps, the SPA may have achieved average annual revenues of $55.8M. Over the lifespan of the SPA, revenues generated may have totalled $1.12 billion.
  • In the five years of documented expenditures for the fiscal years 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15, there's no mention of a single expenditure on a provincial fish or wildlife species.
  • In addition to the financial contributions by hunters and anglers, consider the volunteer services these groups provide annually. As an example, the government acknowledged that 6,000 volunteers contributed more than 75,000 hours to Fish & Wildlife Community Projects (CFWIP) in 1998.

Adding to their challenges is the ability for the ADSC to obtain a forensic audit and a police investigation.

The ADSC, with the support of Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek, continues to seek an explanation as to how the $209.6 million the MNRF has spent in the past four fiscal years from 2011 to 2015 is relevant to the mandated use of Special Purpose Account revenue. In an effort to prompt the Ministry to respond, a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario has been launched. It requests the Legislative Assembly to direct the Auditor General to conduct a value for money audit of the SPA fund. Interested parties can obtain a copy of the petition, or add their names to copies already in circulation through Yurek's constituency office (519-631-0666) or website (www.jeffyurekmpp.com).


Last Updated: Friday, 26 May 2017 07:03:48 AM EST

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