"Moving the conservation officers so far away is like closing the local police department and expecting the officers to enforce the laws from 3 towns down the highway." — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President
Toronto (26 March 2019) — The Ford government is opening up the Lake Erie fishery to destructive overfishing and poaching with its “foolish” decision to move a crew of fisheries conservation officers 50 kilometres inland.
'Freshwater fishinh capital of the world' to lose conservation officers
“Doug Ford is sending Lake Erie conservation officers up the creek without a paddle,” says Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE). “If they’re not stationed by the lake, who’s going to enforce the law and stop the kind of overfishing that could lead to a complete collapse?
“We’ve seen a lot of foolish decisions from this government, but this one could win the derby,” said Thomas. “Does the Premier have a bunch of cronies who want to poach walleye? I can’t think of any other reason the government would do something so boneheaded.”
For decades, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) conservation officers have been stationed in the village of Wheatley, which is known as the “freshwater fishing capital of the world.”
Hundreds of charges are laid for poaching and over–fishing
From their dockside workplace, the officers have kept a close eye on both the commercial and sport fisheries from Wheatley to Kingsville and beyond. They lay hundreds of charges annually related to poaching, overfishing, fishing without licences, and fishing with illegal equipment.
But internal MNRF documents show the ministry is poised to move the Wheatley conservation officers nearly 50 kilometres inland and tuck them away at an office in Chatham.
“Wheatley is the busiest fresh-water fishing port in the country,” said Thomas. “Moving the conservation officers so far away is like closing the local police department and expecting the officers to enforce the laws from 3 towns down the highway."
“The poachers will be happy. Everybody else will suffer," said Thomas.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE