| Jun 30, 2005


Feature article, July 7, 2005

Feature article July 7, 2005

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Out of the frying plan for Leona Someone I know said they thought Dalton McGuinty has it in for Leona Dombrowsky.

Even though only two facts were put forward to support this assertion, the argument is still compelling. First McGuinty named her Environment Minister, and when that wasnt enough to destroy her reputation, he gave her Agriculture.

In opposition, the Liberals had dined out on the mess the Conservatives had made of the Environment Ministry. First the Conservatives gutted the Ministry, then came the Walkerton tragedy.

So, it was not a favour for Dalton McGuinty to name Leona Dombrowsky Minister of the Environment.

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As a rookie Minister, Dombrowsky had to acquaint herself with a variety of files in a hurry. Not only is the Ministry charged with protecting the environment from industrial polluters, but it has a large impact in rural Ontario as well. Several aspects of the Ministrys operations have been very unpopular in rural Ontario, such as the Nutrient Management and Safe Drinking Water Acts that were rushed in by the Conservatives in the aftermath to the Walkerton tragedy.

Both rural and urban municipalities in the province have been tearing their hair out over the impenetrable protocol for establishing a waste management site. In fact, not a single new site has been approved by the Ministry in over a decade.

As an Environment Minister with rural roots, Leona Dombrowsky has had an effect. The Nutrient Management Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act have been adjusted to make them less onerous on small farms and tourist operators, and a process has been put in place to streamline approvals for waste management sites.

Hopefully, with the appointment of an urban-based rookie minister, who is also about to have a baby, the initiatives undertaken under Dombrowskys watch, particularly as new water regulations are finalised, will be carried through in the interest of the survival of the rural economy in Ontario.

As Agriculture Minister, Leona Dombrowsky is faced with a demoralized farming community. Many of the sectors are threatened with imminent destruction, from beef to tobacco and beyond, and the factors that affect farm incomes are beyond the control of the provincial government, ranging from the ban on live beef imports in the United States to global agricultural subsidies that are the subject of worldwide political debate.

As well, the McGuinty government is seen as urban-centric, and recent cuts to the Agriculture Ministry have made it easier to pin that reputation on the government.

This is the context in which Leona Dombrowsky becomes the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Ontario. Her success in this role may well be measured by her ability to convince the more powerful members of cabinet, most of who were elected by urban voters, to take rural Ontario seriously.

It will be a daunting task. JG

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