Bed Capacities and the Provincial Resource-Based Tourism Working Group

 

s market value land tenure comes into effect in January of 2010, it is worth looking at where we stand on some of the other major issues that the RBT Working Group has been addressing. As we have stated many times before, NOTO did not enter this exercise in order to ask for a significant rent increase - that was a government initiative that we had successfully held off for more than ten years. However, if higher rents were inevitable, we needed to make sure that we saw increased value for those rents in the form of greater security and security and solutions to some significant nagging issues with MNR policies.

The RBT Working Group originally formed out of concerns over arbitrary reductions in outpost camp bed capacities during transfer to new owners. This concern is almost exclusive to northwestern Ontario and led to the infamous Ignace meeting in 2005.

It has always been NOTO's position that bed capacities were an unnecessary and inappropriate management mechanism that should simply be removed. There may be a few cases where some kind of bed capacity or other limitation is needed, such as lakes with multiple operators. Even here, however, the issue is not specifically protection of the fishery but rather making sure that one operator's practices do not change the overall character of the area to the detriment of other operators. Replacing a 6 bed outpost with a 50 bed hotel might be problematic even if none of the hotel guests fished. We need a way to deal with these cases, but it should not be through bed capacities as part of land tenure.

With the responsible self management practices of the vast majority of fly-in operators, bed capacities are simply unnecessary. Most operators already impose camp rules more restrictive than the provincial angling regulations because their business depends on a quality fishery.

The remote fly-in industry operating on crown land does not need special rules and oversight from MNR, we need better cooperation and information sharing with MNR so that our voluntary management practices are the best they can be.

Bed capacities are also contrary to MNR's own move away from lake-by-lake fisheries management under the new Ecological Framework for Recreational Fisheries Management. If we really want to consider special management for fly-in lakes, why not look at creating special management like conservation limits or different slot sizes? This approach would be much more consistent with MNR policy and current industry practice.

Although the Interim Agreement on Outpost Bed Capacities, signed in 2006, has for the most part helped us avoid conflicts and problems that plagued us in the past, we have still not finalized a new policy.

We believe we are now close to a permanent solution to the issue of bed capacities, and have been assured by MNR that a new approach can be in place by spring of 2010.

The move to market value rents has led to a number of operators, primarily in northeastern Ontario, deciding that some of their sites are not a good fit for their sites are not a good fit for their business operations. We now have the Tourism Advisory Committee in place to assist districts in making decisions around site surrenders and changes in use coming in from individual LUP holders., including a mechanism to allow sites with buildings that are offered for sale and not being used to be held at the old LUP administrative rental rate for a minimum of one year.

Initial work of the TAC has highlighted the need to consider developing new policy tools to deal with low use, low value sites, mainly seasonal hunt camps. At NOTO we are being made aware of a number of sites with very rudimentary structures that are used for only a few weeks per year.

We are now in discussion with MNR over the possibility of developing a new "garden shed" LUP classification that would fall between the Type 'B' tent site or "mini" LUP and the full market value lease or Type 'A' LUP. Such a policy would in our view, only pertain to a limited number of exceptional sites.

These are all immediate, pressing concerns for the industry and we need to move quickly. In addition, there are significant larger scale policy initiatives that need to move forward, particularly the development of a comprehensive industry licensing framework, as outlined in our document Moving Forward: A Resource-Based Tourism Industry Fit for the Future.

Needless to say, both NOTO and MNR have a lot on our plate with these issues, but we are guardedly encouraged by the commitments we have had from MNR to move forward quickly. But only time and results will tell.

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