Ottawa, September 17, 2003 – Liberal candidates from across Ottawa and Eastern Ontario are unanimously calling for a review into the Ontario government’s mismanagement of wildlife rehabilitation in the province, including last year’s highly criticized closure of the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre.

The Friends of the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre, a local volunteer group supporting the reinstatement of wildlife rehabilitation, surveyed all 41 candidates running in Eastern Ontario on their support for an inquiry into the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) which unjustifiably shut down the Wildlife Centre last year. All 11 Liberal candidates, and most from the NDP and the Green Party, are supporting the need for a review.

Not one Conservative candidate responded to the survey. The Conservative candidates continuing silence on this issue demonstrates the current government’s disdain for the views of the local community on important issues.

“The Conservative government, under Ernie Eves, has allowed the Ministry of Natural Resources to effectively outlaw wildlife rehabilitation in this province, and at the same time, allow the slaughter of thousands of healthy wildlife in the name of rabies control,” says Donna DuBreuil, President of the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre.

In comparison, the Liberal candidates have been unanimous in their support for a review. In a Sept. 13 letter to the Friends group, Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty stated that his party supports a full and complete review of MNR’s operations and procedures in this matter, as well as regulations now banning responsible and humane wildlife rehabilitation in Ontario. “We will work with organizations such as the Friends of the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre to develop a new and improved working relationship between government and community volunteers and business partners,” McGuinty writes.

The Friends group wants the inquiry to review new rules that make it an offence for people to care for orphaned or injured wild mammals in Ontario, as well as an investigation into the controversial seizure of 34 healthy raccoons from the OCWC in September 2002.

“For the past year, the Liberal opposition members have worked with us in condemning these unwarranted actions and regressive rules,” says Debbie Lawes, a member of the Friends group. “The Liberals presented our petitions to the Ontario Legislative Assembly from over 9,000 Ontario residents in 270 communities demanding changes to MNR regulations that are inhumane, unnecessary and unprecedented in North America.”

In a Sept. 15 letter to the Friends, NDP Leader Howard Hampton also supported the need for a review into the MNR’s actions. He writes: “Once elected, the NDP will review the MNR policies and decisions that led to this unfortunate situation, with a view to reopening the wildlife centre and developing new regulations that result in the humane treatment of animals and protecting Ontario’s wildlife.

The OCWC was forced to shutdown its telephone hotline and rehabilitation service last year after the MNR introduced new rules that make it impossible to offer a humane and responsible wildlife rehabilitation service anywhere in Ontario. The OCWC is calling for an inquiry into the issue, including the feasibility of transferring the responsibility of wildlife rehabilitation to the provincial Ministry of the Environment.

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For more information, contact: Donna DuBreuil, 613-282-3755

Click to view Candidate's Letter, Survey and Results.

And visit the website of the Friends of the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre: