The former mayor of Iroquois Falls is calling for the president of the Northeastern Ontario Municipal Association (NEOMA), Mike Doody, to resign from his position.
James Brown argues that under Doody’s leadership, NEOMA has been doing too much cozying up to the forest industry and not giving the public enough information to hold them accountable for the decisions they are making. The association, said Brown, is behaving more like an oligarchy than an organization made up elected officials.
“Something smells behind the scenes on all of this. All I’m saying is that we need to put on the brakes,” said Brown. “I just think that it’s a shame that we pay taxes and when we ask questions that we don’t get answers.”
One of the main issues for Brown is the proposal that the association join the Quebec-Ontario Boreal Forest Alliance — an idea that was proposed at a meeting in Fauquier-Strickland early last month, which would cost $45,000.
Joining the forest alliance is just the latest in series of activities which Brown said shows an inappropriately close relationship between the municipalities and the forestry industry, especially Resolute Forest Products – the firm that devastated the Iroquois Falls economy by closing its mill there more than a year ago.
Brown points out NEOMA began harshly criticizing environmental groups Greenpeace, even going so far as calling them an “eco-terrorist” group, a week-and-a-half after some members of the association were flown by private jet to the Resolute annual general meeting in Augusta, Ga., on May 29.
“Resolute Forest Products and Greenpeace are in a legal dispute. Why are we dragging our municipalities into a legal dispute?” pondered Brown. “All of a sudden they start singing this new song after they come back from Georgia.”
The straw that broke the camel’s back, he said was when NEOMA allegedly stonewalled his freedom of information request asking for details what goals the association hopes to achieve by joining the forest alliance.
“All (Joe) Torlone did was tell me to look at the minutes of their meeting. But there was no mission statement or goals or objectives spending plans or any of that in there,” he said.
Doody told The Daily Press he has no intention of resigning from NEOMA.
And while he respects Brown’s right to an opinion as a former mayor of a local municipality, he rejects outright the notion that NEOMA is not being transparent in its decision-making process.
“Our meetings are completely open. Our minutes also show that the municipalities that have been coming are very supportive of what we have been doing,” said Doody.
Doody also defended the association’s advocacy on the behalf of the forest industry and its criticism of environmentalist groups, arguing that NEOMA is attempting to do what’s best for the economic interests of its member communities.
“We have to realize that for many of (our municipalities), they rely on a strong lumber economy for their communities,” said Doody. “I think everyone from Hearst to Timiskaming Shores knows that I have been a big supporter of the forestry industry and will continue to be so.
“Outside of Mr. Brown, I have not heard any negative comments at all.”
When asked if NEOMA as a government organization should have a more arms-length relationship from the forest industry, Doody responded that they are not doing anything more than what communities like Timmins would do for the mining industry.
“We support the mining industry to the fullest, even to the point of having mining right in the middle of our community. There’s no reason to feel differently in a lumber community,” said Doody. “You may have issues with individual companies at times, as we have the odd issue with mining companies down through the years, but as a whole, you recognize the importance to economies of our communities.”