The following guest editorial is from Dr E. G. Pye, former director of the Ontario Geological Survey.
Decentralization of government services has been a cornerstone of Ontario government policy since the major reorganization of 1972.
During the discussions on this issue in the 1970s and early 1980s, the suggestion was made that the Ontario Geological Survey be moved from its Toronto headquarters and relocated in a northern Ontario community so as to be more accessible to the minerals industry and closer to its own operations, a suggestion which only now, following Premier David Peterson’s announcement of July 29, appears to be becoming a reality.
At the time of the discussions, the Ontario Geological Survey reacted with little enthusiasm. Relocation really has little to offer in the way of enhanced services. Most mining companies carrying out exploration in northern Ontario have their offices in the Toronto-centred region and to remove the frequently-consulted assessment-work files, mines library and survey geologists to a distant community could be a costly inconvenience rather than a benefit, whereas the government’s resident geologists already provide a service reasonably adequate for local needs.
Other government agencies likewise would no longer have ready access to the geological expertise and services they also require to carry out their responsibilities. The survey’s work extends to all parts of the province, including the Toronto-centred region soon to be vacated, negating any advantage there might be in relocation in a northern community.
At the same time, relocation of the survey in a particular mining community, e.g., Sudbury, could easily be construed as placing it in a position of being subject to undue influence, intentional or otherwise, by those mining companies based in or near that community, simply because of their privileged ease of access to the survey’s personnel.
Relocation would undoubtedly result in the resignations of some key scientists not willing or unable to move, thus breaking up research teams which have taken many years of painstaking effort to develop. The OGS has close working relationships with the geology departments of the universities in southern Ontario, as well as those in the north.
Finally, the Survey must have ready access to highly specialized cartographic services and printing facilities not currently available in northern Ontario. On the other hand, one may ask if the small number of Survey positions to be relocated will be of any long- lasting significant benefit to the economy of the Sudbury area.
It is a pity the new Liberal government in Ontario, unlike the former federal government which a few years ago rejected the break-up of the Geological Survey of Canada to create an institute of Precambrian Geology in Thunder Bay, could not resist the temptation of relocating the OGS in Sudbury, a relocation which will prove costly both to itself and the mining industry of the province.