TORONTO - The New Democrats are pressuring the Liberal government to bring back the Ontario Ranger Program for teens, which it scrapped in 2012.
More than 78,000 young people participated in the Ranger program since 1944 before the government cut it to save about $1.8 million a year.
New Democrat John Vantoff says the NDP negotiated several changes in the last two budgets from the minority Liberal government, and will try to get the Ranger program reinstated in next year's fiscal plan.
He says the NDP will make the request at budget time, but cannot guarantee the program will be restored for next summer.
The group Friends of the Ontario Ranger Program presented a petition to the government with over 6,000 signatures asking that the program be reinstated, something the opposition Progressive Conservatives also want to see.
New Democrat Michael Mantha says the two years he spent as an Ontario Ranger changed his life and are probably responsible for him being an elected representative.
"It shaped my views, started developing some of my values and gave me an opportunity to connect with youth across this province," said Mantha. "For the bang of their buck and the cost of this program, it is definitely something that has unlimited amount of returns for the community, for northern Ontario."
Students were selected by lottery for the Ranger program, which emphasized environmental stewardship, maintenance of provincial parks, life skills and team-building.
The government said it won't reinstate the old Ranger program, and replaced it with a day-only program, which it insisted provides the same learning experiences for youth while being delivered in a more efficient manner.
"The change provides 225 opportunities to youth, while contributing $1.8 million in annual savings and avoiding a capital investment of almost $8 million to repair the aging ranger camps," said Andrew Donnachie, press secretary to David Orazietti, the Minister of Natural Resources.
Also on HuffPost