“Show us [Northern Ontario] the respect we deserve. The urban dictatorship is destroying
the beautiful cultural mosaic that makes our country unique — and great.”
(Wayne Snider, March 22, 2011)
Recently, the Town of Cochrane sent a strongly worded letter to Natural Resources Minister Linda Jeffrey. The topic of discussion was the Ontario government’s plan to protect massive
amounts of land in the North — stretching from the Manitoba border to James Bay — from future resource development under the Endangered Species Act in a bid to re-establish the range of the woodland caribou.
In a nutshell, the town said it would not consider supporting the policy unless:
* Northern municipalities and First Nation communities are given the chance to provide “meaningful consultations” on the issue;
* A socio-economic assessment — overseen by the province and the Federation of Northern Ontario Mayors — is done to determine the impact of the legislation;
* Mechanisms are added to “measure and quantify actual impacts on our communities and their way of life, along with remedial measures” that could be made; and
* Habitat lines for caribou reflect “what the range is today, not what the targeted range should be.”
While the caribou plan has sparked outrage among Northern leaders, Cochrane Mayor Peter Politis maintains it shows why the current provincial and federal political systems need to be revised so it reflects more than just voter population.
“The caribou issue is symptomatic of a bigger problem,” he said. “We have 10% of the province’s population and 90% of the land mass.
“Even if all 11 seats were elected to the ruling party in government, our voice is lost” among the 101 seats in Ontario.
He sees the same thing happening in the federal system.
“Southern B.C., southern Ontario and southern Quebec sets the agenda for the country,” he explained. “Their values are becoming our values.
“There are a lot of different cultural groups across Canada that are being ignored.
“We need to correct the system.”
Large urban centres in the south have huge population bases and more seats in government. At both the provincial and federal levels, these are main battlefields that determine who wins the electoral wars.
So the focus of ruling governments is to woo the support of the large voting base. And it comes at the expense of rural Canada, First Nations, the Prairies, the Maritimes and, of course, Northern Ontario.
Seeing the North snubbed federally and provincially is what spurred Politis to get involved in politics. He is determined to lobby for the preservation of the lifestyle Northerners have chosen and love.
The caribou scheme has become the poster child for Northern Ontario in terms of political gamesmanship in the south.
The plan was driven by southern-based environmental groups, even though it harshly impacts the lifestyle and economics of the North.
“Probably, about 95% of the species at risk are in southern Ontario,” Politis said. “Let them take care of their own backyard first.”
And as the mayor bluntly said, the southern environs of Ontario have already had “the trees cut down” and been “paved over.”
Forestry and mining are not just part of Northern Ontario’s economy. These industries are part of our heritage and lifestyle, just like camping, hunting and fishing. We’ve managed to keep our habitat vibrant for about 100 years without destroying the environment, like has been done in the south.
This is because Northerners — of all cultural backgrounds — are part of the environment.
We have maintained a healthy respect for our natural resources. And we take great umbrage when condescending, arrogant, self-appointed saviours preach against our lifestyle.
There is a complete lack of respect.
For the rest of this column, please go to the Daily Press website: http://www.timminspress.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3038271