Northern [Ontario] growth plan amazingly ignorant – by John R. Hunt (North Bay Nugget – April 2011)

The North Bay Nugget, established in 1907, is the daily newspaper for the northeastern Ontario community of North Bay.

On the Rocks Column

“The real challenge is to create viable economies that can survive after the natural resources are exhausted. There is something in the Northern psyche that seems to detest this basic idea. Rip out the silver and gold. Dig up the iron, copper and nickel. Pump out the last drop of oil. When it is all gone complain there is nothing to do. This seems to be the Canadian way.” (John R. Hunt – North Bay Nugget)

Take one ton of good intentions and mix an equal quantity of platitudes. Recruit a team of writers and tell them to please everyone and offend no one. You may then get the Northern Ontario Growth Plan that was recently dumped on the long suffering public.

In what can only be described as gigantic conceit, incredible optimism or amazing ignorance, the plan is supposed to lay out future developments in the North for the next 25 years.

The plan’s media release notes that Northern Ontario represents 90% of the province’s land mass. Another way of putting it might be that after all these years of Northern development, more than 90% of the population has very little desire or inducement to live in the North.

Government has spared no expense or effort in preparing this truly awe inspiring document that should bring new hope and ambition to every Northern heart. I understand it’s invited and received hundreds of submissions. There is a huge website where you will find a growth plan for southern Ontario, as well as the North.

You may be surprised to discover there is an Ontario Growth Secretariat that presumably is the nerve centre of all this planning.

Here is some intriguing economic development and job creation news that should excite every ambitious young man or woman in Northern Ontario.

Immediately and without any delay that might hold up Northern development, the government will establish the Northern Policy Institute. It appears that this think tank will co-ordinate, massage and manipulate anything and everything that has anything to do with Northern development. Presumably it will operate under the watchful eye of the Ontario Growth Secretariat.

Just imagine all the job opportunities. There will be forms to be filled, reports to be made and conferences to attend. Most important there must be vision and imagination.

Great thinkers are needed. Job applicants may find Liberal party connections helpful, but possibly not essential. All this may be a continuation of the notorious Bill 191, which established a sort of economic no-go zone in too much of the North.

To be fair the Liberals embarked on this massive exercise with the best of intentions and most likely not knowing what else to do. Dalton McGuinty told some senior civil servant that something must be done to help Northern Ontario.

The bureaucrat knew very well she or he could not suggest much for today but planning the future would keep hordes of experts very busy and anything they produced might be useful in an election.

The McGuinty mob, like all the other mobs before it, does not understand that Ontario is not the Soviet Union. The experts cannot order a corporation to build a steel mill or tell farmers to co-operate and build a slaughter house.

Construction of the ONR railway was intended to serve farmers in the New Liskeard area but silver was discovered at Cobalt and everything changed.

Building the Ferguson Highway, now Highway 11, was in response to need. Now many businesses and communities have been bypassed and their economy damaged.

The Northern Ontario Growth Plan is supposed to create an integrated transportation system to meet all needs and stimulate development. The Ontario government has run most aspects of Northern transportation for more than 100 years. Perhaps the new Policy Institute can straighten it out.

It is supposed to provide the education services the North requires and that will encourage development.

For the rest of this column, please go to the North Bay Nugget website: