New Vision for Northern Ontario – by Livio Di Matteo (Jun 8, 2011)

Livio Di Matteo is Professor of Economics at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario.  Visit his new Economics Blog “Northern Economist” at

Next week is the Think North II Summit designed to bring together decision makers and opinion leaders in yet another consultation emanating from the one Northern Growth plan to rule them all that was forged and tempered in the fires of Queen’s Park by the Ontario government.  According to the recent update from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, The Think North II Summit is “an opportunity for northerners to be actively engaged in shaping the framework for regional economic planning areas in Northern Ontario” and will feature hands-on workshops on “crafting a vision for regional economic development planning in Northern Ontario” as well as create “strategies for collaboration.” 

There will even be the obligatory S.W.O.T. analysis to identify the strategies, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the “change” represented by regional economic planning.  The “threat” of change is a particularly amusing concept given that this entire process continues a process of consultation that has been ongoing for decades with not much change.  To date, the major obstacles to change in the North have been the policies of the provincial government itself which have hampered the ability of the region to take charge of its own development. Never mind regional economic planning, a regional government for the North with power over economic and resource matters is decades overdue. 

A close inspection of the agenda also shows that there is still no mention of the other “Northern Plan” that was recently introduced by the Quebec government.  Can we learn something from Quebec?  The Ontario government apparently thinks not.  An interesting workshop of the Summit is the one called Vision 2021 which is described as: “The year is 2021.  The Regional Economic Development Planning Areas are functioning well and Northern Ontario communities are prospering.  Describe what is happening in northern communities”. 

It would appear that the Northern Growth Plan is already a success!  Time travel to 2021 has occurred and the report back is that the North is prospering.  I had always suspected that the Ring of Fire was really an inter-dimensional time portal administered by Stargate Command.

Vision for the North requires more concrete action and less planning.  If you don’t want to take my word for it, visit the following post on Stan Sudol’s Republic of Mining which advocates a “Mining Marshall Plan” for Ontario’s North.  The Marshall Plan was designed to rebuild Europe after the Second World War.  That we need a Marshall Plan for the North suggests we need to be rebuilt after decades of less than satisfactory provincial economic and development policies.