Chance to make decisions [Ontario Think North event] – by Harold Carmichael (Sudbury Star – June 17, 2011)

The Sudbury Star, the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

The Ontario Government is pushing ahead with one of the key planks in the Northern Ontario Growth Plan, says the minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry.

“Northerners have said that when decisions are being made, they want it to be an independent not-for-profit policy institute,” Michael Gravelle told reporters Thursday, during a visit to Greater Sudbury to give a speech at the Think North 2 Summit.

“It’s a good chance by northerners to make some decisions on what works. The institute will be able to look for evidence- based advice on what can work the best in Northern Ontario.”

Gravelle said the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation will provide $5 million to get the new policy institute running. One of the first steps in the process, he said, will be to get a board of governors and a board of directors in place.

The minister also said he has met with Laurentian University president Dominic Giroux and Lakehead president Brian Stevenson and asked for their advice on the policy institute since both have a strong background and experience in preparing policy.

“(But) it won’t be an arm of the government,” he said. “It won’t be an arm of the universities. It will be a not-for-profit institute to advise the government what works in the (northern) communities.”

Gravelle said another key component of the Growth Plan — a multi-modal transportation study — is being acted on.

“It has become clear the development of a multi-modal transportation study is very important,” he told reporters.

As a result, the Ministry of Transportation ($1 million) and the heritage fund ($1.2 million) are teaming up to get the study going.

“They recognize how important this is in generating an economic dividend,” he said. “Transportation is just co crucial to northerners.”

As well, the Ministry of Transportation will conduct a massive study of the North’s highways ‘ “to learn how the roads are being used and by whom,” said Gravelle.

The Think North event was the second of two held this week — the first took place in Thunder Bay Monday night and Tuesday. Some 250 people were in attendance at the northwestern Ontario event.

A total of 263 people from across the northeast attended the Greater Sudbury event, which was held at the Holiday Inn Wednesday night and all day Thursday.

Gravelle told reporters that a Ring of Fire infrastructure conference will be held in Thunder Bay next week to discuss how to build transportation links to area, which includes a massive chromite deposit that Cliffs Natural Resources, among other companies, plans to develop

“Right now, we have two or three different visions on how we should be developing it,” he said. “We want to see if we can come to some agreement on how this should be done. It’s a priority on the part of the government. This is a tremendous opportunity for generations to come … for all northerners.”

Two of those visions are a road and a railway line.

KWG Resources, a junior mining company that owns close to 30% of one of the chromite deposits and controls the best land route into the region, has a public-private-partnership rail proposal in the works. The railway would cost an estimated $2 billion and need about two years for environmental studies. Another three years would be needed for construction.

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