“That’s why southern-based environmental groups have more say in legislation that
shapes the North’s future than Northerners. That’s why the voices of our Northern
leaders are ignored when we are outraged by the decisions being made in Queen’s
Park. That’s why we are not overly surprised when a contract to refurbish GO trains
in the GTA is given to an out-of-province firm when the job can be done in the North.”
(Wayne Snider – Timmins Daily Press)
Northern Ontario is becoming a living paradox. While there are great amounts of wealth being created, or waiting to be created, the full potential of the benefits are not being realized by the region.
We have areas — such as Attawapiskat — where local residents have been waiting for the basic need of a decent school for more than 20 years. Yet a stone’s throw away, some of the world’s best quality diamonds are being mined.
We have entire communities which are in the process of dying slow painful deaths, where a key industry such as a sawmill or a pulp and paper mill has shut down, while the raw resources continue to be taken from the area for processing out of province.
We have seen legislation out of southern Ontario designed to “protect” the North — such as the Endangered Species Act and the Far North Act — actually tear away at the socio-economic fabric of Northern society.
The sad part is that none of this comes as a great shock to people who live here.
Warnings were given to Northern leaders within the last decade, but the struggle against existing bureaucracy and political climate have been too much to overcome.
No one can question the brilliance of the mind of Don McKinnon, one of the North’s most respected citizens. He was quick to warn Timmins council when the report Investing in People: Creating a Human Capital Society for Ontario was embraced by the provincial government.
During his presentation to council in 2004, McKinnon had a different name for the report, he called it The Master Plan to Destroy the North.
“The provincial government is dedicated to destroying Northern Ontario,” he told council. “I will cover the main points in brief before I quote the documents that prove this government is returning the North to communities of bunkhouses where young, single men produce minerals and electricity, cut down trees and guard hundreds of new parks and conservation areas where people from huge cities can spend their vacations in virgin wilderness.”
McKinnon made this statement years before the ESA demanded large swaths of land be protected from forestry and mining to save non-existent caribou.
It came before Northerners had access barred from Crown land — areas where we have traditionally camped, hunted or fished — so it can be reserved for tourists.
The speech was made long before local forestry firms invested a small fortune to reverse their fate, only to be blocked from access to the local wood supply.
“It spent $1.5 million to conclude that Ontario’s future lies in concentrating investments and human capital in cities,” he said of the report. “This would be achieved to the detriment of small, rural and remote communities. The only Northern communities that don’t fall into this category are the metropolitan cities of Thunder Bay and Sudbury.
“This means Timmins, North Bay and Sault Ste. Marie, and every other community in Northern Ontario are at risk.”
Think of how the provincial government sat idly and watched as Xstrata Copper relocated smelter operations to Quebec, because it is more cost effective to run there.
“The panel (behind the report) doesn’t believe these communities can stand alone on their own tax bases, but are permanent welfare cases,” McKinnon said.
Pretty heady stuff. Easy to scoff at. But looking back, who can dismiss McKinnon’s words today?
He even quoted Premier Dalton McGuinty as saying, “This report provides some context for the decisions we have to make now.”
For the rest of this article, please go to the Timmins Daily Press website: http://www.thedailypress.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3198884