[Tim Hudak’s] Changebook North must be more than wish list – by Wayne Snider (Timmins Daily Press – July 19, 2011)

Wayne Snider is the city editor for The Daily Press, the city of Timmins newspaper. Contact the writer at news@thedailypress.ca.

OPINION: Conservatives must be committed to following through

The Progressive Conservatives won’t have a problem selling their platform in Northern Ontario this provincial election. The big question mark for the Tories is whether or not most Northerners will believe the sales pitch. As the saying goes: If an offer seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak revealed the platform, changebook North, last week. It reads like a political wish list for Northern Ontario.

It includes promises things such as the cancellation of the Far North Act, giving all municipalities a share of the gas tax, letting Northern communities decide how they should grow, and ensuring First Nations are real partners and will benefit from the wealth creation in the North. From reduced hydro bills to cutting HST on home heating, a promise is in there.

“The people calling for change the loudest are from the North, and with good reason,” the document’s intro states. “If Ontario is the engine of Confederation, then Northern Ontario is the fuel — the lumber, the minerals and the minds that power us forward. But for too long, the needs of the North have been ignored.

“The Southern Ontario special interests, with their fantasy view of what Northern living really is, have far too much say of the decisions that affect actual Northern families. The North needs change.”

It is not surprising to hear such a statement, given the fact that changebook North was created based on consultations with Northerners. It’s not the promise — which sounds great — but the follow through that voters are concerned with.

All political parties have a history of giving into special interest groups once in power. Environmental activists pretty much wrote the changes to the Endangered Species Act, which the McGuinty Liberals lapped up like gravy on a caribou steak.

Who will ever forget the free-spending mess made by the NDP, leading to Rae Days for government workers.

Even the Tories have a history of co-operating — or giving in — to these groups.

In 1999, Mike Harris cancelled the spring bear hunt, costing outfitters, guides and other tourism-related industries millions of dollars in revenue annually.

The real reason behind the ban was the threat of a publicity campaign in eight key Conservative ridings. Hungry for re-election, Harris caved. And ever since, the party line has been the decision was made on science — albeit junk science cooked up in the political labs of the very special interest groups Hudak condemns today.

All Northerners know the real reasoning behind the ban is nothing but a crock of bear scat. It was pure political motivation at its worst. Southern-based special interests forcing their vision on Northerners.

We’re not stupid. We remember the whole ugly scene.

I suspect the Tories are going to announce their candidate in Timmins-James Bay for the upcoming election, likely today (Tuesday). Kapuskasing Mayor Al Spacek, president of the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities, has called a press conference in Timmins. We know that he was asked to consider running, so it won’t be a great shock if and when he tosses a Tory blue hat into the political arena.

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