Control of resources vital for the North – by Ron Grech (Timmins Daily Press – September 22, 2011)

Ron Grech is a reporter for The Daily Press, the city of Timmins newspaper. Contact the writer at

Northerners will continue to be disappointed by government decisions as long as they don’t have full control of their energy and natural resources.

That was the key message conveyed by a Northern economist who spoke prior to the all-candidates meeting hosted by the Timmins Chamber of Commerce at O’Gorman High School Wednesday night.

Dr. David Robinson suggested the most important question local candidates should be asked is: “How are you going to give us real control of our own space and our own resources?”

Robinson, who is director of the Institute for Northern Ontario Research and Development at Laurentian University was invited by the Timmins chamber as part of its Ask The Expert series of seminars.

Robinson, a leading expert on Northern economic development, suggested, “We need to actually have a Northern Ontario energy policy” run by a separate energy commission.

The North, he said, should also have local control of renewable energy resources.

“We need to have access to bio-energy in the North handed over to the communities. It is absolutely absurd for southern Ontario ministries to be handing over biomass in the Timmins to companies from outside the region.

“We spend about a billion dollars a year in Northern Ontario on petroleum products of various sorts coming from other places. In fact, almost all of that could be replaced with products from our forest … It would create jobs here and we would save that money.”

While Robinson spoke at length about natural resources, he said the most valuable resource the North has is people.

Yet Northern youth, he said, are enrolled in a “colonial education system … run from the outside that trains people to go somewhere else.”

He suggested the North should be able to input more local content into its school curriculum.

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