Rivalry easily stirred among cities of [Ontario’s] north – by Brian MacLeod (Sudbury Star – December 15, 2011)

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

To many people in southern Ontario (read south of Parry Sound), northern Ontario is a giant mass of trees, lakes and rock.  Not so, and in politics, even less so.

Just one month ago, the mayors of Northern Ontario’s five major cities — Sudbury, North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins and Thunder Bay — vowed to speak with one voice to press their issues with the province, especially on industrial hydro rates.

But that fraternity doesn’t reflect an always-simmering rivalry among the cities, which is heating up, in part, through the actions of the provincial government.

It doesn’t take much, mind you, to get people in North Bay and Sudbury — which are about 130 kilometres apart — jawing over who gets what. Last year, North Bay officials complained bitterly that 31 mental health beds, and the accompanying jobs, moved to Sudbury.

But, as QMI Agency’s Chip Martin pointed out recently, parts of northern Ontario — especially those with a strong mining sector — are booming. And everyone wants in.

North Bay and Sault Ste. Marie councils recently passed a motion demanding that they, and Timmins, be treated by the provincial government as equals to their larger cousins. This stems from the province’s 25-year Growth Plan for northern Ontario, unveiled earlier this year.

The plan acknowledged that more than half the north’s 800,000-plus people live in these five cities, which it called “economic hubs that benefit all of northern Ontario.” They were recognized as “optimal locations for infrastructure investment.” While the plan wasn’t greeted with universal applause, there was confidence that the province saw these cities as equals in their universes — which, in most cases, are hundreds of kilometres apart.

But politicians in North Bay and Sault Ste. Marie say the province has since designated Sudbury and Thunder Bay special regional planning areas, providing them with funds to develop economic plans. Suddenly, some cities are more equal than others.

For the rest of this column, please go to the Sudbury Star website: http://www.thesudburystar.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3405901