Northern Growth: Adding Up the Successes – by Livio Di Matteo (Northern Economist Blog – February 13, 2012)

Livio Di Matteo is Professor of Economics at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Visit his new Economics Blog “Northern Economist” at

Well, the provincial government has not forgotten about the Northern Growth Plan after all.  It would appear that planning for the plan to plan all plans is still being planned. 

This morning’s opinion piece in the Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal by Northern Development and Mines Minister Rick Bartolucci “Consensus in the North: The arithmetic of success” was no doubt designed to provide a quantitative bent to the government’s activities not by listing the investments it was planning to make in Northern infrastructure or documenting the size of the budget for new projects but by listing the number of consultations and their participants.

Indeed, according to the Minister:”When it comes to consulting, listening and collaborating with northerners, the McGuinty government is also ahead of the curve.”  The provincial government is working with northerners “to create two regional economic development planning pilots in Northern Ontario”. 

The Northwest Joint Taskforce has posted their draft online and according to the Minister “The local planning teams will be inviting your input on their proposed approach.  This is a time for us to work together on a made-in-the-North solution, and I urge you to participate.” And finally, “I encourage you to keep contributing your advice and ideas for increasing prosperity in Northern Ontario.”

What would be a more interesting pursuit by the Minister is not asking what we think about the Northwest Joint Task Force draft framework but what he or perhaps the MNDM Deputy Minister or perhaps Cabinet thinks of it. What the Minister is outlining is yet another set of consultations on a plan devised in response to a plan and whose implementation ultimately requires approval and action on the part of the government.  Unless of course, by asking our views yet again on a proposal, the minister plans to finally base his decision on what we want.

Is the Minister gradually moving towards a view of more regional autonomy for the North?  Otherwise, all of this is simply another exercise is Northern economic development arithmetic in which the squared sum of the time spent consulting Northerners plus the number of ministerial announcements on progress in planning is equal to zero.

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