Liberal leadership candidate in favour of ‘autonomous North’ – by Kyle Gennings (Timmins Daily Press – November 19, 2012)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

TIMMINS – A candidate running for the Ontario Liberal leadership spoke in support of an autonomous North during a stop in Timmins Saturday.

“As an MPP for the past few years, I’ve seen at Queen’s Park exactly why things don’t work for Northern Ontario,” said Glen Murray (Liberal – Toronto Centre) who is among the candidates who have come forward to replace Dalton McGuinty. “Playing party to trying to create changes in the North, you can see the disconnect, you can see that there are a lot people who don’t get how different the challenges are.”

For Murray, the economic differences that separate north from south are just the starting point of the differences between the two regions of Ontario.

“The economy has two huge pillars that support it. One that has been quite weak – forestry – which resulted from the collapse of the housing market which shattered the demand for lumber,” he said. “The mining industry has been solidly booming across the board. Nowhere else in Ontario is the resource industry so fundamentally important.

You would never think of taking the security exchange commission away from Toronto because banking and financial services in Canada are at the very core of the Toronto economy and the only reason for its existence was that it quickly came together to raise the funds necessary to ensure the gold boom in the North.”

This fundamental relationship between north and south is an often misunderstood one, at least in Murray’s eyes, a connection that he hopes will become more understood by Northerners and southerners alike. It’s a problem he identified while cutting his political teeth as the mayor of Winnipeg.

“Without the Northern mining and forestry belt, there never would have been any banking in Toronto,” he said. “So the interdependence was there. But it does mean that the large industries in the south tend to dominate the agenda in Queen’s Park because population is so much higher and the voices for those industries are so numerous and so close.”

Using this fact as a sounding board, Murray suggested giving the north the same level of autonomy enjoyed by the City of Toronto, which has self-regulating authority over budgeting, job creation, service maintenance and spending ventures while ultimately answering to the province at Queen’s Park.

“How do you take these long-festering challenges, these power projects that don’t seem to make sense to people in the North, transportation issues, connecting such a diverse population dispersed in such a way?” he said.

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