Liberal hopeful backs [Ring of Fire] rail system – by Ron Grech (Timmins Daily Press – December 21, 2012)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

TIMMINS – Ontario Liberal leadership candidate Charles Sousa is a strong supporter of rail systems and believes more needs to be done to enhance the service throughout the province.

During a stop Thursday in Timmins, Sousa’s declared support for Ontario Northland Transportation Commission fell short of offering to reverse the government’s current plans to privatize the ONTC if he succeeds in being elected provincial Liberal leader.

“I have advocated for increases in transportation,” Sousa said during an interview with The Daily Press. “I have said we need high-speed rail throughout the southern corridor and we need the ONTC or the rail system going up the North, to the spine up to the Ring of Fire. We need to have these transportation systems in place.”

Partnership with private enterprise is the key to developing enhanced rail systems, Sousa said.

Sousa is one of seven candidates running for the Ontario Liberal leadership. He is at least the third candidate to have come through Timmins during this current campaign. The party will elect its new leader to replace Premier Dalton McGuinty at a convention being held in Toronto Jan. 25-27.

The Mississauga South MPP was asked what he would do to address the overriding sense in the region that Queen’s Park is out of touch with Northern Ontario. This sense of disconnectedness has been spurred by government decisions such as the proposed sell-off of ONTC, the planned cancellation of overnight camping at 10 provincial parks and the impact the Caribou Conservation Plan has had on forestry.

Sousa said it comes down to better communication and providing Northerners with a mechanism for direct input on government decisions.

“We need to have some local governance that is occurring in the North that has a conduit to decision makers in the province,” said Sousa. “The decision makers have to be local as well. That’s the point. The MPP or whoever the representative is has to have greater autonomy, greater power.”

Fellow Ontario Liberal leadership candidate Glen Murray, when he was in Timmins last month, similarly spoke of giving Northerners greater autonomy in decisions affecting them.

Sousa was cautious in avoiding any suggestion the North become a separate entity.

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