There’s renewed hope the concerns of Northern communities will be heard now that Kathleen Wynne has been named Ontario’s next premier.
Wynne’s victory Saturday as leader of the Ontario Liberal party was greeted mostly positively but cautiously by local officials who are counting on the incoming premier to listen and understand the needs of the North.
“I respect her as a leader and as a person,” said North Bay Mayor Al McDonald, who is anticipating a better relationship between Northern Ontario and the province with Wynne at the helm. “I’m looking forward to working with her.”
Long-standing Northern concerns of being ignored and misunderstood at Queen’s Park have been exacerbated by recent decisions such as the divestment of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, which came without consultation.
But McDonald is hopeful that will change. He said he met with Wynne to discuss concerns such as the ONTC divestment and proposed consolidation of hydro utilities during a campaign stop in the city two weeks ago. And although she didn’t make any promises, McDonald was encouraged by Wynne and her willingness to listen.
He noted that she was the only Liberal cabinet minister who faced municipal leaders during a Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM) convention in North Bay in May, saying she earned a lot of respect for not hiding from strong animosity over the plan to sell off the ONTC.
Coun. Mac Bain, FONOM past president, said he has met with Wynne, who has led various ministries including education, transportation and municipal affairs and housing, on numerous occasions during her time in office. And he described her as one of the most open and accessible members of cabinet, suggesting she will be more willing to listen than Dalton McGuinty has been during the past five years.
Brian Stevens, spokesman for the General Chairperson’s Association (CGA), which represents unionized employees at the ONTC, was also optimistic about what Wynne’s leadership may mean for the proposed New Deal to revitalize the Crown agency.
He said Wynne has acknowledged in her remarks that the provincial government has made some missteps that need to be dealt with.
“We believe the ONTC is one of them,” said Stevens, noting the CGA is looking forward to presenting her with the business plan that’s nearly complete for the New Deal proposal involves the creation of a federal ports authority.
For the rest of this article, please go to the North Bay Nugget website: http://www.nugget.ca/2013/01/27/wynne-raises-hope-for-dialogue