Wynne’s election shows promise for the North – by Brian MacLeod (Sudbury Star – January 30, 2013)

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

As far as premiers from Toronto go, Kathleen Wynne was the best choice among the Liberal contenders for the North. We do not know yet what will come of Wynne’s attention to the North during the leadership campaign, but there is promise. Wynne vowed to create a northern cabinet committee — there are four Liberal MPPs in the North — and hold a cabinet meeting in the North in the first 30 days.

She vowed to focus on enhancing roads, bridges and transportation, much of which is aimed at developing the Ring of Fire chromite deposit in the James Bay Lowlands. Cliffs Natural Resources plans to build a smelter north of Capreol to handle material from the Ring of Fire, bringing about 400 permanent jobs to the Sudbury area.

She promised to complete the four-laning of Highway 69, which is vital to Sudburians for economic and safety reasons. And she wants northern mayors to co-operate on the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario.

Her challenges here are significant, though perhaps not as significant as her political challenges. Some expect Wynne to significantly alter her cabinet. What does that mean for the North’s two cabinet ministers, Sudbury MPP and Northern and Development and Mines Minister Rick Bartolucci and Thunder Bay-Superior North MPP and Natural Resources Minister Michael Gravelle? And if development in the Ring of Fire is delayed, as mining industry observer Stan Sudol suspects, the best opportunity for job growth and economic development in First Nations areas is delayed.

With an annual deficit of almost $12 billion, how will Wynn balance the budget yet keep spending on Highway 69, which is supposed to be finished by 2017?

And as for discussions over the Northern Ontario Growth Plan, and development of the Northern Ontario Policy institute, these are really confabs –we’ve yet to see anything concrete out of them. And the growth plan itself has been somewhat divisive as some communities are unhappy that growth hubs have been centred around Sudbury and Thunder Bay first.

For the rest of this column, please go to the Sudbury Star website: http://www.thesudburystar.com/2013/01/30/pov-wynnes-election-shows-promise-for-the-north