Northern Ontario is the next frontier.
It is the expanding edge of Ontario’s economy, an area whose rich forest and mineral resources can fuel a reviving North American economy.Its colleges and universities provide leading research and technology training, and its aboriginal peoples are the cornerstone of Ontario’s history and a critical part of its culture. It’s a place where people know how to
work hard and make their own way.
And yet, northern Ontario is falling far short of its potential today. The Ring of Fire is the greatest mining discovery of a lifetime, but the project has gone nowhere. Our once-burgeoning forest industry has shrunk and mills have closed.
The entrepreneurial spirit that built the north has been crushed under the weight of government regulations and environmental rules that seem designed to stop development and keep industry away.
Northern Ontario is a unique part of our province, with greater distances, smaller communities, a harsher climate and a rugged land. Its people have a strong streak of independence, self-reliance and personal responsibility.
These Ontarians share a different kind of connection with the land, but increasingly their fate is being thrust upon them by a government that wants to impose a fantasy view of northern life. Politicians, bureaucrats and special-interest groups from the south have tried to turn this dynamic, natural area into a museum without jobs, hope or a future for the people who live there.
My plan is for Ontario to once again be the engine of Canada’s economic growth. Northern Ontario, rich in natural resources and high-tech hubs in cities like North Bay and Thunder Bay, will provide the fuel for that growth. As a former Minister of Northern Development and Mines, as well as Minister of Tourism, I love the north and had a unique opportunity to travel there extensively, talking to families and businesses. I experienced its vastness firsthand and have a vision for what it can and will be. I want to be the premier who helps this great region prosper again.
Leader of the Official Opposition
The opportunity of the century
The Ring of Fire is a once-in-a-century opportunity. This area in the James Bay lowlands has billions of dollars’ worth of chromite, one of the most important commodities on the planet. Essential in the making of stainless steel, it could provide jobs for a hundred years. The deposit is also rich in copper, nickel and zinc. What the oil sands are to Alberta, and potash is to Saskatchewan, the Ring of Fire could be to Ontario.
The Ring of Fire requires a comprehensive plan of action and strong political leadership – not the bureaucratic paper shuffling of the current government, which has resulted in no tangible progress.
As a first step, we will work with business and aboriginal communities to expedite the construction of an all-season transportation link to the Ring of Fire deposits.
A single provincial minister must be in charge of ensuring the Ring of Fire is turned into new jobs and empowered to remove any obstacles standing in the way.
Restoring our strengths
Prospecting, exploration and mining operations, and the industries they support, create jobs and wealth in every corner of the province. Fluctuating world commodity prices and lack of capital have made times tough for Ontario’s mining companies. Government doesn’t need to make their work more difficult with higher taxes and burdensome regulations that seem like they are there to prevent mines from opening.
Returning Ontario as the number one mining jurisdiction in Canada will require ending the uncertainty and indecision around prospecting, developing and mining. The Mining Act should be streamlined to ensure the mining potential of this
province is unlocked.
We will set aggressive targets for new mining operations, starting with a goal of permitting ten new mines over the next five years.
The communities that build and support new mines deserve to benefit from their development. A portion of the mining tax royalty should stay in local communities and First Nations.
Ontario Northland should be treated as economic infrastructure that opens up jobs and creates wealth. We should stop the current government’s fire sale, perform a strategic review of all assets and guarantee the rail freight lines be kept in
Sharing the pride of our land
The rugged, unspoiled beauty of our province is the birthright of every Ontarian. Each year, thousands of tourists travel to northern Ontario. A healthy and dynamic Ontario provincial parks system provides outstanding, accessible and a_ordable opportunities for Canadians and international visitors to experience Ontario’s natural heritage. The current government has made it harder and harder for people to enjoy Ontario’s trails, all to appease a handful of special-interest groups.
We will open up public trails and access roads for people to enjoy outdoor activities by implementing an Ontario: Yours to Discover Act that modernizes laws and regulations governing public trails and access roads. Trail systems provide safe places to ride and a solid economic development platform.
The Highway Traffic Act can be modernized to accommodate recreational vehicles like ATVs where appropriate.
A vital renewable resource
Our forestry industry once led the nation. But since 2003, eight out of ten pulp mills in Ontario have closed their doors
and jobs have disappeared. Despite these recent challenges, we believe there is a strong case to be optimistic and that the industry is primed for recovery. Ontario is in a position to take advantage of improving markets both at home and abroad. People are not going to stop using wood or paper. They should buy it from Ontario.
Ontario needs a forest tenure system that is transparent and fair. This will create the stability necessary to attract global investments and create jobs in northern communities.
We believe that Ontario forests will support a harvest of 26 million cubic metres per year. The provincial government should guarantee that level of supply.
We will help our forestry industry become number one in Canada again. When the industry is profitable again, we will direct a portion of stumpage fees to local communities and First Nations so they can share in the success. There will be no increases to fees to allow for this sharing of revenue.
A northern lens for northern governance
Local communities must have more input into the laws that affect their way of life. The north doesn’t need the land-use
planning rules created for densely populated urban areas. The situation in the vast, open north is different than that of the Greater Toronto Area and needs to be recognized as such.
Give northerners more control over how their land is used and developed.
Repeal the Far North Act that has banned development in half of northern Ontario. Our focus will be on jobs and investment for the north, not closing it off.
Allow local governments to develop more crown land to create jobs and benefit Northerners. This can be done while fully respecting the interests of First Nations and Metis people as well as hunters and anglers.
For more information about our proposals for a better Ontario, please visit http://pccaucus.com/paths.html