Wynne ready to face [Northwestern Ontario] challenges (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal – May 24, 2013)

Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

Ontario’s premier is happy she’s finally getting a chance to do her job. Kathleen Wynne was named premier earlier this year, and came into the job amidst a variety of crises, such as the gas plant controversy, the teacher standoff and a budget battle in which the Progressive Conservative party said it wouldn’t support the Liberal budget before any of its members even saw it.

But now, Wynne has worked out a deal with the provincial NDP that will see the NDP support the budget, avoiding an election and keeping the minority Liberal government in power.

“We’re pleased to be able to say that,” a smiling Wynne said at the Hoito on Thursday during her first-ever visit to Thunder Bay as premier. She’s been here before in her other Liberal roles; she was here, for example, a few days after last year’s flood in her role as minister of municipal affairs and housing.

“We’re in a minority parliament, so that sense of uncertainty doesn’t go away completely,” she said. “But that’s OK, because that keeps us sharp. “There’s a lot of work to do now. Yes, we have the support of the NDP to pass the budget, but that doesn’t mean that implementing the budget isn’t a huge priority. Once we get it through the legislature — we’ve got some work to do on that in the next few weeks — the implementation is really important to me.

“It’s not as though we’re living in straightforward economic times. We’re not.

“We’re living in much more precarious economic times than any of us would like, whether we’re in the North or the southwest,” Wynne said. “There are huge challenges that people are facing.

“It’s wonderful to be able to get the budget passed, because it means we can move on with those now.”

During her one-day visit to the city, Wynne met with representatives of Fort William First Nation and toured the Resolute facility.

Wynne also visited Yes Employment Services to talk about how some items in the new provincial budget will promote employment opportunities for Ontario’s youth.

An NDP news release sent out Thursday, however, noted that the youth employment measures were part of the NDP platform.
“New Democrats forced the issue onto the agenda . . . and into the budget,” the release states.

As for specific issues in the region, Wynne said talks are continuing with regards to the potential conversion of the city’s coal-fired power plant to natural gas.

The process was halted last fall when the Ontario Power Authority claimed it could meet the region’s power needs in other, cheaper ways. The city has been lobbying to see the conversion restart.

“It’s an ongoing discussion,” Wynne said.

“We’ve made a commitment to the region that there would be adequate capacity for economic growth, we’re going to stand by that commitment.

“However that works out, we’re going to make sure there’s enough capacity.”

In regards to the Ring of Fire, Wynne said everyone must benefit, including those who live in communities close to the mining zone in the James Bay Lowlands.

“Obviously, it’s an important opportunity for the province,” she said.

“If people from many of the First Nations communities are going to take part, it means there have to be social supports in place, there have to be health supports, there have to be training supports in place so that members of the community can take part.

“That’s not an immediate process. That takes some time, and that’s why we have a parallel track: there’s the infrastructure discussion, there’s the business discussion, and there’s the discussion around how do we make sure that everybody who wants to is able to take part in the benefits.”

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