Northern Summit vital for growth – by Wayne Snider (Timmins Daily Press – October 8, 2013)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

TIMMINS – Northern Ontario is facing numerous challenges which impact our potential for economic development.

Given the price being fetched by mining commodities (anyone remember 15 years ago when the price of gold was under $300 an ounce?) and the likely resurgence of the lumber industry in the coming years, — due to the predicted rebound of the U.S. housing market — Northern Ontario has the potential to be booming.

This is why it is vital for the provincial government to come to the table for a Northern Summit, as requested collectively by the mayors from the North’s largest cities.

In the summer, Timmins Mayor Tom Laughren was involved with a group of Northern mayors to present a new document — Northern Priorities — to the premier and cabinet ministers. Northern Priorities attempts to assist the government in linking municipalities with its Northern Growth Plan.

“We had asked in our document within 90 days of our presentation, which was mid-August, to have a Northern Summit,” Laughren said. “They were very receptive … (and) would try to have this summit and their participation would be before Jan. 1.”

The document identifies six priority areas for focus by the province. These include:

• Working relationships — a renewed collaborative relationship built on consultation with support of all ministries;

• Infrastructure — sustainable funding for local and regional infrastructure and a study for Northern Ontario;

• Energy — affordable electricity pricing for all users and the need for a strong commitment to generating facilities and energy projects in the North;

• Workforce development — enhancement of programs for immigration and skills development focused on key sectors;

• Research and innovation — enhanced funding in this area and more collaboration with key stakeholders; and

• Revenue sharing — fair sharing of resource revenue and long-term stable funding sources.

Since Kathleen Wynne took over the premier’s chair, the provincial government has made a much more concerted effort to listen to the North. But there is still much work to be done.

Having an economically strong Northern Ontario isn’t just important to the region but the entire province. In the coming years, the North has the potential to be a major driver of Ontario’s economic engine.

But all components have to be purring perfectly to get top performance. A Northern Summit would be a good first step.

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