Northern Forum nice, but major issues unresolved – by Peter Politis (Timmins Daiy Press – December 10, 2013)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

Peter Politis is the Mayor of Cochrane

TIMMINS – Last week’s Northern Leaders’ summit which brought together First Nations, ministers and Northern leaders from across the entire region to exchange on issues, was another good step forward for the North. My congratulations to the Northern Ontario Large Urban Mayors’ Association, FONOM President Mayor Spacek, along with the province for bringing the group together. Hopefully there is more to come.

It was good to get past the proverbial “hand in the face” approach we’ve been getting from the province up to now, to actually engaging in the intelligent dialogue and issues themselves. It was evident that while there remains diversity in opinion and needs, Northern Leaders are coming together in unity to represent our region together which can only be a good thing.

What continues to concern me is that the major issues remain unresolved. For example: The ONTC passenger rail has been completely divested and the government made it clear they will not bring back passenger rail as they believe standing room only buses are good enough for Northern families, medical patients and students; parks remain closed and will going forward; the provincial caribou policy that sees recovering caribou where they don’t exist at the expense of Northern families and entire town’s remains as it was two years ago despite scientists, environmentalists and mayors coming together to offer a better option; and an opportunity at creating tens of thousands of jobs for Northern families associated to the forest industry continues to be sacrificed as a result of supporting misguided extremist species at risk policies.

Of course, while it’s always good to talk, Northerners need action and we not only need it in advance of an upcoming election, but long term beyond an election. The type of long-term planning that spans decades and successive governments, that identifies the critical assets we need and how we are going to create them, that sees the need to encourage migration of the population to the North, and that sees the services and tools created to encourage this.

I heard a lot about the province’s Northern Growth Plan at the summit, being touted as “the Plan.”

Unfortunately, this document is a terms of reference to create a plan and not an actual plan in the likes of one needed to make growing the North a reality. In fact, we spent two years on the Northern Advisory Committee to establish the economic development authorities for the “Growth Plan.” A very dynamic and innovative direction was created that sat on the minister’s desk for another year until he wrote to us stating that it was not something that could be moved on.

Touting things that say they are plans but aren’t, holding onto products of Northern efforts to advance until a more opportune time, suddenly meeting in unprecedented fashion, and introducing a handcuffed spring bear hunt for vote rich regions just one week after stating you wouldn’t do any such thing.

While certainly better when benchmarked against the proverbial hand in the face we’ve been getting, it still seems awfully familiar.

Hopefully it is not the typical political gamesmanship we seem to get here in the North in advance of an election.

Hopefully as leaders, we can continue to work together to help Queen’s Park see Northern Ontario as the land of opportunity our leaders did 100 years ago, and not the land of despair that it seems to be seen as now.

Hopefully, we don’t end up feeling how the monkey does when reaching for the pellet, again.

For the original version of this article, click here: