TORONTO – It’s almost as if the Liberal governments of Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne want to turn out the lights in northern Ontario, shut the place down and walk away from it.
The disastrous decision to shut down Ontario Northland Railway — a vital passenger link for northern communities — was bad enough. It was supposed to save $230 million. Last week we heard from auditor general Bonnie Lysyk it will probably cost around $820 million to shut it down.
The latest disaster in the works is a plan to cut Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) fire services to Kirkland Lake — a plan that will leave an area the size of France without fire protection, says Kirkland Lake Mayor Bill Enouy.
“We have no protection in Timiskaming right now because they tell us they’re protecting us from Cochrane or Timmins, which are 145 km away,” he told me. Kirkland Lake was hard hit by forest fires in 2012. Without the MNR firefighters, those infernos would have been even more devastating.
“During those big fires there were small fires that started south of us. If left unattended, they would have surrounded the community,” Enouy said.
He’s worried that cutbacks to MNR will have an economic impact on the area. Provincial parks and other services have already been cut.
If Wynne and Natural Resources Minister David Orazietti think Timiskaming is a northern wasteland, they’re sorely mistaken, Enouy told me. Mining is booming and the forestry industry is making a comeback.
“What we do up here is mines and forestry, so it’s our livelihood and it’s probably the most important ministry from a perspective of every day operation,” he said.
“I don’t know what this government would do without the raw materials flowing south for manufacturing — what little of it is left.”
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