[Ontario’s] North has voices at Wynne’s table – Editorial (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal – June 24, 2014)

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

If three key Northern Liberal ministers end up back in the Ontario cabinet today, as anticipated, it will be another one of those political ironies that, this time at least, worked in this region’s favour.

Some may recall that Northern Liberal stalwart MPPs Michael Gravelle, Bill Mauro and David Orazietti did not back Kathleen Wynne’s bid for party leader. Despite their support for Liberal warrior Sandra Pupatello, all three were eventually appointed to cabinet after Wynne became the province’s first woman premier.

Wynne’s decision in 2013 to put Gravelle back into Northern Development and Mines and give Orazietti, of Sault Ste. Marie, his first cabinet post at Natural Resources were in keeping with a political strategy to keep key parts of the North in Liberal hands.

This strategy became more apparent when, on the eve of this spring’s election, Mauro was promoted to cabinet to oversee a fairly tricky ministry — Municipal Affairs and Housing.

On the face of it, the appointments seem fairly obvious, especially when one considers how much time Wynne spent in Northern Ontario charming local mayors, as both premier and, before that, in various minister roles that included transportation, municipal affairs and housing, and aboriginal affairs.

If Wynne was a different kind of politician — or, more to the point, a more traditional one who remembers slights — it would have been no surprise if Gravelle, Mauro and Orazietti were relegated to the backbenches at Queen’s Park for the foreseeable future.

Politicians often pay a price for backing the wrong candidate.

Some believe Gravelle, for instance, would have been in the cabinet a lot sooner had he picked Dalton McGuinty over Dwight Duncan at the Liberal’s 1996 leadership convention.

It took four long years after McGuinty became premier before Gravelle was given the chance to oversee the ministry with which he’s associated the most — Northern Development and Mines.

Gravelle earned his way into cabinet through dint of hard work and a level of patience that some might not possess. Lucky for us.

Few would disagree that the timing couldn’t be better for Thunder Bay to have two MPPs at the cabinet table.
“Their goals line up with ours and I look forward to continue to move Thunder Bay forward in partnership with them,” Mayor Keith Hobbs put it recently.

There’s no doubt the future of the city’s proposed $100-million event centre will depend, in large part, on the commitment of provincial funds. That shouldn’t be a concern now with Gravelle and Mauro — both hockey fans, as it happens — to vouch for the project.

And now there will be two, not just one, minister arguing for the advancement of the development of the Ring of Fire.
The latter shouldn’t be as tough a sell as it once was, considering that Wynne, unlike her predecessor, appears to have fully embraced the project.

Wynne is from Toronto but, for the moment at least, she’s sounding like a Northerner.