Liberal ‘plan’ for the North (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal – August 21, 2015)

JUSTIN Trudeau brought his election campaign to Northern Ontario this week, but he didn’t have much to say. As outlined today by columnist Carol Goar, the Liberal leader, campaigning to replace Stephen Harper as prime minister, has been remarkably light on major policy details no matter where he goes. What is he waiting for?

“Justin Trudeau Presents Plan for Sustainable Growth in Northern Ontario,” was the title of a news release this week jointly datelined Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury.

Here is what we know. The plan would “create sustainable economic growth for the middle class (a repetition of his main campaign theme), generate economic opportunities in Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie (no other Northern communities are mentioned), and create the clean jobs of tomorrow (repeating another major but general campaign promise).

The statement repeats Trudeau’s familiar criticism of Harper for “middle class families . . . struggling to make ends meet. Only Liberals have a real plan . . . .” which he doesn’t explain.

The one known is a pledge to invest $200 million “more” annually to support, with private, provincial and research institute collaboration, “clean technologies in the forestry, fisheries, mining, energy and agricultural sectors.”

Now we’re getting closer to a Northern angle. But then the statement wanders off into more about Harper who “does not understand that clean technologies, like those in Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie (no specifics), create good, middle-class jobs . . .” and so on.

CBC in Sudbury got a bit more from the Liberal leader who said “a lot (of the $200 million) is going to be working with research institutes like Laurentian University, working with the provinces on issues like the Ring of Fire.

“The federal government needs to be a much better partner. And it means reaching out to communities and municipalities that have opportunities that need a little more financing and funding for.”
Presumably, since this is a plan for Northern Ontario, it would include the Northwest and its university, Lakehead. But so far, only Laurentian is identified as a research partner “on issues like the Ring of Fire” even though LU is developing a mining centre of excellence specifically tied to the vast mining development and the city itself has made extensive efforts to be considered a key centre in the Ring of Fire plan.

A note at the bottom of the release sent here advised that “Patty (Hajdu, Liberal candidate in Thunder Bay-Superior North) will be available for interview.”

While we pursue that, we have to wonder what Hajdu and her crosstown counterpart, Don Rusnak, thought about being overlooked by their leader who chose to restrict his presence and comments to the Northeast. From Sudbury, Trudeau flew to Winnipeg.

Perhaps the party is so sure of the two Thunder Bay-based ridings that it thinks Trudeau’s presence isn’t needed in the campaign. Perhaps they think the ridings are a lost cause, which seems unlikely. Perhaps Trudeau will come here later. For now, the Liberal “plan for Northern Ontario” lacks substance and attention to the 225,000 people and 500,000 square kilometres of “forestry, fisheries, mining, energy and agriculture” here in the Northwest. Maybe Hajdu knows more.