Sudbury POV: The flaw in Northern Ontario plans (Sudbury Star – October 3, 2015)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

The NDP’s plan for Northern Ontario is the best plan for the region anyone has come up with in this federal election. But that’s only because it’s the only plan any of the three major parties has released.

There is nothing wrong with its provisions – $1 billion to help develop the Ring of Fire; money to improve the lives of people on first nations; upgrading FedNor to a full standalone regional economic agency and increasing funding by $12.6 million; help the for agriculture sector; and fixing the Nutrition North food subsidy program by immediately including the 25 fly-in communities in Northern Ontario that have been excluded.

All these are good ideas and ones the new federal government should implement. The plan, however, is timid and would do little to improve Northern Ontario’s economy. Its most interesting aspect — $1 billion for the mineral-rich Ring of Fire — has already been matched by the Liberals (the province has also committed $1 billion). But unlike the Liberals, the NDP proposes to spend it over 20 years, or $50 million a year.

There may be little need for the money today, given low commodity prices and the provincial government’s decision to study it to death. However, there may come a time when building the infrastructure (roads, rail lines, hydro and such) to make the Ring of Fire happen will need hundreds of millions at a time, not $50 million a year.

The plan seems rushed and little more than an attempt to bolster the campaigns of the NDP’s candidates in Northern Ontario. Certainly, the party stands to hold onto the seats it has in the North (it held five of region’s 10 seats in the last Parliament), if not add to its total. And in an election that might be as close as this one, every seat will count.

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