Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.
Ontario has just completed the fourth Northern Leaders Dialogue. Provincial, municipal and indigenous leaders gathered in Thunder Bay to discuss issues around development and transportation, part of the province’s growth plan for Northern Ontario.
The advent of exploration around the rich Ring of Fire mineral belt has added urgency to the notion of opening the North. Yet there remains much indecision on whether transportation should be rail or road, east-west or north-south. Who should pay what share of the cost? While Ontario spins its wheels, what are neighbouring provinces and other jurisdictions doing?
In Quebec, 950 kilometres north of Quebec City, Stornoway Diamond Corp. invested $800 million in capital expenditures in the province’s first diamond mine. To provide year-round access, the province and Stornoway split the cost of building a 243-kilometre road serving one of 35 mines that the Quebec government estimates will be operating by 2020.
Manitoba long ago built a road to the shore of Hudson Bay and a railroad farther north to Churchill.
In March of this year, the federal government released its Northern Transportation Adaptation Initiative that looks at how to build transportation infrastructure on permafrost and plans for northern marine transportation in the era of climate change.
Meanwhile, an ambitious new research project will examine the feasibility of building a major new infrastructure corridor spanning Canada’s north. Undertaken by universities in Alberta and Quebec it anticipates a new network of roads, rail and pipelines, port infrastructure and airports.
The corridor would generate jobs and other benefits in remote communities and reduce the strain on Canada’s congested southern transportation routes near the U.S. border.
It brings to the mind Richard Rohmer’s bold Mid-Canada Corridor concept, a vision of ’60s-era optimism to habitate the swath of northern boreal forest from B.C. to Quebec with a railroad as its spine. The early involvement with indigenous people had Rohmer enthused but in the end, his vision for the North faded away.
“There has been no overview planning done by Ottawa or indeed by the provincial governments,” said Rohmer later.
What has changed? What is Ontario waiting for? Get on with it; find common ground. There is a new, like-minded government in Ottawa. It should not be so seemingly impossible to galvanize wide support for a development that will be of such huge benefit to communities from Thunder Bay to the Far North. Others are doing what we are not. We don’t need a growth plan; we need growth.
For the original source of this article, click here: http://www.chroniclejournal.com/opinion/editorials/open-the-north-get-on-with-it/article_39af0c06-88bd-11e5-b4f1-677571462626.html