Petition calls for Northern Ontario’s separation – by Sarah Moore (Sudbury Star – January 30, 2016)

A grassroots movement to make Northern Ontario an independent province is gathering steam. An online petition launched this month has collected more than 670 names.

Trevor Holliday, who launched the petition, said his goal is similar to that of the 1970s’ Northern Ontario Heritage Party and other Northern Ontario separatist movements: To divide the province in two and treat Northern and southern Ontario as separate entities.

“I would want Northern Ontario to become its own province. That way it can be run by the people of the North for the people of the North, so that all the money from the North isn’t taken and given to the south and then we’re just left to whittle away.”

The petition was posted online at on Jan. 1.

Jarvis Peever, from Iroquois Falls, commented online that, “Northern Ontario doesn’t get enough funding for infrastructure and our resources. With hydro stations in our backyards, why should we pay hundreds in delivery fees?”

Two individuals from Cochrane commented that Highway 11 needs to be made a priority and have appealed to politicians to examine the numerous fatalities that have taken place on that stretch of road and to do something about it.

Other commenters voiced similar concerns over high hydro prices, a lack of investment in Northern Ontario roads and infrastructure, a lack of health-care services and the perception that southern Ontario is determining the needs of the entire province.

Holliday said that he is sick of seeing investment being made to transportation initiatives in Toronto, such as the extended Go Train and Toronto Transit Commission routes, while bus and rail lines in the North continue to be cut.

Although Holliday hails from the North Bay area, he has travelled throughout the North as a bus driver for the Ontario Northland and has heard the unique issues facing those in the region first-hand, he explained.

Some of those people reside in the indigenous communities of Moosonee and Moose Factory who Holliday often provides transit for as they travel to Timmins for medical appointments.

“When I spoke to one woman on the bus in the front seat and she told me she had to pay for a helicopter to get to the train, to then get on a bus to be able to travel to Timmins to bring her child to a medical appointment. That really hit home for me,” he said. “I have kids and I know that if one of my kids got sick, my hands are tied and you have to go regardless of how difficult it may be to get there.

“That really sunk in, so that’s why I’m pushing hard now. It could easily be done for a rail to be put in up toward the Ring of Fire and connecting to all the reserves and communities along the way, it gives another way for the people of the North to prosper.”

The North versus southern Ontario debate didn’t start with Holliday and has been an issue of contention for years.

“This idea goes back to the beginning of Northern Ontario and I’m reading reports in 1905, 1906 of rallies to separate and it usually goes in waves when there seems to be a growing imbalance,” said MP Charlie Angus (NDP — Timmins-James Bay).

“I think there’s a great deal of frustration in Northern Ontario right now when we see the policies that are driven from the south and when we see the complete imbalance in political representation between the issues of the North and the urban south. I understand why people are frustrated.”

Angus explained that the re-drawing and increased number of political ridings in the southern part of the province has led to an imbalance of power.

“What’s really telling now is that over the last 15 or 20 years, the economic power of the North compared to the south has certainly diminished, our population has diminished,” Angus explained. “And the redistribution of ridings in the south gives such an enormous block of power to a premier that only has to pay attention the 905 region to secure an election.

“That’s not the say that I’m on board with the Northern Ontario Separatist Movement, but I think the issue of the imbalance between the issues in the North, the culture in the North and the economic and political clout that the south has compared to us means that the conversation we need to have is how do we establish some balance in this province because people are asking, ‘What is our place in Northern Ontario?'”

Holliday plans to continue to collect signatures, both online and on paper, for his campaign and to eventually bring the motion forward to Queen’s Park.

“It’s time to stop being looked at as people who just supply resources to people of southern Ontario,” he said. “I want to be heard and I want the people of the North to be heard and I’m willing to do whatever possible that I can to make sure that the future for everyone is safe in the North.”

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