Northern Ontario is little more than a colony of the rest of the province, with little or no control over its economy or its progress, a new report says.
The report, prepared by the Northern Policy Institute, also argues there are alternative governance models for the region that could give Northern Ontario more control over its destiny and economic development.
David Robinson, a Laurentian University economics professor, says Northern Ontario has the size and the economic resources to easily become a province. However, he writes in his report, Revolution or Devolution?: How Northern Ontario Should be Governed, that political barriers stand in the way of Northern Ontario independence.
So, instead of independence, he suggests devolution, where the provincial legislature grants the region more autonomy. Robinson says devolution is already a key pillar of Canada’s Northern Strategy at the federal level.
Under this scenario, Robinson says options include granting Northern Ontario legislative powers, creating an elected but advisory Northern Ontario assembly, and the creation of a semi-autonomous district with most of the powers of a province.
“There are no real serious technical, economic or legal objections to beginning a process of devolution,” he writes. “It is clearly within the power of the province, and is likely to improve governance of the North and make at least the North more democratic. Furthermore, a strong case can be made that there would be significant economic advantages from devolution of powers in some form to Northern Ontario.”
The alternative for Northerners, says Robinson, “is to continue to accept the current arrangement and accept declining influence over their own future.”
The challenge, he says, lies in the fact that Northerners “lack the democratic institutions to debate the issue, and southerners have no interest in the project. Clearly if change is needed, it will require a long struggle, first to convince a sufficiently large number of Northerners, then to convince the south.”
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