Sudbury could be the centre of a “Northern renaissance,” David Robinson believes, if Northern Ontario had more control over its destiny and its economic development.
Robinson, a Laurentian University economics professor, wrote a report entitled Revolution or Devolution?: How Northern Ontario Should be Governed, released last month by the Northern Policy Institute. The report calls for an alternative model of governance to give the region more control over its resource-based economy, which more than half of Northerners believe would be managed better locally than by a centralized Ontario government.
The process, called devolution, could 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. A strong case can be made, Robinson says, that there would be significant economic advantages from devolution of powers.
Robinson had a chance to make that case when he took a time to participate in The Sudbury’s Star’s 10 Questions feature.
1. You have called for a “devolution” of powers for the North. For those who don’t know, what does the term mean and how would it work here?
It’s like giving your grown-up kids the right to decide not to eat spinach. Devolution means transferring power to a lower level. Normally, it means a central government hands some powers over to the local or regional administration.
Just about everyone who studies politics believes that the provinces have to devolve some of their power to lower levels.
The trick is to get the right powers at the right level.
2. Do you see it as a step towards independence as a new province, and is that something you support?
I don’t support carving up the health-care system – in fact I would like to see a national health care system. One health care card for Canadians, one driver’s licence, one passport. Free movement of beer and construction workers between provinces. Some provincial powers should be given to the federal government.
On the other hand, in Ontario, I do favour decentralizing other powers in Canada’s monster province. Ontario is just too big and too diverse to govern well. If I were a southerner, I would want to secede from Northern Ontario so we could concentrate on building a world-beating city-state.
The north and the south are different economies, different biologies, different geologies and different cultures. Southern Ontario is an immigrant society, one of the most exciting cultural centres in the world. I support more power for Toronto and the GTA. I support creating a Quebec-Windsor regional government. It is an absolute joke that Ontario doesn’t have a high-speed rail corridor for what is one of the richest and most productive regions in the entire world. If southern Ontario wants to be a province, I’d support them.
For the rest of this interview, click here: http://www.thesudburystar.com/2016/05/25/sudbury-could-lead-northern-renaissance–robinson