Sudbury PoV: North wants results from Trudeau – Editorial by Don MacDonald (Sudbury Star – August 31, 2016)

Don MacDonald is the editor of the Sudbury Star.

In recent weeks, Sudbury and parts of Northern Ontario played hosts to Canada’s two most powerful Liberals. However, the way Premier Kathleen Wynne and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were received is a study in contrasts.

Wynne came first, starting a weeklong visit to the region in Sudbury and finishing in Kenora. She visited more than a dozen communities and made a series of funding announcements, including $2.3 million to support film and TV production in Sudbury.

The money was nice, but she had little to say on getting the stalled Ring of Fire project started, and defended rising hydro costs. The Ring of Fire, and its massive mineral wealth, could one day be the key to getting new life injected into Northern Ontario’s economy. But the provincial Liberals seem content to study the project ad nauseam.

Since her visit, Northerners have learned the province won’t release the findings of a key Ring of Fire study, even though taxpayers spent more than $785,000 for it. Worse still, Canadian Press has reported the province hasn’t even filed the paperwork with the federal government so Ottawa and Queen’s Park can kick in $1 billion each in infrastructure funding for the Ring of Fire.

As for hydro rates, the provincial Liberals are tuning out growing public concern and appear willing to tough it out politically. It’s an issue for all of Ontario, but especially the North, given its colder climate and energy-intensive mining and forestry industries. Wynne, and Sudbury MPP Glenn Thibeault, Ontario’s Energy minister, will pay a high political price for this.

The Liberals and Wynne personally are deeply unpopular. A recent poll put her approval rating at just 16 per cent. An election is still two years away, but it’s hard to see how she can recover.

Trudeau, on the other hand, is on top. His approval rating exceeds 50 per cent and polls show the federal Liberals would easily win an election if one were held today. At a community barbecue in Sudbury, more than 2,000 people greeted the prime minister more like a rock star than a politician.

Heady days indeed, but Trudeau need only look at the sad state of Premier Wynne and her government to see how things can change. In fact, he need only recall his father Pierre’s now infamous train trip across Canada in 1982 to understand how the public mood can turn. Trudeau was a boy on that train during a protest in Sudbury that turned violent.

Northerners strongly supported Trudeau in the 2015 federal election and have high expectations. It’s easy to raise expectations, it’s much harder to meet them.

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