Battle for Northern Ontario raging 9 months before provincial election – by Robert Benzie (Toronto Star – August 26, 2017)

The next provincial election is more than nine months away, but the battle for Northern Ontario is already raging. Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown, making his 27th trip to the region since taking his party’s helm in May 2015, gathered his caucus in Timmins this week to underscore that “the North matters.”

Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne spent most of the week visiting remote parts of Northern Ontario, including First Nations, to tout her government’s latest efforts to kick-start the stalled Ring of Fire chromite mining project. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, whose party holds most of the seats there, has also kept the north on the front-burner in this final summer before the election, which will be June 7.

“Let’s face it: Northern Ontario has been ignored by the Wynne Liberals for far too long,” Brown, whose party leads the Liberals in most public-opinion surveys, told his caucus mates Friday. “They have left hardworking Northern Ontario families paying more and getting less,” he said, speaking from a podium emblazoned with a sign reading “A Voice for the North.”

In June, the surging Tories won the Sault Ste. Marie byelection in a setback to both the Liberals and the New Democats, who have traditionally dominated the riding. Even though only 13 of the 124 seats up for grabs in the expanded Legislature are in the north, all three major parties are making a push for votes there.

On Monday, Wynne announced agreements had finally been reached with the Webequie, Marten Falls, and Nibinamik First Nations to begin construction of a vital road to the Ring of Fire.

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