Five big ideas for Northern Ontario: The biggest barrier isn’t cost, though; it’s attitude – Charles Cirtwill (Northern Ontario Business – September 25, 2017)

Twice last month, we were challenged to think BIGGER in terms of our vision for the future of our region and our country. First came Dr. David Robinson’s piece in this magazine decrying the incrementalist nature of the recently released provincial multi-modal transportation study.

Then came Conrad Black, in the pages of the National Post, reminiscing about the days of real policy debate in this country and putting forward some big ideas of his own for transformational change. So, here are five big ideas for Ontario’s North.

One, connect Highway 11 through Aroland to Armstrong and over top of Lake Nipigon to Savant Lake. If we are serious about a dedicated truck route, electronic vehicles, and creating a true transportation grid, that will do it. If the bridge at Nipigon is ever blocked again, the country will not be cut in half. Such a route also “opens up” the mid-north and would tie nicely into the proposed infrastructure for the Matawa communities and the Ring of Fire.

Two, let’s explore a high-speed train from Toronto to Edmonton with stops in Timmins, Aroland, Red Lake and Winnipeg for starters. Trains are making a recovery in much of the world due to better emissions control, fuel efficiency and, frankly, comfort. High-speed trains cover long distances while servicing major centres. We have large population centres separated by large distances, and the ability to slot in one or two stops along the way to increase the options for the rest of us.

Three, commit to 100 per cent cellular coverage and 100 per cent high-speed penetration within a five-year window. Not as a target to be achieved eventually, not on the “Queen’s highways,” but in every northern region. We want to be a tourist destination, fine.

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