The gulf between Northern Ontario’s needs and the ability of politicians and bureaucrats to address them has never been wider. There was time, so very long ago, when a northern politician like the legendary Leo Bernier could impress the premier to resolve the region’s many unique issues.
Those times are long gone and Northern Ontario’s MPPs seem to play second fiddle to a very powerful and media savvy environmental movement, who have no problems riding roughshod over the region’s needs or just don’t have the political clout at Queen’s Park to address their issues. The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines is a very small ministry.
Half in jest, I often wonder if the North needs to establish an embassy somewhere adjacent to the legislature – the disconnection really is that bad.
When Canada hit the debt wall in the mid-1990s and global financial markets were basically calling our currency a “northern peso,” then Prime Minister Jean Chretien made the shockingly brave political choice to treat the voters like intelligent adults and talk honestly about the need to address the nation’s critical financial state.
It worked and Chretien and his finance minister, Paul Martin are lauded in our history books as the men who slayed the deficit and returned the country to fiscal sanity.
It’s time the new premier of Ontario, regardless of his or her ideology, have a similar adult conversation with the people of Ontario about the tough choices we need to make in regards with infrastructure and valued social services and how we can realistically pay for them.
Continued deficit financing alongside unaffordable tax cuts and cheaper gasoline is unsustainable. The provincial credit card (deficit financing) does have a limit and what do we do if interest rates rise or a recession hits us.
For years, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) have been lobbying Queen’s Park to raise the HST one cent. That would bring in about $2.5 billion a year and should be equally distributed among the province’s municipalities for local roads, bridges, arenas and other local infrastructure. According to AMO, their polling shows that around three-quarters of the population understand the issues and would support it. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper actually reduced the HST by two cents back in 2006.
I would go one step further and raise the HST one more cent, back to the pre-Harper levels and split the proceeds between Northern Ontario to start twinning the trans-Canada highway and the other half to Toronto to build the desperately needed relief lines for the overcrowded subway system. Before all the “Toronto bashers” have a fit, we should remember that the Toronto census metropolitan area is responsible for about 20 per cent of the country’s GDP. If Toronto is not healthy, not only Ontario, but the entire country suffers.
The Mowat Centre is an “independent public policy think tank located at the School of Public Policy & Governance at the University of Toronto and Ontario’s non-partisan, evidence-based voice on public policy” according to their website. It states that Ontario sends $12 billion more into Ottawa than we get back despite being statistically a “have not province.”
The new premier is also going to have to claw back more of the tax revenue that Ontario gives to Ottawa. The province is seriously hurting with its continual deficit financing and it makes no economic sense to bleed $12 billion more to Ottawa than it gets back while deficit financing to make ends meet, especially when enormous infrastructure projects like the twinning of Northern Ontario’s trans-Canada highway and the construction of relief lines for Toronto’s subway system need to be funded.
As the electrification of the auto industry clearly shows, the possible shortages of key mineral resources that are sustainably mined and located in Northern Ontario can not only benefit the regional economy, but play a significantly vital role in keeping and growing the south’s very important auto sector.
Opening up the Ring of Fire and building the critical infrastructure throughout the north cannot only alleviate the impoverished living conditions of region’s First Nations and create enormous economic wealth throughout the entire province but also play a key role in the south’s manufacturing economy. It is a win-win for both the north and the south if Queen’s Park has the vision to act.
Stan Sudol is a Toronto-based communications consultant, freelance mining columnist and owner/editor of www.republicofmining.com
For the original source of this article: http://www.thesudburystar.com/2018/06/06/sudbury–accent-how-do-we-pay-for-all-of-this