Ontario’s North has incredible untapped potential to contribute to the province’s economic growth and this potential should be nurtured.
The success of our province hinges on the success in our northern region, yet the current government has done little to focus on the issues facing Ontarians in the northern communities.
Consultations with the communities have raised many concerns over ownership of major infrastructure and how traditional cultural activities such as hunting, trapping and fishing would be impacted. There are many economic, social, and Indigenous issues at play in the Ring of Fire that need to be addressed head on.
My plan is based on a collaborative approach to development and emphasizes how the provincial government can work with community members, municipal leadership, and experts to determine the best investments to make to improve job and other growth opportunities for Ontarians in the northern region.
1. Increase and expand the Ontario Northern Energy Credit
- Living in Northern Ontario is expensive for families. In order to attract and retain skilled workers and new businesses to the north, I will commit to increasing the Ontario Northern Energy Credit and also study an eligibility expansion for more middle-class families and new residents.
- We can and should do more to accelerate the deployment of reliable and renewable energy resources, where possible, to off-grid communities (First Nations, mining communities), replacing diesel generation.
2. Restore lost funding to northern programs and communities and increase funding to the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation
- Economic development and job creation in the north are critical, and the provincial government needs to be a reliable and committed partner.
- I will not only restore any lost funding to northern communities as a result of the Ford Conservative’s reckless cuts, but I will increase funding to the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation to carry out its critical role in promoting job creation and growth.
3. Build the infrastructure for better connectivity, as well as broadband connectivity across the North
- Transportation in the north can be frustrating, and with the loss of long-haul bus service and an unreliable public transit and rail infrastructure, connecting northern communities is becoming increasingly difficult. Ensuring that the transportation infrastructure in the north is just as good as the infrastructure in the south is not only good for northern residents, but it’s also crucial for Ontario’s economy.
- As Premier, I will make new transit funding, as well as building and improving connections such as roads and rail service, a top economic priority. These investments include ensuring that the TransCanada Highway is expanded as appropriate and that passing lanes are added where needed.
- Broadband connectivity is becoming increasingly necessary for economic growth and a high quality of life. In difficult-to-reach areas, broadband connectivity also provides options for governments to deliver services in more innovative and efficient ways. I will increase provincial investments to ensure that communities across the north have access to high-quality broadband (5G), which will help to support education and skills development and thereby prepare these communities to participate in new job opportunities.
4. Recognize the uniqueness of northern communities
- Northern communities face unique governance challenges compared to their southern counterparts. Provincial government should not only recognize these differences but work with northern governments to ensure that they have the tools they need to help their communities thrive.
- If elected, I will work with community members, leaders, and experts to modernize governance in the north, which would include the possibility of introducing regional governments and reviewing how local service boards are managed.
5. Focus on the health of northern residents
- Accessing proper health-care in the north is an ongoing problem, especially with regards to wait times in emergency rooms and for appointments. To ensure health equity across Ontario, I will create a dedicated northern healthcare team inside the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care whose responsibilities will include tracking and delivering resources to improve wait-times, as well as staffing unfilled healthcare positions.
- I will also work to ensure that northern communities are among the first to access new health technologies such as improved telehealth services and digital health services using 5G, so that residents can access healthcare in more innovative and accessible ways.
6. Promote the development of the Ring of Fire
- A quarter of the jobs in Canada are connected to the Resources industry. Mining is, and will remain, a critical driver of jobs and economic growth for northern Ontario as resources and technology are applied to extract resources in an environmentally responsible way.
- The Ring of Fire holds high-grade nickel, copper and platinum group element (PGE) deposits. It is the largest high-grade nickel discovery in Canada since Voisey’s Bay and the most advanced project in the northern region. My government will implement policies to continue and accelerate the development of the Ring of Fire keeping the huge potential of the Chromite deposits, and the global market for this product, at the forefront.
- Successful development of Ring of Fire properties will allow the private sector to develop mines in true partnership with First Nations, contractors, suppliers, and other northern Ontario communities, creating long-term, sustainable jobs. However, we must do more consultations with the local communities for a more collaborative approach to development.