Northern Ontario Committee needed to bring balance to the Legislature
QUEEN'S PARK - Campbell supports a northern committee of the Ontario Legislature to examine all matters of importance and with an impact on Northern Ontario.
Thank you, Speaker. It is an honour to add my voice to the debate on my colleague from Timiskaming-Cochrane’s motion, which seeks to establish what is essentially a northern committee of this legislature that would have the authority to consider and report on policies that directly impact Northern Ontario.
Northern alienation, that is the feeling of being separated from and overlooked by the decision-makers in the south, is by no means a new issue. But in my experience, the disaffection now is both more widespread and severe, than it has ever been.
Over the past couple of years, in particular, my constituents routinely tell me that they feel as though they are in a “no win” situation and they are losing hope for building a bright future and a better life—not only as a result of affordability issues like job- and household budget-killing Hydro rates, the HST, price of gasoline and home heating oil; but over virtually all government services that the rest of the province take for granted.
A simple trip to the doctor illustrates the problem: the wait times; lack of local services; delayed or denied Northern Health Travel Grants; and the long wait times or non-existent home care afterwards. And if the care requires travel, they better hope they have access to a personal vehicle and the weather is good, because intercommunity transportation is virtually non-existent and highway maintenance is the pits.
And it’s not only the outrageous costs and lacking services, but the lack of consultation and consideration of northerners by government when formulating policy that is ultimately too much to bear. It’s not just that things are bad now: it’s that without proper consultation and consideration of our needs going forward, how will they get better?
It’s actually painful for many northerners to hear about the “unprecedented” investments in the billions of dollars that are going toward improving transit options in the south, when in the north we oftentimes have ONE single-lane highway to connect many of our communities, and no regular intercommunity transportation option. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t begrudge the south for having their transportation woes addressed, but how does it make sense for the government to subsidize transit in the south but not in the north, where it is often not profitable for private companies to provide service?
While we support the goals of Cap-and-Trade, is it really fair to impose additional taxes on gasoline, when there are no public transit options? Or on home heating oil or natural gas, when we reside in a colder climate and heating our homes with electricity is not an option for many, as northerners are already paying hydro bills that are inflated due to remoteness?
It makes northerners angry, when, with the stroke of a pen, decision-makers thousands of kilometers away can effectively shut down or seriously curtail our industries, thereby cutting the legs out from underneath northern families and whole communities.
The north is at a breaking point. Northerners are tired of having to make a business case for what is a matter of fairness and equality. We are tired of being treated like a colony: where our needs don’t matter, we don’t have a say, and we ship our wealth to the south, only to have cents on the dollar reinvested in our communities.
Some believe the answer is separation. I believe the best—and right now the only—shot we’ve got to stay together is to establish this committee, thereby giving Northerners a true voice in the decisions that affect us.
I encourage the members of this house to support this motion today.