The Photo-Op or the Future – It is Our Choice!

political storm cloudsTHUNDER BAY – Looking forward to the coming week, one can wonder how the words shared with a Thunder Bay business audience by Gordon Pitts may impact our city into the future. There were two statements that Pitts made that will, hopefully, resonate in our community.

First the business writer stated, “The west starts at Wawa, and Thunder Bay is a western city”. That key statement if it resonates properly will likely position Thunder Bay as the true gateway city to the west.

Second, Mr. Pitts told the audience to “Stop trying to relive your past”.

Both statements are important messages. In Northwestern Ontario, often it seems that there are far too many who can’t see our future for the trees. We are continuing to place enormous focus, money and energy in efforts to revitalize forestry. It seems to be a goal above many others for some of our elected officials.

The reality is that Thunder Bay’s future is not in forestry. The days when a student could leave high school, and spend a career working in a paper mill making serious money, are long gone.

Forestry will continue to play a role in our economy, but the very idea that we should be focusing so much effort, money and political time on pulp and paper is likely more a lack of having a real long-term industrial strategy than it is assuring a future for our region.

Here are a couple of ideas perhaps worthy of debate;

First, if Thunder Bay’s future is in the west, then why is our city in the Eastern Time Zone? Shouldn’t we be in the Central Time Zone?

As the new “Gateway to the west” Thunder Bay needs to snip the strings to Toronto and start casing our future toward the west. Toronto is, in many ways, yesterday’s city. Canada is moving west, and Thunder Bay can be the gateway.

Next, perhaps the massive efforts to rebuild our region should be focused on making products that the future will need, and building the transportation network to get those products to market.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty pointed the way to the future in September 2007 when he promised a Thunder Bay audience that “”Innovation – together with the skills and education of our people – is key to creating and attracting the high wage, high quality jobs we want for our people today, and in the future.”

McGuinty then said, “Ontario Liberals think Ontarians can – and should – lead the development of hydrogen alternatives for the world.”

Hydrail activist Stan Thompson from South Carolina states, “By 2030, diesel rail will be as colourful, distant and nostalgic as steam rail is today. And—if Ontario opts to lead—Thunder Bay may be to hydrail’s birth as the Detroit-Windsor area was to the advent of the automobile”.

Sadly, since making that promise in September 2007, the McGuinty Government has stepped away from action or even comment on the promise.

Instead of building toward a future where Thunder Bay could be a world leader the Ontario Liberals are letting others lead. Today, the Ontario Minister of Finance is in Thunder Bay. Dwight Duncan isn’t here making any bold moves that will make our future economic well-being better.

Duncan is in Thunder Bay for a photo-op to sell an energy tax credit.

What McGuinty and Duncan don’t seem to understand is that if there were lots of good paying jobs in our region that people could probably afford to pay the higher energy costs that the McGuinty government is foisting on the province.

I guess it all depends on how innovative our provincial government wants to be. From what I can see, the McGuinty government is great at making sunshine promises. What is lacking however are the grit and determined will to move past the promise into action.

Duncan’s trip north for this latest photo-op likely suggests that the Liberals are starting to worry about their two seats in Thunder Bay. Likely they should.

The sad thing is that instead of moving to embrace our future, the goal is simply in trying to sell us on another government scheme.

The bold and innovative future promised to Thunder Bay by Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty remains gathering dust on the shelf. It is really sad, because it’s only our future that is being shelved.

That of course is just my opinion, as always your mileage may vary.

James Murray