From Queen’s Park – Northern Committee good news for region

Sarah Campbell-MPPKENORA – Leader’s Ledger – On March 1, MPPs from all three parties passed an NDP motion that asked the government to create a legislative committee for Northern Ontario issues. Once created, the committee will be made up of all Ontario MPPs whose ridings are located north of the French River. The committee will be charged with providing input and recommending changes on legislation and policies that affect Northern Ontario.

Forming such a committee was an important campaign promise for my party and I am pleased that my caucus was joined by most Liberal and Progressive Conservative members in supporting this motion.

When you look at healthcare, hydro prices or the delivery of many government services, you see a ‘cookie-cutter’ one-size-fits-all model that simply does not work in Northern Ontario. Even in cases where our input is solicited prior to the creation of a bill, our concerns seem to be pushed aside or ignored altogether when it is time for the vote.

In other cases, the government passes bills without even soliciting our input. This happened with the Far North Act, which was passed without any meaningful consultation with northern communities (and despite northerners being united against it).

The Northern Ontario legislative committee is aimed at reversing this trend. It will give our region a voice and creates a public forum where not only will the questions “how will this impact northern Ontario and its residents” and “what changes can be made to help improve the lives of those living in the North” be asked, but they will be the primary focus of this committee.

Right now there are a number of bills currently before the Legislative Assembly where this question needs to be asked, including the proposed anti-bullying legislation. While we all seek a solution to bullying in our schools, some of the provisions in this Act concern me, particularly provisions that would see bullies expelled. Unlike in Southern Ontario, many of our Northern communities only have one primary or secondary school, begging the question ‘where will expelled students go?’ To this point I see no clear answers. A northern committee will ask these questions and propose solutions that will help make our schools safe, while taking our geographic realities into consideration.

The province is looking to the development of the Ring of Fire as a means to stimulate the economy for decades, but this will not happen without northern consultation. Now, more than ever, the time is right for a Northern Ontario standing committee and I am hopeful the government will respect the legislature’s wishes and create this important committee right away.

Sarah Campbell MPP
Kenora Rainy River