THUNDER BAY – Northwestern Ontario often has more in common with western Canada than with Toronto. While Winnipeg claims to be the “Gateway to the West” that role really belongs to Thunder Bay. It has for a long time, ever since soldiers landed at Prince Arthur’s Landing and headed west to quell rebellion in Manitoba.
There are times when one can consider that our region is actually held back by decisions made in Toronto and in Queen’s Park. That is political reality, both in Toronto and in Ottawa. There are only three MPPs and MPs representing Northwestern Ontario. Our voices are hard to be heard over the demands of the massive population to the south of our region.
That could be seen in the implementation of the Far North Act which was opposed by almost every community, the Chambers of Commerce, and the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation as well. Our voices were not heard then, and remain in many cases unheard.
That has been further evidenced during the ongoing consultations between our region and the Ontario Government over the Ring of Fire.
Is the solution, as suggested quietly by Sarah Campbell during Question Period in Queen’s Park, “This government must start representing our needs and interests today; otherwise, its not just Cliffs that will receive an eviction notice from the northwest, it will be the government of Ontario”?
If the Ontario government were to be ‘evicted’ from Northwestern Ontario, it would require a great deal of change in our region’s thinking and leadership.
Northwestern Ontario could likely become a territory, or even a small province. One of the questions likely would be how far east such a new political boundary would go. Would it be at Thunder Bay? Nipigon? Wawa? or Sault Ste. Marie?
Thunder Bay would be the natural capital of a new political entity in Northwestern Ontario. The small population base of such a political entity would be an issue, but likely little more than it would be for Prince Edward Island with a population of 140,204. Our region’s population is great than that of the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut combined.
In fact the creation of Nunavut in 1999 could serve as a precident. The new territory formally separated from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999.
There isn’t a strong Northwestern Ontario separation movement at present. The Northern Ontario Heritage Party says it is a non-partisan political party, and over the past several years has worked toward soft selling the idea of separation from the rest of Ontario. However the party website now suggests that approach was “dead wrong”.
I am not advocating either for, or against the idea that Northwestern Ontario or Northern Ontario would leave Ontario, but under the current government our region appears to be continuing to be seen as a place that raw materials come from, and not much else.
It will be up to the people in our region to decide if they are being well served by Queen’s Park and the current status quo.
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