THUNDER BAY – Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberals are quiet during Earth Week over progress in keeping a campaign promise made in Thunder Bay in September 2007. That promise was a fairly simple one; “The hydrogen commuter train is exactly the type of initiative envisioned when the Ontario Liberal government created the new $650 million Next Generation Jobs Fund, McGuinty said. Ontario Liberals want to expand the Fund by a further $500 million after the October 10th election.
“Ontario Liberals think Ontarians can – and should – lead the development of hydrogen alternatives for the world,” McGuinty said.
Since making that statement, Premier Dalton McGuinty has remained as quiet as a mouse on the subject of hydrail.
While many have been enthused and pleased with the flow of money into Thunder Bay to build roads, buildings and other infrastructure projects, what is being missed is the simple fact that by keeping his hydrogen rail promise, Thunder Bay would see long-term manufacturing, long-term research and a solid economic future.
Once the highways and buildings are built, the jobs are done. With the development of new and green hydrogen rail technology and manufacturing, there would be jobs for generations of young people in Thunder Bay.
While governments at all levels talk about solving the problems in our society, one of the surest cures for many of those problems is making sure that there are good paying solid jobs that allow young people to put down the economic roots into our community.
That is the real issue that what increasingly appears to be a broken promise from Dalton McGuinty really means for Ontario.
If you look at the list of top employers in Thunder Bay, according to the Community Economic Development Commission, Bombardier is our top private sector employer with just about 700 employees.
Next on the list is the Metro grocery. McDonalds in Thunder Bay now employs the same number of people as Abitibi Bowater. That figure in itself expresses the real impact of the downturn in forestry.
The opportunities for the future are, according to Premier Dalton McGuinty going to be found in leadership in the green energy field. That leaves one to wonder why there has been no action in building on the Premier’s campaign promise in Thunder Bay.
Our community has the resources needed, along with the skilled labour force, and the need for such a long-term investment.
The promise that “Ontario can – and should – lead the development of hydrogen alternatives for the world”, by being quietly ignored by the Premier for the past thirty-one months has left Ontario in the dust as others have done what McGuinty only talked about.
As we look toward building our economy in Northwestern Ontario, maybe it is time that we started building for the future, and thinking for the future and demanding real action.
As much as many in our region are pleased to see funding flowing into Thunder Bay in record amounts, what we should be asking ourselves is what exactly are we going to benefit from in ten, twenty and thirty years from now?
A progress report on Dalton McGuinty’s “Hydrogen Promise” would likely help in building Thunder Bay’s future economy.
All that we are getting is silence.
A question all of us should be asking is “Why?”
Here is a list of the Major Employers in Thunder Bay: