THUNDER BAY – Perhaps looking at our region and seeking solutions for the issues that face us, the biggest obstacle is that in Ontario, the small population in our region are easily overridden by the wants and needs of Toronto. If you think of it, we have the power to prosper here in what is really western Ontario. The only place we are north of in Ontario is Toronto, if we accept the description of being in the “North”.
Our major communities, Dryden, Kenora, Fort Frances, Atikokan and Thunder Bay are all south of Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, Kamloops and Vancouver. Those western cities are not in the North, well, maybe Edmonton, I digress.
North is “North of 60”, we are living in Western Ontario. Yet in a Toronto mindset, western Ontario is from Toronto to London, to Windsor.
The differences between Thunder Bay and Toronto are greater than the distances that separate us. When you start looking at what real benefits we are getting, consider power rates. While our region produces cheap and green power, we are paying Toronto prices for it.
Consider that gasoline prices in our region are not Toronto prices? In Thunder Bay a litre of gas starts at $1.20 – That is a price that people in Toronto are worried could happen at some point this coming summer. Using the McGuinty Government approach to hydro pricing, that there should one price for gasoline across Ontario. However it is unlikely that people in Toronto would want to pay more to actually balance those prices.
Our region has the power to prosper. We have no shortage of electricity capacity. Yet to keep the McGuinty Government’s Toronto based environmental programs going at full speed, we are shackled to prices that have hampered our potential, contributed to the perfect storm in forestry, and now threaten the ability of our region to fully benefit from the mineral wealth of the Ring of Fire.
Cliffs Resources put the issue right in the middle of the table. “At current provincial power rates, there isn’t a location in Ontario that is economically viable for Cliffs to build the FPF”. The FPF is the ferrochrome processing facility, or the secondary industry that our region needs to further diversify our economy.
Going a step further, if our region were able to use the power to prosper, we could see the stainless steel that could be further processed in our region used to make finished products, creating yet more economic opportunity.
Our region has ridden a cycle of “boom and bust” since the beginning. Much of the problem has been that wealth has been taken from the region in the rawest form and been processed elsewhere.
If we wish to continue that process with the Ring of Fire, right now we are on the right path. Following that process, at the end of the argument, we will be left on day with a rail line to a hole in the ground that might make a great modern day ghost town that tourists a century from now will visit.
The power to prosper is in our hands, as are the choices over how we handle our own future.
Should those decisions be made in Toronto or in our region perhaps is the question that will decide our future.
My vote will go for those critical decisions to be made right here, at home.