“For too long, the needs of the North have been ignored” – LeBlanc

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Anthony LeBlancTHUNDER BAY – Last week I wrote my first column for the Candidate’s Ledger.  One of the areas I briefly touched upon was the PC Party’s focus on Northern Ontario.  This focus was highlighted with the release of changebook North while our leader Tim Hudak was in Thunder Bay on July 14th.  The full document is available for download at http://www.changebook.ca/north.

I realize many folks are busy enjoying their summer holidays and unfortunately political platform documents are not part of most summer reading lists.  I therefore have decided to create the following, my own personal greatest hits version of changebook North.

Firstly, how was changebook North created?  It was the same methodology used to create our province wide changebook document. It is the result of the largest grassroots policy and idea exchange the party has ever undertaken.  It was also the result of our “Have Your Say Ontario” survey, where we received advice from thousands of families from every corner of Ontario.  The result of this work is reflected throughout changebook and changebook North: change that puts Ontario families first.

For too long, the needs of the North have been ignored.  Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals have in fact done worse than nothing to help Northern families – they have actively passed laws that prevent the North from growing and jobs from being created.  Sadly, Mr. McGuinty just doesn’t understand that the North’s success can’t be driven from the special interests’ offices in Toronto.

The primary focus of changebook North is jobs.  And through the process of listening to Northern Ontario families we have learned that to be successful, any policy to create jobs and ensure a strong future for the North has three questions at its core:

–          Does it originate in the North?

–          Does it protect the Northern way of life?

–          Does it keep wealth in the North?

Only if the answer was “yes” to all three would we include any policy in changebook North.  Following are some of the highlights from the document.

We will give gas tax money to every Northern community.  Only one out of six Northern municipalities receive any gas tax revenue at all under Dalton McGuinty.  Under a Tim Hudak government, every Northern community will get a fair share of gas tax revenue to meet their local transportation needs. This means more money and more local decision-making power will stay in the North.

We will let Northern cities and towns decide for themselves how to develop and grow. Cleary, the situation in the North is different from that of the GTA. The PC Party of Ontario will not require Northern Ontario to be under the thumb of planning rules so clearly designed for the GTA’s urban sprawl.  We will not listen to the special interests and create blanket laws for the entire province based on Southern Ontario experiences.

We will protect the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund.  This is a fund that helps to stimulate development and create jobs in the North.  We will focus the Fund’s investments on projects to help create jobs.

We will help Ontario become #1 in mining in Canada again.  While Tim Hudak was Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Ontario was the top of the rankings of the world’s best mining jurisdictions.  Today, we have plunged to 19th, and we are just 7th in Canada. We will end the uncertainty and indecision that has led to this drop.  For example, we will work with the federal government to harmonize the environmental assessment processes that bog down important projects.  We will remove barriers by cutting red tape, getting energy costs under control, ensuring fair and strong land tenure, and developing partnerships to bring the investments in infrastructure that a strong mining industry requires.

We will repeal the Liberal law that effectively bans new development in Northern Ontario.  Bill 191, the Far North Act, is an example of Southern Ontario special interests making decisions on behalf of the North.  This law turns much of the North into a virtual museum by banning development and killing potential jobs.  We won’t cave in to the demands of Southern Ontario environmental groups and we will repeal the Far North Act.

We will allow all Mining Tax revenue from new mines to stay in local communities and First Nations.  This is a long overdue change.  The communities that build and support the mines will benefit even more from the new development.

We will help our forestry industry become #1 in Canada again.  Our forestry industry is in trouble.  Jobs have been lost, mills have been closed and Mr. McGuinty has created chaos with a number of confusing policies that have a negative impact on forestry. We will create a forest tenure system that is transparent and fair.  We will work with the industry to remove any barriers to job creation related to wood supply.  The forestry sector needs to know that there is a stable wood supply.  We believe that the Ontario forests will support 26 million cubic meters per year for existing and new mills.

We will create the conditions for new high-value, knowledge-based jobs.  It is particularly important to keep our young people in Northern Ontario.  We will encourage partnerships between government, the private sector, and post-secondary institutions to allow knowledge-based sectors to flourish.

We will tackle runaway energy prices in Northern Ontario.  Dalton McGuinty’s expensive energy experiments have driven the cost of energy up in every corner of Ontario, especially in the North.  Changebook promises immediate relief to Ontario families and outlines steps to make energy more affordable over the longer term.  Recognizing the unique challenges in Northern Ontario, we will protect existing programs that help reduce the higher costs of energy in the North.

We will focus the Ministry of Natural Resources on supporting – not interfering with – Northern Ontario’s traditional way of life.  The MNR has lost touch with its core mandate.  A Tim Hudak government will work to return the MNR to its core mandate of management, protection, and promotion of our natural heritage.

These are a few of the highlights of changebook North.  I urge you to go to the above listed website and download the full document, as well as the full changebook document we released earlier this year.  Unlike Mr. McGuinty, we have released our plans early enough to allow everyone an opportunity to review and understand how a Tim Hudak government will bring positive change for Ontario, and specifically for Northern Ontario.

Anthony LeBlanc

Candidate, PC Party of Ontario

Thunder Bay Superior North

www.leblancpc.com