THUNDER BAY – The provincial Liberal leadership debate in Thunder Bay has predictably failed to impress either the Ontario Progressive Conservatives or the Ontario New Democrats. New Democrats MPP Gilles Bisson commented that “McGuinty Liberals aren’t fooling Northerners with their sudden interest in the North after a decade of neglect. The McGuinty Liberals have been in power for nearly a decade. Where have these guys been? After almost ten years of neglect, Northerners aren’t going to be impressed with empty platitudes.”
“For the past ten years, each of the Liberal leadership contenders had a hand in turning Ontario’s economy upside-down which drove thousands of jobs away”, Nipissing PC MPP Vic Fedeli said. “For a decade, it was clear that Northern Ontario was an afterthought for the Liberals. The Premier didn’t even attend last year’s Northern debate and launched his Northern platform in Newmarket.”
[pullquote] These are the same McGuinty Liberals who brought us the highest electricity prices in Canada – Gilles Bisson [/pullquote]
Missing the Northern Leaders Debate was an issue raised by the NDP as well. “But now that it is politically convenient for potential McGuinty successors, they hold a leadership debate in Thunder Bay and pretend that they have always been an ally of Northern Ontario,” commented Bisson. Bisson noted “That during the last provincial election, Dalton McGuinty refused to even debate other party leaders at NOMA’s leadership debate in Northern Ontario. Now, as they scramble for support, they’re making promises again”.
The New Democrats assert, “Candidates talked about giving new powers to bring more decision-making power in the North – but defended Liberal initiatives like the Far North Act, which was opposed by Northern Mayors, Northern Business and First Nations. When the NDP proposed a Northern Committee to give Northern MPPs power to shape northern decisions, the McGuinty Government blocked the move”.
Fedeli stated “Each leadership candidate sat at the cabinet table while the Liberals neglected Northern Ontario. A cancelled gas-fired power plant contract in Thunder Bay that killed 100 Northern jobs, the fire sale of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, the closing of Northern provincial parks and the closure of tourism centres in Northwestern Ontario are just a few examples of the Liberals’ abandonment of Northerners.”
“Instead of putting 600,000 unemployed Ontarians back to work, each candidate remains consumed with advancing their own political ambitions. If they truly wanted to help Northern Ontarians, they would be sitting in the Legislature, rather than at this ‘debate,’ ” charged Fedeli.
“These are the same McGuinty Liberals who brought us the highest electricity prices in Canada, sold off the ONTC, passed the Far North Act and spent million cancelling plants in Mississauga but can’t seem to complete one in Thunder Bay. Northerners aren’t going to be easily impressed after nearly a decade of neglect,” concluded Bisson.