QUEEN’S PARK – Last week the Legislative Assembly’s Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs announced its schedule for pre-budget consultations. There were no stops in Northwestern Ontario on that schedule. In fact the closest ‘northern’ site for consultations was in Timmins, which is more than ten hours away from our region by car.
Sarah Campbell – Decision Unacceptable
The decision by this committee to bypass this province’s largest region is wholly and entirely unacceptable. While I do not sit on the committee and, as a result, was not part of the subcommittee meeting that decided the hearing schedules, I have been assured by my party’s Finance Critic, Michael Prue, that he fought for at least one meeting in our region, but was denied by the representative of the Liberal and Conservative parties.
While the decision to ignore our region’s concerns is entirely unacceptable, it points to a number of shortcomings within the present system. The first is the failure of the committee structure to hold the members that made this decision to account. While committee proceedings are recorded and part of the public record, subcommittee deliberations are not. I believe that if scheduling discussions been subject to a permanent record, the results of that deliberations could have been decidedly different.
The other problem very well could be the makeup of the committee itself. Since the decision was announced, it has been pointed out that the committee is made up entirely of representatives from Southern Ontario. While I am less convinced by this argument, it does point to a flaw within the way our province defines its regions.
Everyone reading this understands that there are very real differences between the Northeast and Northwest, and neither region shares any significant similarities with regions such as Barrie, Parry Sound or Muskoka, yet in the eyes of many in this province all three regions are considered “Northern Ontario.” Unfortunately, to many of those same people, visiting Timmins, Sudbury or Sault Ste. Marie constitutes a sincere attempt at gathering “northern” input.
This is why so many provincial policies fail to adequately address our needs in Northwestern Ontario. A good example is tourism policy, which the province has chopped into 13 “distinct” regions. Twelve of those regions are in what rightly can be described as Southern Ontario, while the northwest (13C), northeast (13A) and north-central (13B) part of the province are lumped together despite widely divergent markets, needs and goals.
While it can be frustrating, giving up is the last thing we can do. We need to speak up and speak loudly.
Over the next few weeks I will be sending out a survey on the provincial budget aimed at getting your feedback. I encourage you to fill it out and return it to me. For people who want to share more detailed concerns, I encourage you to put them in writing and to send them directly to me or contact my office to set up and appointment to discuss them in person or by phone.
Sarah Campbell MPP
Kenora Rainy River