QUEENS PARK – Premier Kathleen Wynne shared an update with media today. From her office in Queen’s Park, the Premier discussed her first four months in office. The Premier has made it a regular practice to address the Northern Ontario media via conference call.
“I wanted to touch base as we marked the end of the session and the passing of the budget. I was sworn in just over four months ago, and we are making the legislature work”.
Premier Wynne – Unprecedented Investment
The Premier stated, “The budget means an unprecedented investment in community care. It also means $100 million in a permanent infrastructure fund for the north.”
The budget means a commitment to growing the province without wide sweeping cuts, said the Premier.
“I want to recognized the work that Premier Dalton McGuinty did, and will continue his vision,” stated Wynne. “Focused on the future and optimistic about where Ontario is going”.
The Mayor of Sault Ste Marie is concerned over a plan that could see the OLG headquarters consolidated, and there are concerns that the office in Sault Set Marie could be closed. The Premier stated that there are no plans to change the location of the OLG office in Sault Ste Marie. Asked if the OLG would be following the Drummond Report in consolidating into one office, the Premier would not commit to moving the operations to the North.
Ring of Fire
On the issue of Cliffs Natural Resources, the final draft of their Environmental Assessment was submitted in January. The terms of reference were added to the list two years ago.
Premier Wynnes stated, “there are a lot of parts to this project that we have to get right, that includes engagement with First Nations. It is a complex project.
“We have to get it right, and we have to get it right from the beginning,” said Wynne.
The Premier is not seeing the announcement by Cliffs as a ‘pressure tactic’.
Since I was Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, I have said that engagement is critical, and that is what we are engaged in right now”.
Premier Wynne says “I am absolutely committed to making the Ring of Fire work. Making sure we have the capacity is critical to the success of the project.”
“Cliffs has completed their exploration work”.
Cliffs has two issues with the province. One is the Environmental Assessment, and the other is the processing plant in Sudbury. The Premier continued to express support for the project but insists that the pieces must be done right.
“We have designed programs to support manufacturing and industry in the north. Electricity is one factor, but there are many to support industry in the North”.
“We are very committed to the cultural industry, there is no intention of undermining that success,” stated the Premier
Policing and Municipalities
The Premier stated that many municipalities are feeling pressure over policing costs. “The province is engaging with the OPP, AMO, and the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police”, commented the Premier. “This is a live and real issue for us, and we are working on it”.
The Premier states, “Our mental health strategy includes a strategy for mental health, and dealing with addiction”. Asked about the number of Alcohol Gaming Commission of Ontario Inspectors, the Premier said, “We deal with geography, and by adding more resources it is a good thing.”
The Premier agreed that having a deeper look into this is needed.
Northwestern Ontario currently has one Inspector who covers from Thunder Bay to Kenora, An added Inspector is being added. Geographically that is a massive territory to cover. Having greater resources will assist the region’s police services.
“Our Minister has been public that divestiture is not the only option. There is a concern that local voices be heard”.
Metrolinx will need a greater role. “My objective is we have a strong transportation policy for the north. We can’t have a haphazard approach to transportation in the north”.
Asked about the use of a 1% tax the Premier said there are no plans to have northerners pay for Toronto Transit expansion.
The Premier was asked when employees of the ONTC can expect resolution, the Premier commented that she can’t comment on the union management discussions.
“Our position has moved in terms of divestiture, I know people want us to get this right”.