THUNDER BAY-Ontario Liberal Leadership Candidate Steven Del Duca was joined in Thunder Bay by sitting MPP Michael Gravelle and released the details of his 'Ontario North' action plan.
The plan calls for expanding the Trans-Canada highway to four lanes across its entire length, providing Northern Ontarians with access to a health practitioner within 48 hours, reversing Ford cuts to the North and other detailed investments.
Gravelle's endorsement is notable as he is the only sitting MPP to endorse a candidate.
“I am happy to endorse my good friend Steven Del Duca for leader of the Ontario Liberal Party. Working with him at Queen's Park, I witnessed his determination to work collaboratively to address the needs of remote, rural and northern communities. He's a true partner of the north. Whether it's committing to increased investments in roads and bridges, increasing access to doctors, or delivering reliable and affordable high-speed internet access across the province, the plan he has put forward as part of this leadership contest is a progressive one that will support so many across the province. I am proud to stand with Steven,” said MPP Gravelle.
“It's an honour to be endorsed by Michael, he's someone I've worked with and who I respect tremendously. He's not only been a great voice for Thunder Bay at the legislature, but he's also been a strong voice for Northern Ontario,” said Steven Del Duca.
"My Ontario North Action Plan will make life better in northern Ontario. What I've heard from residents is that they want access to healthcare, they want to be able to travel safely between communities, they want access to highspeed internet, and they want to see the northern Ontario economy flourish and grow. The Ontario North Plan accomplishes all those things and more. While the provincial government divests from the north, my plan calls for new investments.
“We need to closely examine whether we can move any ministries or agencies from Toronto to the most northern communities of Ontario. My plan calls for the decentralization of government. It's a win-win-win because the province can divest from expensive Toronto real estate, invest in the economy and workers will have greater quality of life.”
“Since the PCs took over, we've seen cut after cut after cut target Northern Ontario as a whole. It's time to treat Northerners with respect,” Del Duca continued.
Del Duca's 'Ontario North' Action Plan calls for:
- Expanding the Trans-Canada Highway to four lanes across its entire length. To meet this ambitious goal, a long-term partnership with the federal government is proposed in which both jurisdictions cover 50% of the cost. The Trans-Canada Highway is vital infrastructure that ensures residents of Northern Ontario can get to work and home. The initiative will make it easier to get products made in Northern Ontario to market. Expanding the highway will increase safety for those travelling through the North.
- Ensuring that all residents of Northern Ontario have access to a nurse practitioner or doctor within 48 hours when required. This initiative will expand the Northern Ontario School of Medicine's mandate to include nurse and nurse-practitioner training.
- Making the investment required to build the appropriate electric vehicle charging infrastructure in Northern Ontario.
- Supporting projects that drive development and electrification in the remote north, including through the establishment of a dedicated community infrastructure fund for northern and on-reserve communities. This includes a commitment to the full completion of the Wataynikaneyap Transmission Project, to provide more than 20 communities in northern Ontario with reliable electric power and seek new, similar opportunities. Steven is committed to high-speed broadband internet coverage for all Northern Ontarians and will work with rural community leaders and the telecom companies to ensure complete coverage.
- Canceling the Ford Government's cuts to the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation and establishing a stream of the NOHFC to support northern Ontario businesses in selling to nearby export markets that are closer than southern Ontario, including customers in Quebec, Manitoba and adjacent US states. Steven will index annual allocations to the NOHFC to inflation so that the fund retains its purchasing power.
- Increasing the Northern Ontario Energy Credit and expanding eligibility for this benefit. These changes will assist more Ontarians in paying the higher home energy costs they incur as residents of the North.
- Establishing in northern Ontario the headquarters of government agencies and ministries.
- Working with the Federal Government and northern communities to ensure settlement of skilled immigrants in the north. Steven will work in close consultation with northern communities to help coordinate and amplify these communities' existing efforts to attract skilled newcomers.
- Empowering existing regional leadership and planning groups in Northern Ontario to coordinate regional transit planning and funding in these regions. Supporting these groups with initial planning funding and expertise in transit building. Northern communities will also have access to the Climate Resiliency Infrastructure Fund, a new $100 million per year fund that Steven will establish to support municipalities (large and small), farmers, and private industry across Ontario in adapting to the impacts of climate change and building climate resiliency.
- Establishing the Ontario Rural Growth Strategy, which will establish Community Economic Development Credits and Opportunity Zones in rural communities in Northern Ontario.