In the latest in a series of detailed policy papers, MPP and Ontario Liberal leadership candidate Michael Coteau unveiled a thorough plan to focus on Northern Ontario's representation at Queen's Park in order to better address goals around environmental protection, job creation and improving public services. (Available online: https://www.anewfocuson.com/northern_ontario.)
The third-term MPP was also endorsed by former Algoma—Manitoulin MPP and Speaker of the Legislature Mike Brown, who said, “I am impressed by Michael Coteau's commitment to building and modernizing our party, as well as his vision for growing the economy and protecting our environment in Northern Ontario. I am pleased to support him.”
In the policy paper, Coteau makes clear, “You shouldn't have to live south of Bloor Street—much less the French River—to be important to the Ontario government. I hear all the time from people in the North that they feel Queen's Park does not listen and does not understand Northern needs.”
“Worse still, for too many in the North, it can feel like opportunity is passing by—from the entrepreneur who cannot access the Internet effectively in order to benefit from the opportunities of the New Economy or the Indigenous student who cannot access academic stream courses at her nearby high school. These inequities need to change. Queen's Park needs to listen,” Coteau said.
“I am ready to lead change in Ontario, meaningful, effective change," the MPP promised. "We need to create a new, modern way of interacting between Northern Ontario and the provincial government. I am presenting this paper to show how, as Ontario Liberal Party leader and premier, I will work to bring people together and to lead one Ontario, with the North as a key part of decision making, and a new, respectful relation- ship.”
“It starts by listening to the North and ensuring Queen's Park comes with a spirit of collaboration and respect. From a new basis of collaboration, we can then address environmental, economic, and health and education needs,” Coteau concluded.
Coteau's commitments to Northern Ontario fall into four broad goals:
1. Put in place a new approach for Queen's Park to work in collaboration with Northern Ontario and Indigenous communities.
- Establish an annual cabinet meeting in Northern Ontario
- Re-establish a stand-alone Minister for Indigenous Reconciliation
- Create a Premier's Northern Advisory Council
2. Protect our natural environment and biodiversity in a way that sustains and expands resource-based jobs in Northern Ontario, particularly mining and forestry
- Support for sustainable mining and forestry
- Bring Right to Repair consumer protection
- Increase land protected by provincial parks
- Improve inter-municipal bus service
3. Unleash and fuel the entrepreneurial spirit of Northern Ontario and create the right “ecosystem” so Northern Ontarians can share and participate fully in the opportunities offered by the New Economy.
- Provide high-speed Internet access for every Northerner, through a utility model if necessary
- Provide targeted support for Northern infrastructure, including four-laning Highway 69 and the Trans-Canada highway, and supporting the Sault port renewal
- Unlock the potential of the Ring of Fire with the roads, energy and housing infrastructure needed
4. Ensure Northern Ontarians have equitable access in their communities to the public services their tax dollars support—particularly education, health care and housing.
- Support Northern public buildings
- Improve Northern access to health care
- Better support Northern Ontario community hubs, particularly in schools
Coteau concluded by saying, “For far too long, people who live in Ontario's beautiful, broad and diverse North have been expected to accept and live with decisions made for them by Queen's Park—by politicians and faceless bureaucrats who don't understand the North's unique challenges, way of life, and special values like a sense of kinship with and stewardship of the natural environment that is our legacy for our children. I want to change that by working together with Northerners.”