Campbell tells Liberals to keep hands off NOHFC dollars
Sarah Campbell, MPP
Queen’s Park - The McGuinty government needs to get its hands out of the pockets of programs intended to promote economic development and diversification and begin respecting democracy, says Sarah Campbell, MPP Kenora-Rainy River.
On Friday, the McGuinty Government announced its decision to take $5 million from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation to create a Northern Policy Institute in an attempt to deflect attention from its poor record on the north at a time when an election could be called at any time.
"The NOHFC is in place to support community-based initiatives intended to create new opportunities and growth in our region: not to help a Liberal public relations campaign when they spent more than eight years ignoring northern concerns," says Campbell.
She points out past "initiatives" with very similar mandates, have been announced with questionable timing, which show the Liberals are more interested in their political fortunes than listening to northerners.
In 2007, the McGuinty government announced the creation of an Economic Facilitator for Northwestern Ontario (Bob Rosehart), right before the provincial election. Re-elected to a majority, the government released the Rosehart Report in 2008 and left it to gather dust.
No further action was taken until 2011 when, again before an election, the Liberal government announced the creation of their Northern Growth Plan, which is high on rhetoric but lacking in substance. Now with a minority situation and their northern political fortunes dwindling, the Liberals have announced the creation of the Northern Policy Institute, which will take $5 million in start-up costs from the NOHFC, but the government has already said no further funding will be made available.
Meanwhile northerners have been calling for concrete action to help the region’s economy for nearly a decade. Despite this, the government has taken no action and has repeatedly ignored northern voices on issues such as the Species at Risk Act, the Far North Act and decisions to close Travel Information Centres and sell-off the ONTC.
"Not only is this initiative smoke and mirrors, it's an insult to hard-working northerners who rely on the NOHFC for valuable funding initiatives. If McGuinty was truly interested in helping the north he would have spent the last eight years listening, or listened to the democratic will of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario who voted last fall to create a Committee of northern MPPs to review all policy, consult with stakeholders and ensure that all proposed legislation considers its impact on northern communities," she explains.
The Northern Committee could have greater access to Ministers, the civil service and would be able to tour across northern communities to gain valuable input. She also adds the committee structure is not only more cost-effective, but its recommendations would be implemented faster and it would have greater tools at its disposal to have a real impact on legislation.
Campbell raised the issue during Question Period Sept. 4. The full exchange is available online at http://www.youtube.com/krrndp.