George Orwell warned us. Somehow he knew that the future would be marked by the use of words that mean one thing but that mean another.
I’m thinking of this because I came across the use of one of these doublespeak words while looking up an article for this post.
Here’s a definition I copied and pasted. With my French classes making me comb through dictionaries 68 times a day, I don’t feel like transcribing what my Canadian Oxford Dictionary says. But, you’ll get the point.
- Able to be maintained at a certain rate or level.
- (esp. of development, exploitation, or agriculture) Conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources
The least popular Liberal in Northern Ontario, Rick Bartolucci used the word “sustainable” to justify the divestment in the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, according to the North Bay Nugget.
In the release, Northern Development Minister Rick Bartolucci says the divestment of the ONTC is necessary to promote sustainable transportation and telecommunications services in the North – now and in the future.
“This thorough and competitive sales process will ensure the buyer selected for Ontera is best able to meet provincial priorities to deliver telecommunications services, stimulate the economy, sustain jobs and provide value for taxpayers,” he said.
You got that?
Turning over the telecommunications infrastructure and service of Northern Ontario to a private corporation will ensure the sustainability of phone service in the North. Divesting in rail and bus service will ensure the sustainability of transportation in the North.
I’ll repeat: removing the public accountability inherent in these organizations (through, you know, democracy), Northerners will be better served by Rogers or Coach Canada or…you know, the likely replacement in the case of most transportation services….nothing. Jobs will be lost. Workers will be paid less. Services will suffer.
It’s easy to ignore that companies like Greyhound nearly cancelled routes in Northwestern Ontario because they’re not profitable enough (though a public pressure campaign convinced the company to keep some services). Forget the fact that the ONTC exists because Northern Ontario is a large place and the normal rules of capitalism haven’t really convinced politicians to create transportation systems that actually help people (rather than the mines). Let’s pretend to not remember the vast network of quasi-public (more public than private anyway) system of transportation that moves people throughout the GTA called GO Transit that also costs a lot of money to operate.
These things are forgettable for two reasons.
The first is that for most people in Southern Ontario, Northern Ontario starts at Orillia. And when the tip of the iceberg is mistaken for the entire thing, bad decisions will be made.
The second is that for the Liberal Party, they can mail a bag of turds to most Northerners and it will not likely change what people think about their party. The Liberal supporters will blame it on the kids down the street. The vast remaining majority will further despise the party.
So, attacking the telecommunications network Ontera and killing the Northlander are good political decisions. They won’t likely hurt the Liberals.
(Though, as the party with arguably the most support in the North, the NDP made a huge political and moral mistake by not including support for the ONTC in their budget negotiations with the Liberals.)
A few weeks ago, I encouraged people to not fear discussions about Québec independence. In that same vein, I think that it’s clear: Northern Ontario needs to become its own province. Not a country, yet, but at least a province.
For many people in positions of power, the North, especially with the Liberal’s drooly romance with the Ring of Fire, seems to be nothing more than a bunch of vacant land with lots of wickedly expensive crap under the soil. For industries who will profit from the activities in the North, infrastructure, telecommunications and quality of life of Northerners is only important insofar as it encourages and enables their profits to grow. This colonial relationship continues to drive communities into poverty and perverts local leadership to support programs that aren’t what their communities want.
Bay street doesn’t care about Sault Ste. Marie, Hearst or Geraldton. Neither does Queen’s Park. And, together, such an attitude leads to a decision like the divestment of the ONTC.
Imagine the possibilities inherent in the creation of a new province: The chance to build a transportation infrastructure that connects communities with rail and bus lines that can bring students home from Lakehead University or Northern College. Imagine starting a province where people come together to create what they want, rather than inheriting a series of messes created by the South? Imagine being able to make decisions without waiting for permission from the faraway land of Toronto.
Imagine what Northern Ontario could look like if the people in the North were the decision-makers? Imagine the possibilities for First Nations communities, many of who struggle for self-determination and some of who have successfully fought against mining or logging companies looking to profit off their “resources.”
To me, that would lead to something sustainable. That would create jobs and infrastructure that actually works for Northerners.
All communities in Canada are struggling with another form of doublespeak: where their “democracies” are less democratic and more a tyranny of the minority. In Northern Ontario, it’s clear that the current arrangement in the province does not work in the best interests of the people there and something has to change.
If Northern Ontario can’t get any respect from the South as an appendage then its time to create a new entity that could form a relationship with Toronto or Winnipeg (or Chicago) on it’s own terms.
Enough of having to beg from the scraps left over from the Greater Toronto Area.