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Nora Loreto's blog

Nora Loreto's picture
Nora Loreto is a writer, musician and activist based in Québec City. She is the author of From Demonized to Organized, Building the New Union Movement and is the editor of the rabble.ca series Up! Canadian Labour Rising. Nora is on leave as an editor with the Canadian Association of Labour Media while she takes care of infant twins. Nora's music can be heard here and her blog can be read at www.noraloreto.ca.

The Province of Northern Ontario

| October 13, 2012

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.

Sustainable.

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.

sus·tain·a·ble/səˈstānəbəl/ Adjective:

  1. Able to be maintained at a certain rate or level.
  2. (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.

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Comments

Boom Boom wrote:
The new province would not be a "have-not" province - northern Ontario is incredibly rich in resources.

And yet that wealth goes to make a handful of people rich, while doing nothing to resolve the widespread poverty in Northern Ontario.

Do you imagine that setting up a new provincial border is somehow going to change that?

What would change that is nationalizing the incredibly rich resources and putting them under public democratic ownership and control. Setting up a new province is neither necessary nor sufficient to accomplish that.

Whenever anyone in this country believes (right or wrong) that a decision is not in their interest, they speak of separation. Like, little children they threaten to run away. They are certain their lives will be so much better if they are on their own. This decision may not have been in the best interest of the people of northern Ontario. But, the writer should rememeber that it has worked both ways. Mike Harris, of North Bay, didn't have much representation from southern Ontario. But, he made decisions that will have a negative impact on us for years to come. Conservative MPP Bill Murdoch once stated his fervent desire for Toronto to separate from the rest of Ontario. When the mayors of the surrounding cities noted that their interests are much more closely aligned to Toronto and would follow T.O, Murdoch shut his mouth. What Nora Loreto refers to as the "Ring of fire" is also called the Golden Horseshoe. This is due to the fact it has had the strongest economy in Canada for the last 60 years. The last census shows the region is still outpacing the rest of the country in population and economic growth.  Ms Loreto, please stop acting like a child. If you truly believe the north of this province is better off going alone, stop the temper tantrums; get together with the many like minded people from the north, seek legal avenues for separation and leave. I'll be happy to donate to your cause.

The new province would not be a "have-not" province - northern Ontario is incredibly rich in resources. Those resources, used sustainably, and with the relative small population of the north, can go a long way. I've lived in Thunder Bay, Hearst, and Sturgeon Falls, and have travelled as far north as Moose Factory Island, and I think there'd be a lot of support for breaking away from Toronto's control.

Loreto seems to have more than an inkling of what the problem is - namely, capitalism. But the solution she proposes does nothing to address that problem.

Creating a new "have-not" province within a confederation of provinces locked in the iron grip of a capitalist economy does not sound to me like a very effective strategy. For one thing, there's no reason for the colonial relationship she correctly identifies not to continue, regardless of the creation of a new provincial boundary.

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