May 10, 2017 @ 09:01
On Thursday, May 4th, 2017, John Vanthof (MPP, Timiskaming-Cochrane) moved a motion in the Ontario Legislature to create a Northern Committee of the Legislature. In his Private Member’s motion, MPP Vanthof proposed that the membership of this special interest committee would be comprised of MPPs from each Northern riding, including Parry Sound-Muskoka, and Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke. The purpose of this all-party Northern Ontario committee would be to ensure that any proposed government legislation or policies would be scrutinized in regards to its’ potential impacts on Northern Ontario.
Vanthof went on to explain that Northerners have long felt isolated from the major population centres in Ontario; increasingly so as the population base of Southern Ontario cities expands rapidly, while the population of the North continues to decline. “Folks from rural and Northern Ontario are often reliant on having to go to bigger centres in order to access health care or enjoyment or entertainment … I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone in northern Ontario that northerners feel very disenfranchised from the more populated areas of the province,” stated Vanthof.
As a result of this disconnection between socio-geographical realities, legislation developed in Toronto often has unintended consequences in the North. Vanthof raised the example of the much-anticipated return of the spring bear hunt pilot project, remarking that while the project is greatly appreciated, “No one asked northerners how to implement this, and quite frankly, it’s a mess. The vast majority of Ontarians don’t understand rural and Northern Ontario, because they don’t live there. That’s no fault of their own. If we had people from rural Ontario running a huge metropolis like Toronto, I think we’d make a mess of things as well.”
“To try and get over these kinds of unforeseen issues, the goal of this committee would be to take all the northern members and allow them to make recommendations on legislation passed at Queen’s Park so that it would actually work in Northern Ontario,” remarked Vanthof.
Recently, the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) released a discussion document entitled “The Rural Northern Lens”. In this paper, ROMA established a list of twelve (12) questions that could be used to determine the likely effectiveness of a given piece of legislation, in relation to Northern Ontario’s unique socio-economic and geographic nature. The purpose of using this kind of inquiry-based thinking would ensure that proposed legislation works correctly for rural and Northern Ontario. “I would really like to thank ROMA for allowing us to use their document’s 12 questions as our proposed terms of reference for the Northern Committee”, said Vanthof.
Vanthof also noted that he “…would also like to thank the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities and many individual northern Municipalities for their support. It is our hope that this committee could form a template to help ensure that all Ontarians are better represented.”
“Ideally, the current government will proceed with the Committee’s implementation as quickly as possible,” concluded Vanthof. The initial motion to form the Northern Committee was passed with all-party support.