Call for separate [Ontario] North – by Ron Grech (The Daily Press – April 20, 2011)

Ron Grech is a reporter for The Daily Press, the city of Timmins newspaper. Contact the writer at  rgrech@thedailypress.ca

City council rejects idea

A deputation by a former Timmins councillor promoting the idea of Northern Ontario separating from the rest of the province had several current councillors squirming in their seats this week. “If Quebec can have a vote to separate from Canada, surely we can have a referendum vote to separate from southern Ontario,” said Don Collins, who served for many years as a Timmins councillor.

Collins cited several measures at Queen’s Park which he felt points to the provincial government’s disconnection from Northern Ontario. They included the cancellation of the spring bear hunt and a proposal to reduce resource industries’ access to Crown forests in order to protect woodland caribou.

“I ask council if they could pursue this matter.” Collins’ remarks received a strong endorsement from one councillor – Pat Bamford. “I’m very supportive of Northern Ontario as a separate province,” Bamford told council following Collins’ presentation.

He said he thought the prospect was very “doable” with the North being rich with revenue potential from natural resources and power generation.

“It’s quite simple. If you’re satisfied with the government you have, you live with it … There is this principle out there that governments will govern they way they will if you tolerate it, and it’s your own fault if you don’t do something about it.”

Bamford suggested there should be a “groundswell across Northern Ontario” in support of separating as a province

However, several other councillors were clearly uncomfortable with any perception of Timmins offering its support to the North separating from the rest of the province.

Coun. Steve Black said discussions by council about separating from the province should not be expressed too lightly.

“The worse thing we want is” the local media reporting that “the City of Timmins is looking at separating from the Province of Ontario” — particularly at a time when the municipality is asking Queen’s Park to provide funding to help cover costs.

Coun. Todd Lever went further by dismissing the idea as “ludicrous.”

Lever said it needs to be abundantly clear that “there are zero resources” being directed by the municipality towards this endeavour.

“The mere fact we’ve been talking about it, I don’t think it should have been on the agenda … I think it’s a ludicrous idea.”

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