2012 is Northern Ontario’s 100th birthday – by Gordon Dowsley (Toronto Star – December 16, 2012)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

Gordon Dowsley, a consultant in international development with specialization in the financial sector, teaches courses at the seniors center in Oshawa on history, geography and art.

Before the year slips away, we should celebrate the centennial of Northern Ontario. Not of its existence of course, for its Canadian Shield rock has been here for a billion years. However, its political boundaries were only established in 1912.

After Confederation, Ontario did not extend much beyond the Great Lakes. But in 1870 the new Canada bought all the land draining into Hudson Bay for £300,000. That launched a battle over which provincial government ruled what.

In 1884, the eastern border of Northern Ontario and Quebec was set, a straight line bisecting Lake Timiskaming. This set off a series of events led by one Charles Farr. He had surveyed land around Hailebury, named after his school in England, and New Liskeard.

This is not shield country but the Great Clay Belt. Cloaked in all the biases of his era, he lobbied Queen’s Park to settle the clay belt and set up a wall of English Protestants in the face of the French Catholics across the lake. His proposed building a railway to get settlers to his area. He also pushed a sensitive button by telling Toronto exporters they could have a sea port at Moosonee, thus ending their dependence on rival Montreal.

What would later be called the Ontario Northland Railway was completed in 1905. Mineral finds along this route set off the great mining boom in such centres as Cobalt, Kirkland Lake and Timmins. Mining proceeds flowed south along the railway and helped build up the Toronto Stock Exchange. Today, mining is the core of the exchange, which last year raised 90 per cent of new financing for mines around the world.

The western border with Manitoba was a battleground. Both Ontario and Manitoba claimed Rat Portage (now Kenora) and each appointed police to the town; these Keystone Kops ended up arresting each other. In 1878, the federal government of Liberal Alexander MacKenzie had the boundary arbitrated, but when Conservative John A. Macdonald returned to power later that year he refused to accept the line in an effort to thwart the Liberal premier of Ontario, Oliver Mowat.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1302801–2012-is-northern-ontario-s-100th-birthday

Comments are closed.