NORTH BAY – Any measured sense of optimism with the appointment, or re-appointment, of Michael Gravelle as Premier Kathleen Wynne’s new Minister of Northern Development and Mines was pretty much dashed this week.
Gravelle told Nugget reporter Gord Young the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission divestment process will continue and there will be no dramatic shift in direction.
While he did leave the door open to “significant community input into that process,” it’s a little late for that. What’s really left to be said? The process is fairly advanced.
Requests for proposals for Ontera are expected to be submitted and considered this spring. The Northlander is no longer running. Proponents of the New Deal will likely try to get an audience with the minister as soon as possible to push their idea of a port authority. Gravelle is known for being a good listener and he’s called for “dialogue” but, in the political scheme of things that is the Liberal stronghold in the GTA, the ONTC is not on the radar. Wynne has far more pressing southern Ontario issues to deal with if she hopes to retain power.
It’s true the governing Liberals can change their minds at any time. They did so in grandiose fashion when they changed gas plant locations in southern Ontario to secure a seat in the last provincial election. But what’s the advantage to do that here?
There are no prospects to win any Northeastern Ontario seats in the next election. Conservative Vic Fedeli is a popular member of provincial Parliament and would be a tough candidate to defeat. Even former Northern Development and Mines Minister Rick Bartolucci’s Sudbury seat may swing to the New Democrats now that he’s announced he won’t run again. As it was, he narrowly defeated the NDP candidate in the last election.
The only reasonably secure Liberal seats in the north now lie in Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay, where David Orazietti, the newly appointed Minister of Natural Resources, and Gravelle, respectively, have carried those ridings for consecutive terms. Northern Ontario has been largely coloured NDP and recent polling shows Leader Andrea Horwath’s grip remains largely unchallenged.
For the rest of this article, please go to the North Bay Nuggest website: http://www.nugget.ca/2013/02/16/ontc-future-wont-change-with-gravelle