Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak says he’s convinced Northern Ontario is the province’s next frontier.
Hudak, who is expected to try to force an election after the minority Liberal government releases its budget next week, on Friday said as it stands there are too many obstacles in place for the Ring of Fire to prosper.
He’s worried the project will lie dormant if changes don’t happen in a hurry. “This isn’t once-in-a-lifetime. This is a once-in-a-century opportunity. It’s billions of dollars of chromite, copper, nickel and zinc that could provide jobs for 100 years or more,” Hudak said. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. What the oil sands are to Alberta, what potash is to Saskatchewan, the Ring of Fire could be for our great province of Ontario.”
But talk is cheap. Action is needed, meaning a strong plan and the leadership to light up the Ring of Fire, Hudak said, promising to deliver an all-season access road to the project, located some 550 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay.
The road would benefit not only the mining companies, but the First Nations communities surrounding it. Hudak also promised to make the development a cabinet priority.
“And I’ll designate one minister to be in charge, to simply clear aside any obstacles that stand in the way of unleashing this dynamo of job creation. Someone’s actually got to take this bull by the horns to get the job done. My team will do exactly that,” Hudak said, stumping on the pre-campaign trail.
Northern Ontario is falling far, far short in its enormous potential, Hudak told a gathering of regional mayors, councillors and other leaders on Day 2 of the Northern Ontario Municipal Association’s annual general meeting.
“Our once thriving forest industry has shrunk, mills have closed and that great can-do entrepreneurial spirit that built Northern Ontario has been crushed by the weight of government regulations that seem designed to stop growth and slow things down and to keep industry away. And all because we have a government that wants to impose a fantasy view of northern life,” Hudak said.
Politician and bureaucrats should spend less time trying to turn the North into a museum stuck in time and more time trying to stick up for a region hit hard by the recent economic downturn.
Hudak added governments should embrace partnerships with northern communities, businesses and professionals, following the lead of former Quebec premier Jean Charest.
He promised more northern decisions will be made by northerners in a Tim Hudak government. The downtown, political interest elites should not be calling the shots, he said.
“I want to see us growing and strong and proud again.”