Northern Ontario’s NDP candidates got together Wednesday to release their plan for the region, titled A better future for Northern Ontario.
The plan’s launch took place at the Sudbury/Nickel Belt NDP campaign office on Lasalle Boulevard, where four candidates met with media in person and others attended virtually.
Introducing the NDP as “the only party that’s consistently spoken to the issues that matter to Northern Ontario,” Timmins-James Bay incumbent Charlie Angus offered a brief walk-through of the plan, which localizes several national platform points alongside a few exclusively local plans.
Although the Liberals have pledged $240 million over four years to protect post-secondary French-language education, Angus noted that when Laurentian University was in crisis, “the Sudbury and Nickel Belt Liberals were asleep at the switch.”
A pledge to “ensure Laurentian University and all northern and francophone universities can serve families across Northern Ontario” and a commitment to “ensuring access to French-language services in Northern Ontario” are both included in their northern platform alongside paying special attention to French-speaking new Canadians.
After Angus’s presentation, Sudbury candidate Nadia Verrelli dug a bit deeper into Laurentian, noting the post-secondary institution “has touched every community” in the region, and that the Liberal inaction in helping the institution during its time of financial crisis is now costing them.
Families can’t afford to send their kids away, she said, “and now they’re almost forced to” as a result of cuts made to Laurentian.
Although the Liberals announced last month that FedNor would become a standalone agency, this, too, is in the NDP’s platform for Northern Ontario.
The Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario has “always been the poor cousin of all the regional development agencies,” Angus said. “We’ve got a promise from the Trudeau government that it’s going to be standalone, but we got to ensure this doesn’t evaporate after the election.
“We relied on FedNor throughout the pandemic to keep businesses afloat, we don’t want to see that investment dry up.”
The NDP also pledged to improve upon inter-community travel, including the restoration of the federal government’s share of funding for the Northlander passenger train.
Various other platform points are national in scope but carry local implications local area candidates said they would advocate for.
“When we’re talking about Indigenous issues, we have a good portion of Indigenous people living in Sudbury,” Verrelli said.
“Yesterday, door-knocking, I met one citizen who was coming out of the foster-care system and you see firsthand when governments chronically underfund services for Indigenous kids, Indigenous youths, you see the effects of it at a level you don’t see in Toronto … or in bigger metropolitan areas.”
The opioid crisis, while national, is exacerbated in Northern Ontario as a result of its unequal access to services, Nickel Belt candidate Andréane Chénier said.
“We don’t have enough access to mental-health services in the area, we don’t have enough access to housing that makes sense,” he said, citing the north’s “chronic underfunding of health-care services” as particularly problematic.
On this front, Verrelli, who has multiple sclerosis, said that she has personally experienced the north’s limited access to health-care services, as she has to drive to Toronto once per year for an MRI.
This, she said, is but one small example of what people in Northern Ontario have to deal with.
“This is something that people living in Toronto or bigger cities don’t necessarily have to worry about, but this is our reality,” she said, citing the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa as another popular destination among those seeking healthcare services.
“We want fairness to be brought back,” Chénier said.
“That’s really at the core of it. We want Northern Ontario with all of our resources, all of our diversity, all of the richness of our communities. We want that acknowledged in funding, in programs and services to the same degree that a Torontonian or somebody who lives in Ottawa or even Vancouver or any of the larger centres might be able to access. We want that recognition because we feel we deserve it.”
Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing candidate Carol Hughes also attended Wednesday’s Northern Ontario platform launch, while other candidates joined in remotely.
A full copy of the NDP’s plan for Northern Ontario can be found by clicking here.