THUNDER BAY, ON - March 2, 2010 - Remember back to the 70’s when Northwestern Ontario was booming, and we were firing on all cylinders? We were living prosperously due to our resources, while over in Newfoundland it was the exact opposite and they were known as a “have not province”.
I cannot escape the thought that we have reversed roles with our friends to the east as I drive through the northwest. It seems so apparent that we have become a “have-not” region in a “have not province”.
In Canada, the provinces are loosely divided into "have" and "have not." "Have not" provinces do not generate enough money domestically to cover their federally-mandated programmes (i.e. healthcare, welfare, pensions). "Have" provinces are the ones that do generate enough money to pay for their provincial programmes. Transfer payments from federal taxes are moved to the “have-nots”, to help cover these social costs.
I remember the humour of that time coming from Newfoundland, and they do have the ability to laugh at themselves similar to us northerners. I remember the joke at the time that Newfoundland’s growth industry was through the building of empty warehouses to accommodate the failed ventures that had no place being established in Newfoundland in the first place, and the business would close and the building became an empty warehouse.
There are other similarities between us and our “newfie” friends. Newfoundlanders will always come back to their roots to work or retire. The same can be said for most of us northerners. Just look at those of us that headed out west to work. It may provide work but it’s not home. We will come back to enjoy the beauty, the fishing and hunting, winter and summer.
Times have changed though haven’t they? Newfoundland is now officially a “have” province. Sure Newfoundland always had their fish stocks to help them, but even those were depleted from over-fishing not only from their activity but from off-shore fleets as well. Things got even worse for them before they got better.
We however have been so affected by the downturn in the US economy that our traditional resources are not providing prosperity anymore. We are now the “have not” people. Our traditional economy will bounce back in time but in the meantime, we have a chance to reverse our role just as Newfoundland did with their oil resources.
Our oil resource-type saviour can be the “Ring of Fire” chromite deposit, located in the northern section of northwestern Ontario. This “find” is so large it has been tagged as a strategic supply for North America. The manufacturing of stainless steel requires chromite. Mining companies have estimated that there will be thousands of jobs creation potential linked to this chromite discovery.
It’s not hard to fathom the potential. The chromite has to be accessed as it is remote; the site requires development, and the chromite processed at least to a point that it can be transported to a smelting facility. The opportunity is tremendous. Not only is the chromite discovery huge, this activity will also lead to other significant finds of other minerals.
The Ring of Fire opportunity can become what northwestern Ontario and all its residents require to once again become a thriving region. The spin-off job opportunities will also help the many smaller forestry companies that will provide mining timbers, other products, road building expertise and other site and transportation development.
At the same time that this new opportunity is being developed our forest resource companies will be back to also providing our residents with much-needed work and the future is definitely starting to look bright for us, finally. The key though is to develop the potential properly. We have to consider all the residents that can benefit, and affected. We need to honour past agreements so we can move forward together, and this will require a great deal of consultation and a genuine desire to maximize the potential for our youth. Let’s leave our next generation with a “have” legacy, so they can call northwestern Ontario home permanentlly.
Musings from Big Lake Country