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A Grit-Tory coalition? Only in Gorffwysfa.

The path to Gorffwysfa may lie through Ontario, but it doesn't run though Northern Ontario. And that's why talking about elections has been a waste of time for this region.

Gorffwysfa? You have never heard of Gorffwysfa? Gorffwysfa was built in 1866 by mill owner Joseph Merrill Currier. He gave it to his third wife, Hannah, as a wedding present. It was probably a bribe to get her to move to Ottawa so he could take up his duties as a Member of Parliament.

Gorffwysfa is a Welsh word meaning place of peace. In 1951, it became the official residence of Canada's Prime Minister. Gorffwysfa is usually referred to colourfully as "24 Sussex Drive." We copy the British, who keep their PM in romantic "10 Downing Street."

The story of Gorffwysfa shows how easy it is to distract Northerners with superficial stories about goings-on in Ottawa. With all the excitement about elections, Northerners are in danger of losing track of what matters for the North. We forget to keep our eye on the ball.

What ball? Ah yes, that's the problem. There is no ball from our point of view. The game we want to play is about economic development for Northern Ontario. The game in Parliament is about almost everything but what Northern Ontario needs.

A political rule of seven is at work: if you have seven percent of the provincial population, and if the province adds seven times your current population between censuses, then no national party will pay you much attention. That's why economic development for Northern Ontario doesn't appear in the platforms of any national party. Nunavut and Prince Edward Island are much more important nationally.

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It is true that all the parties have pieces that could help the North. In fact, if the Liberals and Conservatives would just live up to the promises they have in common, Northern Ontario would prosper.

Both major parties promised to invest in research and development. The Conservatives emphasize health care, fisheries and scientific research. We know that if we measure size by area, forestry and mining are still the economic backbone of most of Canada. Both industries contribute disproportionately to our export earnings.

A Conservative-Liberal coalition would be able to double the research funding for forestry and mining as quickly as they agreed to the recent Veterans' bill. And they should do it before they come looking for votes in Northern Ontario.

Both parties have promised to support access to universities and colleges for low-income and Aboriginal children. Northern Ontario lags urban regions in participation and in opportunity. A Lib-Con coalition could solve these problems before breakfast.

Liberals and Conservatives both promised to promote the growth of innovation clusters across Canada. Since they can do anything they want together, why haven't they already built innovation centres in Thunder Bay and Sudbury? From now on. Conservatives and Liberals should always attend interviews together so we can ask they why they haven't acted on shared promises.

Conservatives and Liberals both promised in the 2004 election to secure the future of Canada's lumber industry through free trade. There is no reason not to act on something they agree so strongly on.

The Lib-Con coalition members both promised to support small business. They both claim they want to support value-added industries.

Since it takes high-quality design to sell value-added products, the Lib-Con coalition should be happy to fund a school of Forest Product Design in Thunder Bay. And they should be absolutely delighted to create an International School of Industrial and Mining Design for Sudbury.

Broken promises that the parties disagree about are one thing. Broken promises that have a parliamentary majority are a disgrace. Martin and Harper should be forced to eat dinner together until they pass every single policy item that appears in both parties' platforms.

Mondays they could meet at Gorffwysfa. Tuesdays they could meet at Harper's house. And just in case you've forgotten, the residence of leader of the Official Opposition is called Stornoway, after the ancestral home of the Perley family in the Outer Hebrides. It's a good name: the Hebrides can get very, very windy.

Dave Robinson is an associate professor of economics at Laurentian University. He can be reached at drobinson@laurentian.ca.
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Title Annotation:ECONOMICALLY SPEAKING; Gorffwysfa
Author:Robinson, Dave
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jun 1, 2005
Words:709
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