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The who's who in smart growth.

Northern Ontario Business continues its series, which takes a look at the northeastern Ontario Smart Growth panel members.

Why did you choose to be on this panel?

Scott McDonald, general manager for Ontario operations for Inco ltd.

"Inco received an invitation to partake in the panel, since the company has an influence in the economy.

Personally, it was a chance to get engaged in the economic development on a larger scale and I think that is part of my accountability as a manager.

In the mining business it means getting involved in more than our own businesses. We should be involved in the community in which we operate."

Jamie Lim, Mayor of Timmins

"The then minister of municipal affairs called and he can be very persuasive and I think if it had been anyone else calling I may have thought twice. But working with Chris (Hodgson) and knowing his dedication, it was one vote in favour of participating.

The second reason was that since the last census came out and we saw the decrease in population, I just really feel that we have to participate and do everything thing we can to reverse the trend to try to stop the bleeding and to find a new direction."

Ted Day, Reeve Township of Nipissing

"I was asked by the Minister of Municpal Affairs, Chris Hodgson."

Royal Poulin, Panel Chair, Chair, Ontario Northland Transportation Commission

"I thought I could bring my knowledge to the table. I have worked in the economy all my life."

Tim West, Manager, External Relations, Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs, president of special events and marketing.

"I was given an opportunity to look at long-term solutions and think outside the box for Northern Ontario."

Jim Gordon, Mayor of Greater Sudbury

"I came to the panel with the point of view that if northern municipalities can work on policies that reflect the overall need of Northern Ontario, we can achieve a great deal, not only for ourselves, but in advising senior levels of government on the steps they should be taking when it comes to the economic, social, and cultural side of Ontario...I wanted to sit on the panel because obviously I have ideas. It is one more chance to influence and to grapple with the very real issues that we have to look at in an objective way here in Northern Ontario."

What life experience did you bring to the panel?

Scott McDonald

"I think I could bring some insights to Sudbury and northeastern Ontario (because) this is my home. I could obviously bring some insights from the mining sector and maybe to some extent the larger resource sectors, although we have a very capable representative from Tembec on the panel. I could speak about some of the influences that show up on our radar screen that might be transferable to the region."

Jamie Lim

"I certainly brought a municipal hat like other mayors did. Having been born in Northern Ontario like some, if not all the panel members. I think I bring a heart that just wants to see the North survive, and a dedication and a commitment to do everything I possibly can to help sustain the North and make sure that we share in the prosperity that the rest of the province is enjoying. I am the mother of three young children and I don't want them growing up in the North without a sense of hope. Right now in the North it is easy to lose hope. I think it is easier to set our aspirations low and I don't like that I want to do everything I possibly can to fight against that attitude. Having said that I can tell you that each of the panel members, as do all citizens living in the North, knows their challenges. We have lost over 40,000 people out of Northern Ontario over the last-six years. We have slow job growth. Over the past five years we have only had 5,000 new jobs in Northern Ontario, while in the same period th ey have had 824,200 new jobs in southern Ontario."

Royal Poulin

"As I said, I worked in the economy all my life. I am well aware of the issues facing the North. The sparseness of the population, the mining, forestry, education and health issues, I am familiar with all of those issues."

Ted Day

"(Nipissing) is a small (community in) rural Northern Ontario, so I wanted to make sure that it was not just the bigger cities talking about their needs. I wanted all of the rural issues to be addressed as well."

Tim West

"I brought a-different perspective than a municipal perspective. I was asked (because I hold) a number of points of view. I am a small businessperson. I am involved with snowmobiling. My background is dealing with community organizations and sitting on a number of boards around the province. I can look at it more from a big-picture perspective."

Jim Gordon

"I certainly think I brought a political point of view. I brought the experiences I had as a mayor of a major city in Northern Ontario and I have had a great deal of experience at the municipal and provincial level. I was MPP in the Cabinet. I have been in politics for 38 years. So I have seen a lot of what happens when you have strikes that are inordinately long, but I have also seen great highs. I have seen what happens when a community works really hard. When I was mayor in the 1970s, we went from having 28,000 people working in the mine and smelter...Today I am mayor of a city that has 6,000 people in the, mine industry. Now, indirectly we have more jobs than that. What we had to do years ago is find, new ways to reinvent ourselves. So we developed a government, finance, retail and health centre for the northeast. These are ideas and things I feel very much a part of."

What has the panel discussed so far that has triggered a strong response in you?

Scott McDonald

"(The panel) is an interesting process to be part of because I do not think I have been involved in a forum quite as diverse as this. It was interesting to watch the pull for some of the more acute issues that are confronting us and some of the stuff that clearly has longer-term horizons attached to it. I saw both conversations going on and that was interesting."

Jamie Lim

"I feel very strongly about the whole document. I am pleased to see the idea of bringing forth a Northern Ontario champion and this is no way to suggest the MNDM (Minister of Northern Development and Mines) or NOHFC (Northern Ontario Heritage Foundation Corporation) have not been doing a great job. They have been. We are such a huge geographic area and it is certainly a lot to expect one minister who has to be in Toronto, to have a handle on everything' that is happening in the Northern Ontario. I personally' believe that a northeastern and northwestern Ontario advocate could be champions for us. So if the mining industry is hitting some red tape, that is who they can go to and that individual can speak directly to the minister and perhaps offer assistance. There is not one action item that is going to reverse the loss of citizens in the North. There has to be a short-term, long-term plan that encompasses all of the recommendations that the Smart Growth panel is putting forward."

Royal Poulin

"We looked at the consultation process and each member brought 10 to 11 issues to the table. We are looking at four-laning Highway 69. I know the northwestern Smart Growth panel is ahead by a month and one of the recommendations was the expansion (of the highway). We are looking at air service in the North and we are also looking at appointing a champion for the report so it does not collect dust. We are also looking at the idea of grow bonds for the North."

Ted Day

"The infrastructure conversations, the tourism issues and the overall tax incentive zones (piqued my interest). Ultimately rural Ontario will benefit when larger cities are doing well."

Tim West

"The strongest response. I have is that the panel is looking at long-term solutions versus short-term quick fixes. There are probably not a lot of new ideas, however, by retooling them you get a long-term perspective."

Jim Gordon.

"The strongest response in me was triggered by the panel agreeing to take up the idea that I presented about having a health research and development industry in Northern Ontario. To me that is the key to many of our municipalities, their future of growth and knowledge."

What can the public expect to see from the panel in five years time?

Scott McDonald

"We spoke of infrastructure and strategic access. Some enablers need to get into play right now, so the Highway 69 corridor for instance is being addressed and could be addressed faster."

A strategy around value-added wood sector products (was also discussed). I think that is a longer-term piece of strategic work that needs to be thought through. If we could bring the kinds of jobs that can anchor youth and test their capabilities, I think there would be just a huge turnaround for Northern Ontario, just to stop that out migration."

Jamie Lim

"I do not think we have gotten there yet. We just finished public consultations in the last two weeks and before we look at time lines and priorities like what should be first, second and third, we wanted to make sure that when we brought this forward to the public, the action items fit for the rest of the (northeastern) citizens. Once we get the final document completed then it will be time to look at establishing a time line."

Royal Poulin

"In five years from now we want to see that the decrease in population has stopped or at least leveled off. We want to have an economic platform. We want to see the average income come more in line with the rest of Ontario. We want to see more money in the North. We want to have a chair to promote mining, forestry and tourism in the North. We want these things. Southwestern Ontario is trying to cope with growth (meanwhile in Northern Ontario we are asking) How do we increase our population."

Ted Day

"We talked about the commitment from the panel members to take the message back to the Minister of Municipal Affairs that the panel does exist, so that there is a life (to it). We are not just making recommendations that are just going to be filed somewhere. Hopefully we will see it come to some sort of fruition."

Tim West

"I think the next step is the implementation. I think there is a commitment by the existing government to see the Smart Growth secretariat continue on, which I think is really important

The fact that there is a government agency that has the capacity to work between all the various ministries and to implement some recommendations is real strong."

Jim Gordon

"I think you will see incremental gains in the various areas that have been delineated. We are fairly pragmatic. Our big problem in the next five years is not so much keeping the people, as it will be finding enough people to fill the jobs that are going to be vacant. We have to train our people well. There is going to have to be more focus in the schools."

How do you foster a sense of greater Northeastern community and co-operation?

Scott McDonald

"That is a tough one. It is easy for us all to get parochial although I did see a spirit of collaboration with the mayors. I heard them speak highly of the medical school. Although it is Sudbury based, it is clearly good for northeastern Ontario. We see mining research taking place in Sudbury and being implemented or tried or prototypes being done in Timmins. I think you can develop synergies around the obvious clustering of activity. I think Timmins is better off when Inco is doing well than when it is not. If we treat them (plans) as strategic investments with the hope they flow to the outline areas, (then) I think that is a good thing."

Jamie Lim

"That is always a danger. I think the biggest challenge, is recognizing that we have to work collectively on saving the North because there is not one community that can do it all on its own. If one municipality was to get everything, eventually they will not survive because if every other Northern Ontario municipality closes up, then they will not have the population they need (to survive either). This is about co-ordinating our efforts. I sense in the last couple of years municipal and community leaders are recognizing that we have to collaborate and work together. We seen this with efforts of the medical school, we see it with the tax incentive proposal that is put forward as a region and we are starting to understand that together we have a much stronger voice and I think that will be the key."

Royal Poulin

"I think if municipal governments say 'We will not compete against each other' rather we compete as a Northern Ontario region, then we will succeed."

Ted Day

"Everyone sitting around the panel (to my knowledge) was sitting there for Northern Ontario. There was no "Me, me, me or I want this for my community." The main thinking was northeastern Ontario as opposed to municipal issues."

Tim West

"I think the reality check for me is that when you look at the Toronto area they 'have a whole different kind of growth problem compared to rural Ontario. Southern Ontario is experiencing a growth in population where Northern Ontario is declining in jobs and people. Rural Ontario has to realize that there is no simple solution for one particular community. We have to look at it as northeast. If we solve some of the problems to attract businesses and people to the northeast it will not be just one community that will benefit. We are all in it together."

Jim Gordon

"We are very strong in co-operating and supporting each other. Could we do more? Yes, we could always do more."

Maureen Kershaw, Margaret PenasseMayer withdrew from the panel due to other obligations. Peter Birnie has taken a temporary leave of absence from the panel.
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Title Annotation:businesspeople participating in Ontario Smart Growth panel discussion explain their reasons for involvement
Author:Louiseize, Kelly
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Article Type:Panel Discussion
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Jun 1, 2003
Words:2441
Previous Article:MNDM politically irrelevant.
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