Things would have been drastically different if Northern Ontario had representatives at the time of Confederation, that according to a research paper recently released on the independence of Northern Ontario.
The report, prepared by the Northern Policy Institute suggests that Northern Ontario would be better served as a colony than its own province, but argues there is merit to the idea.
David Robinson, a Laurentian University economics professor, says Northern Ontario has the size and the economic resources to easily become a province but points out there are several barriers that would make it impossible at present.
Northerners “lack the democratic institutions to debate the issue, and southerners have no interest in the project. Clearly if change is needed, it will require a long struggle, first to convince a sufficiently large number of Northerners, then to convince the south.” Robinson told the Sudbury Star.
Democracy matters to development. Adam Smith, Scottish social philosopher and political economist and the author of “The Wealth of Nations explained back in 1776 that the colonies that progressed most quickly were those that “were at liberty to manage their own affairs
Sault Ste. Marie would be a much different place today if Northern Ontario had been named its own province. The report states that the Sault would have been made the capital city of the Province of Northern Ontario. The Sault would have been much bigger, with its own legislation buildings, government offices and a bigger population, it likely wouldn’t have waited 60 years to establish a University But that didn’t happen.
The Sault, and Northern Ontario, would have retained much of the business and most of the resource rents that flowed to Southern Ontario. The North would have been more populous and richer than it is today Robinson said.
It would have been at least as populous as Manitoba, Saskatchewan or Alberta by the mid-20th century. It is bigger than most provinces and despite population declines for the last forty years, Northern Ontario has more residents than P.E.I. or Newfoundland. Compared to some European countries, Northern Ontario is bigger in area than most of the European union.
The report spells out distinct differences between Northern Ontario and Southern Ontario yet all of the decisions facing the northern part of the province is made by the south.
Northern Ontario it is the source of more than half of Canada’s metals – over $68 billion annually, almost all of which is exported. Northern Ontario has been shaped by its geological wealth: mining is still at the core of the economy and the culture of Northern Ontario, Robinson noted.
The report goes on to say that no taxes would be lost to the north if it did become its own Province. Referring to a 2004 Fraser Institute study, Robinson says tax transfers to Northern Ontario are neutral, meaning the region wouldn’t lose tax dollars if it became its own province.
In conclusion, Robinson writes, The question that requires further consideration is whether Northerners should press for provincial status or for the status of a semi-autonomous region within Ontario, or for devolution of specific power to a democratically elected regional government. The alternative for Northerners is to continue to accept the current arrangement and accept declining influence over their own future.
The argument presented here suggests that there are no real serious technical, economic or legal objections to beginning a process of devolution. It is clearly within the power of the province, and is likely to improve governance of the North and make at least the North more democratic.
An interesting read, you can find the full paper at www.northernpolicy.ca