Northern Ontario has a new Northern Policy Institute, announced Friday by Minister of Northern Development and Mines Rick Bartolucci in Sudbury, and by other government representatives in Thunder Bay.

About 200 hundred people were at Lakehead University for the launch of the institute.

They included representatives from the province, Thunder Bay and surrounding municipalities, and Nishnawbe Aski Nation.

The institute promises to monitor the Northern Ontario Growth Plan, and make recommendations to the province on policy that affects the region.

Thunder Bay-Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro says it will offer a lot.   "Policy pieces that are researched that are backed up, that have a broad base of support from all across Northern Ontario, and when they bring them forward, they will already have positioned themselves to be able to make a really strong case," Mauro said.    The province has committed $5 million to the institute over the next five years.

The organization will be headed by the presidents of Lakehead and Laurentian Universities.  

The provincial NDP calls the Institute announcement "smoke and mirrors." Timmins-James Bay's NDP MPP Gilles Bisson said the money should be invested in preserving the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, improving health care, or otherwise directly improving life in the north.

"This has nothing to do with making northern voices heard. The north has plenty of voices at Queen's Park. [Dalton] McGuinty just doesn't like what they have to say." Bisson said.