Northern transportation strategy gets 'extensive consultation'

The northern Ontario transportation strategy promised by the provincial Liberals four years ago is on its way soon, according to the Minister of Northern Development and Mines.

Provincial plan looking at roads, rail, air service in northern Ontario nears completion

Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle wraps up a two-day northern leaders meeting in Thunder Bay. (Jody Porter/CBC)

The northern Ontario transportation strategy promised by the provincial Liberals four years ago is on its way soon, according to the Minister of Northern Development and Mines.

Michael Gravelle met with northern leaders earlier this week in Thunder Bay, Ont., and said a study looking at transportation needs for "roads, rail, air, even lakes and rivers" will be released soon, after "extensive consultation."

The "northern multimodal transportation strategy' was promised as part of the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario, 2011.

"It's a pretty enormous project," said Couchiching First Nation Chief Sara Mainville. "The northern Ontario transportation needs are big problems, with big funding gaps."
Couchiching First Nation Chief Sara Mainville says the recent tribunal ruling will address the jurisdictional game of "hot potato" that's been happening with child welfare since the 60s. (Jody Porter/CBC)

Bus service, such as Greyhound, is limited in the northwest, leaving many residents struggling to find rides to medical appointments in regional hubs such as Thunder Bay, she said.

"I know that in my community, we spend so much money on medical-related travel and its an incredible burden on my community," Mainville said, adding that she welcomed the opportunity to work with municipalities and the province on solutions.

'Transportation is everything'

Transportation is also key to economic development in northern Ontario, said Kapuskasing Mayor Alan Spacek, who is also the president of the federation of northern Ontario municipalities.

"When it comes to economic development and quality of life, transportation is everything," Spacek said. "You need access to those services. Industry tells us time and time again they need access to reliable, low-cost rail freight to maintain their businesses."

Spacek said he doesn't expect the full transportation strategy to be released until 2017.

The new federal government could provide fresh opportunities for northern Ontario, Gravelle said, noting that the Trans-Canada Highway was a 50/50 funding split between the two levels of government.

"We need to make the right kinds of decisions from a transportation perspective and that's, again, where we talked about the federal government," Gravelle said.

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