Greens release Northern Ontario plan

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The long distances between communities in Northern Ontario means “significant challenges” in health care, education, affordeable housing and mental health and addictions services.

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“Ontario Greens recognize the unique needs of the North,” Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said Tuesday as he released his Plan for the North in North Bay Tuesday.

“As a party we commit to a vision that recognizes these unique needs, rebalances government funding, and builds a true partnership with First Nations and Métis communities in the North.”

The seven-point plan, he said, provides opportunities and hope for the North as the province transitions to a green economy, providing new career opportunities and good jobs in mining and forestry in particular, and moves reconciliation with First Nations forward.

A large part of the focus is on the development of environmentally friendly and sustainable resource extraction for the minerals required by the automotive sector as it moves toward electrification, while at the same time working with the Indigenous peoples of the province to make sure they are part of the solution.

The seven key priorities include:

  • Create good green jobs in the North;
  • Expand access to quality health care in Northern communities;
  • Invest in a mental health and addictions strategy;
  • Improve funding for education and French language access;
  • Protect the province’s natural heritage;
  • Partner with Indigenous communities, and
  • Improve connections to the North.

Although some of the priorities have already been costed out, Schreiner said a full costing of the party’s platform will be released later this week.

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A specific promise was that more health-care professionals, to provide more access to residents of Northern Ontario, will be implemented, as well as the addition of more nurse practitioner-led clinics to provide comprehensive and integrated health-care services across the North.

Schreiner said while mental health and addictions issues are a provincewide concern, “there is a disproportionate number in Northern Ontario.”

He said affordable housing is “essential” for those who need it in the province, and of the 160,000 “deeply affordable” housing projects his party is promising, 4,000 will be built in Northern Ontario.

“Stable housing is vital” for physical and mental health, he said, particularly in Indigenous communities.

On top of that, connected communities are “vital” to connect the North to the rest of the world. That includes a promise to immediately return passenger rail service to Northeastern Ontario.

“It was wrong of the (Dalton McGuinty) government to cancel the Northlander,” he said, but the previous government of Doug Ford has not moved ahead fast enough to restore it.

Schreiner said the fully costed platform will be released Thursday, although some areas, such as its climate plan and mental health platform have already been released.

He also promised the University of Sudbury will become a full French-language institution, and that if he forms the government, no other university in Ontario will ever follow the footsteps of Laurentian University, which entered creditor protection last year.

Numerous programs – many of them French language delivered – were cancelled at the university.

The Green Party has a full slate of candidates for the June 2 provincial election, he said.

“We know we have work to do in the North,” and pointed to Nipissing candidate Sean McClocklin and Kris Rivard, candidate in Timiskaming-Cochrane as being among those who can help the party move ahead.

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