There’s a chance that all northern MPPs, regardless of political stripe, might have input on future legislation so that it doesn’t affect Northern Ontario in a negative way. The input would come through what is being called the Northern Committee. John Vanthof, the MPP for Timiskaming-Cochrane, suggested forming the committee and his motion got all party support at the initial stage. Vanthof wants the committee because he says too often legislation is passed which has an unintended negative consequence for Northern Ontario. “Most Ontarians don’t understand rural or Northern Ontario because they don’t live there,” Vanthof told his colleagues.
He cites the return of the spring bear hunt as an example. He says the Ontario Liberals brought the project back on a pilot basis “but because no one asked northerners about it, it’s a mess.” The New Democrat says another little understand issue is the distance and vastness of Northern Ontario. Vanthof says we keep hearing how the government wants to do more long distance education for remote and isolated areas in the north by using the internet. However Vanthof says the problem is most of the target areas don’t have broadband in the first place! Vanthof is confident a Northern Committee would be able to address matters like these before they become issues. The committee would include all 11 MPPs from Northern Ontario plus the MPP from Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke. Once proposed legislation hits the floor, these 12 MPPs would be allowed to make recommendations that work for the north. In lobbying for the committee, Vanthof stressed its only goal is to make recommendations. It will not have the power to veto legislation. The Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities supports the formation of a Northern Committee.
Vanthof says if it becomes a reality, the Northern Committee could later be used as a template to form similar committees in rural parts of Southern Ontario. He also said a similar committee could be formed to address agricultural issues. A similar idea was proposed in 2012 but it never got off the ground because Vanthof says it was only made up of Liberal MPPs and he says that defeats the whole idea of who would make recommendations. Vanthof says an all-party Northern Committee will make northerners feel like their less disenfranchised.