The provincial government is looking for feedback from residents in North Bay and across the north about its recently released draft of a Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation strategy. Opposition parties are skeptical of the process however, stating actions speak louder than words. Timiskaming-Cochrane MPP John Vanthof says there are a lot of good ideas in there, but unfortunately, all these things are the exact opposite of what he’s seen in the past five years. Vanthof says many of the draft’s goals like reviving passenger rail service where appropriate contradicts past decisions of the government that cancelled the Northlander passenger train years ago.
The draft strategy is aimed at guiding transportation policy in Northern Ontario for the next 25 years. Some goals of the strategy include establishing a network of core inter-community passenger bus services to connect the north’s major centres, and four-laning, or twinning, segments of the Trans-Canada Highway to improve reliability of travel. It also looks at increasing market access to rail and marine modes for freight transport, where appropriate, and supporting and enhancing the role of municipal airports in helping to deliver important public services, connect people and move goods.
Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli says the strategy was promised by the Liberal government six years ago as part of the Northern Ontario Growth Plan. Fedeli says considering it took them six years to release a draft, he’s not sure how long it will take to see any of the promised actions fulfilled. He says of course it all sounds good, but it’s another example of all words and no action. Fedeli says since the growth plan was released in 2011, Northern Ontario’s population has declined by 10,000 and both part- and full-time jobs have been lost. He finished by saying in that time, the province took away passenger rail service in the North and failed to include the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission in transportation plans for the Ring of Fire.
The full draft can be seen on the Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy website here: nomts.ca. Residents have until September 15th, to leave feedback on the plan.