MP Bruce Hyer says the throne speech said nothing about Northern Ontario.
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The federal government's latest Speech from the Throne was disappointing, positive or insulting – depending on which local politician one asks.
Billed as a roadmap for the Conservative government's next two years in power, MP Bruce Hyer (Ind., Thunder Bay-Superior North) said it shows a disappointing road that's a kilometre wide, but a centimetre deep.
"There's absolutely no new vision for Canada here," Hyer said.
With so much discussion about mining and other resource opportunities in the North, Hyer said he was disappointed that the speech made no mention of the region.
MP John Rafferty (NDP, Thunder Bay-Rainy River) said it doesn’t appear Northern Ontario is even on Ottawa's radar.
"I think the federal government is abandoning Northern Ontario," he said.
However, not everyone looked down on the speech.
Mayor Keith Hobbs, who met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the nation’s capital on Wednesday after Governor General David Johnston's speech, said the federal government is very aware of the opportunities in Northwestern Ontario and know they can help the entire country. Hobbs, along with Kenora Mayor and NOMA president David Canfield, said they discussed forestry and the Ring of Fire, even though those items weren't specifically mentioned in the throne speech.
"He's quite sure we're going to be included in all that," Hobbs said.
Mention of a trade agreement with the European Union could mean good things for Canada and the North, but those negotiations haven't been made public said Hyer, who supports the idea of an agreement.
"We absolutely need to diversify our trade," he said.
But Hyer also fears it could mean Bombardier’s days of landing huge contracts from municipalities will come to an end. Rafferty said it might also be difficult for smaller businesses that don't have access to large distribution networks.
"We're going to be flooded by European goods and services that are going to cause you some problems," he said.
The trade discussion will keep Harper out of the House on Thursday when Parliament debates the speech. Hyer and Rafferty said it's unprecedented, but not surprising.
"It's the Harper agenda of 'if you don't like it, tough'," Hyer said.
Hyer saw the speech in a more positive light when First Nations education was mentioned. Students on reserves currently get about half of the funding that other students in Ontario receive.
"I'm going to be watching carefully to see whether the details pan out with the hopes," he said.
It’s not enough for at least one Aboriginal leader.
Stan Beardy, Regional Chief of Ontario for The Assembly of First Nations, said while there were mentions of First Nations, there was no discussion about additional resources to help with basic human rights like drinking water, shelter and improved access to education.
"The real issues we had hoped for in the throne speech were absent altogether," Beardy said.
As for economic opportunities in the North, he added the speech didn't mention anything about revenue sharing, something that could help First Nations communities with the challenges they face.
Beardy also took issue with language used when referring to Canadian pioneers.
"It was implied that Canada was empty," Beardy said. "That's insulting."
He's looking for Canadian academics to take action and remind the federal government of First Nations' contributions to building the country.
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