THUNDER BAY – The chair of the city’s intergovernmental affairs committee is “cautiously optimistic” a new Liberal government will come through for Thunder Bay.
When reached Tuesday afternoon, Coun. Joe Virdiramo said he is hopeful Prime Minister-elect Justin Trudeau along with new local MPs Patty Hajdu (Lib., Thunder Bay-Superior North) and Don Rusnak (Lib., Thunder Bay-Rainy River) will make the city's voice heard in the nation’s capital.
Any kind of increase would be welcome, especially with council looking at required tax levy increases over the next three years.
“I’m looking forward to support from the federal government,” he said. “If we have to spend, let’s say $5 million just as a number for roads, if the government can assist us with $1 or $2 million that will help, as Justin Trudeau says, the citizens of our city with the tax burden.”
That could mean new life for the proposed Thunder Bay Event and Convention Centre project, which was put on the shelf after the Conservative government ruled the Build Canada Fund and money from the Gas Tax could not go towards the facility.
Virdiarmo said the project was one of the priorities city officials are going to bring forward to the newly elected representatives.
“When I take a look at the platform Justin Trudeau has put out in relation to spending $10 billion to create jobs and municipalities, I’m cautiously optimistic we will get something out of that,” Virdiramo said.
But Lakehead University political science professor Laure Paquette is pumping the brakes on the notion of Monday night's red wave guaranteeing improvements for Northwestern Ontario.
Even though the region followed national trends, that doesn’t mean rewards will come, she said.
“It means in caucus they can make their voices heard and advocate for the individual interests of the region,” Paquette said.
“The problem is there are a lot of seats that went Liberal so the risk is if our needs are different from the rest of the country their voices might get drowned out.”
She added it isn’t likely either Hajdu or Rusnak will be in line for a Cabinet post, with a parliamentary secretary role or minister of state responsible for FedNor the only plausible possibilities.
Paquette also said she isn’t overly optimistic the Liberals will be bringing forward any surprise new spending promises in the region, arguing it would have most likely happened during the campaign if they were going to happen.
That means, despite Trudeau and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne working together on the campaign trail, it’s no slam dunk the province will get the long-coveted matching funds to kick the Ring of Fire mining development into gear.
“Do I think she’s going to get $1 billion for the Ring of Fire? I don’t think so,” Paquette said. “If Mr. Trudeau was going to commit himself to that he would have said so when he was here for the blink and you missed it rally on Saturday.”