THUNDER BAY -- Keith Hobbs admits he is a “little disappointed” that Ontario is heading to the polls for a spring election.
The Thunder Bay mayor is concerned progress that had been made on Northern issues, specifically the Ring of Fire, might be lost depending on the outcomes of a provincial election.
The proposed budget from the minority Liberal government included a $1 billion commitment to develop the project.
“I’m a little disappointed,” Hobbs said Friday , shortly after the announcement that Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath intends to trigger a vote.
“Things seemed to be going well with the Ring of Fire, especially with the framework with Matawa tribal council chiefs and the billion dollar commitment from the provincial government.”
He also admitted he had been concerned about what would happen to the development after the pullout of Cliffs Natural Resources, but says the project appears to be back on track.
The mayor wants reassurance that Horwath and Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak will continue to make the mineral-rich area a priority.
“I’m totally worried about that. I’d like to see Ms. Horwath and Mr. Hudak commit to the Ring of Fire if there is an election and they win that the money will still remain and maybe more,” Hobbs said.
He is also keeping an eye on the transportation debate in Southern Ontario and how it might impact the local Bombardier plant.
On the flip side, Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce president Charla Robinson believes an election campaign puts the region in a position of strength.
Even though the budget is set to be defeated, Robinson expects many of the components of it to become key pieces of the Liberal campaign platform.
With current premier Kathleen Wynne making clear how the Liberals plan to proceed on major issues such as Ring of Fire, the other parties will have their chance to provide alternative ideas.
“We know that a certain party has said they’ll give a billion dollars, so what are the other parties going to commit to do?” Robinson said in an interview with CKPR Radio.
“Each party will be perhaps presenting different solutions so let’s talk about those different solutions and what they think is the right way to go and then the electorate will decide. I think this is a positive position to be in, especially around the Ring of Fire. It’s a good time for the leaders to put their money where their mouth is.”
She also identified increasing energy costs as one other issue where she is looking to hear from Hudak and Horwath.