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May 25, 2018 - Vol. 7 No. 6


Electoral Incoherence to Disempower the People of the North - David Starbuck
Eighty-Two Candidates Stand for Election in Northern Ontario
Transportation in the North Must Serve the People of
the North - Kaella-Lynn Recollet
Closure of Sudbury-Soo Rail Line Threatened

Justice for Injured Workers Bike Ride
Four Days of Activities in Support of Injured Workers

Speaking Out in Northern Ontario

Electoral Incoherence to Disempower
the People of the North

A poll and electoral analysis conducted by the website www.tooclosetocall.ca indicates that while Doug Ford and the PCs seem poised to form a majority government in the 2018 Ontario General Election, Northern Ontario will go overwhelmingly NDP. According to the poll, province-wide, the PCs have 39.8 per cent of the vote, the NDP 30.3 per cent, the Liberals 25.1 per cent of the vote, and the Greens 4.5 per cent. Data on small party and independent candidates is not included. www.tooclosetocall.ca predicts 79 PC seats, 35 NDP and 10 Liberals.

In the 13 Northern Ontario electoral districts, the NDP is at 51.0 per cent, the PCs at 30.5 per cent, the Liberals at 14.6 per cent and the Greens at 2.6 per cent. The NDP are predicted to win eleven of the 13 northern seats, excluding only the two most southerly ridings, home of the last two Conservative leaders, Mike Harris and Ernie Eves. The poll predicts the Liberals will be shut out in the north. Excluding the two Near North districts, the NDP is predicted to have 55.6 per cent of the northern vote, more than twice that of the PCs. The Liberal vote is disappearing, with Liberal support in six of the northern ridings at less than ten percent.

These predictions echo those of the 2014 Ontario General Election in a more pronounced fashion. In 2014, eight of the then 11 northern seats went NDP, but in Ontario as a whole, the NDP was third and the Liberals won a majority in the province as a whole and all decision-making power. This was much to the detriment of the interests of the people of the north as well as all of Ontario. The dichotomy between how the people of the north vote, and the resulting government that is elected, is one of the features which exacerbates the lack of representation of the people in Northern Ontario that must be resolved in favour of the working people, not the rich who plunder our resources and labour and expropriate the Indigenous peoples.

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Eighty-Two Candidates Stand for
Election in Northern Ontario

The close of nominations in the 42nd Ontario General Election saw 82 candidates nominated in the 13 Northern Ontario electoral districts. The "big tent" parties -- Liberals, PCs, NDP and Greens -- all nominated a candidate in each northern riding. The Libertarians nominated 11 candidates and the Northern Ontario Party nominated 10. The Trillium Party, Consensus Ontario, None of the Above Direct Democracy Party each nominated two candidates while the Confederation of Regions Party had one. Two independent were also nominated.

At 6.3 candidates per electoral district, Northern Ontario had fewer candidates than electoral districts in the province as a whole, where there are 6.7 candidates per electoral district. Distances work against small party and independent candidates. This disparity is less than in previous elections largely due to the emergence of the Northern Ontario Party (NOP). Judging by the sign wars in North Bay, the largest city in Nipissing riding, NOP leader Trevor Holliday, a former Ontario Northland bus driver, is waging a vigorous campaign.

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Transportation in the North Must Serve
the People of the North

I read the articles published recently in Speaking Out In Northern Ontario on the lack of passenger rail transport and on the irrationality of air transport in the north. The same inadequacies also exist in bus transportation in the north. Last Friday morning, the first day of the long weekend, I wanted to travel to Elliot Lake from Sudbury, a distance of 160 kilometers. I checked with Greyhound. There was a bus that evening but it was sold out. There was no bus on Saturday. The first bus was 7:30 pm on Sunday, a wait time of 60 hours.

Workers from Northern Ontario participate in Day of Action at Queen's Park April 21, 2012, demanding the Ontario government maintain  rail services to meet needs of the northern communities.

A few months ago, I wished to travel to Ottawa from Sudbury. Greyhound offers only one bus a day, leaving at 12:30 am. The trip takes seven hours and one arrives in Ottawa sleepy after a night's bus ride and grubby, arriving at a time that is inconvenient to check into a hotel. If one wants to go to North Bay, 120 kilometers to the east of Sudbury, one must take the same bus, arriving at 2:10 am. Greyhound offers just one bus per day from Sudbury to Toronto, again an overnight adventure. One gets the feeling that Greyhound wants to get out of inter-city bus transportation in Northern Ontario completely. Ontario Northland, owned by the Government of Ontario, provides somewhat better service, offering a trip to Ottawa during the day and three trips to Toronto. The fact remains that if you don't have access to a car, getting around Northern Ontario, especially to and from the smaller communities and First Nations, is difficult.

This level of transportation is unacceptable in a modern society. Communication and transportation are vital to the functioning of modern society and of individuals within it. I have trouble with the way decisions are made in Ontario with respect to the services provided which are guided by schemes to pay the rich. Billions are being promised in this election campaign to extend Toronto's subway but the transportation needs of the north are neglected. Clearly, private interests do not make money by looking after the infrastructure of the north. Furthermore, provincial funding formulas that are based on the large populations and relatively small areas do not work in the north which has a small population but a large area. Northern Ontario needs a modern, integrated transportation system that is designed to serve the transportation needs of the people of the north.

One sign of hope is the recent decision of Ontario Northland to inaugurate a twice daily bus service between Sudbury and a number of communities on Manitoulin Island. This service, while limited, provides transportation between various Manitoulin communities and between those communities and Sudbury. In my opinion, the people of Northern Ontario must be active in this election period and after to obtain the public transportation services that we need. We cannot rely on the major political parties to provide these services for us.

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Closure of Sudbury-Soo Rail Line Threatened

Genesee & Wyoming Canada Inc., which operates the Huron Central Railroad connecting Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie under lease from the CPR, is threatening to close the line unless they receive financial support from the federal and provincial governments. They are demanding $4 million per year for five years to pay for upgrades to the railway to meet new federal safety standards. Huron Central mainly serves Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. Marie, the Domtar pulp and paper mill in Espanola and the EACOM sawmill in Nairn Centre, supporting 7,000 industrial jobs.

"Many of our key customers rely on the railway as the only viable transportation option," noted Louis Gravel, president of Genesee & Wyoming Canada Inc. "Closure of the railway eliminates the potential for regional economic development opportunities in the North, along with other public benefits, including reduction in pollution levels and road maintenance costs, as transport trucks will fill the gap left behind."

Closure of the railway will put an additional 30,000 transport truck loads per year on Highway 17 which is already insufficient to meet the transportation needs of a modern society. Highway 17 is the scene of regular accidents involving tractor trailers, too many causing death, and needs upgrading. Construction of a four-lane limited access highway between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie will cost in excess of a billion dollars.

Closure of the Huron Central Railroad also throws a wrench in the spokes of the plan of the North Eastern Ontario Rail Network (NEORN) to re-introduce passenger rail service to northeastern Ontario. It the rails are removed, this will leave a huge gap in the rail network and effectively prevent a large part of the proposed passenger rail service in northeastern Ontario.

Genessee & Wyoming, which operates nine short track and local freight rail lines in four provinces, is, in effect, blackmailing the federal and provincial governments to pay the rich and assure their profits or they will close shop and leave northeastern Ontario high and dry.

Why should the working people of Northern Ontario and the whole of Ontario accede to blackmail?  Genessee & Wyoming's threats to close operations if the province does not guarantee their profits, reveal the need for an economy based on the needs of human beings, not the rich. When fulfilling human needs is the aim of an economy, decisions are not made on a self-serving basis and those making the decisions do not submit to blackmail. A public system run efficiently by the workers themselves is required and the money is definitely there for it based on the wealth the workers of the province produce. But the alternatives available are not discussed because the issue becomes one of which party government will submit to the blackmail versus those who remain silent. The people, on the other hand, cannot remain silent because they need these services. This blackmail should be rejected.

If the Huron Central Railway is not economically viable to Genessee & Wyoming, its value is essentially nil or scrap to them. It is, however, very important to the people of northeastern Ontario both in providing freight services and in the restoration of passenger rail services. If the Genessee & Wyoming capitalists are willing to destroy vital means of production, in this case transportation, the working people have the option of bringing the Huron Central Railway under public control and operating it to serve the transportation needs of the people and industries of Northern Ontario. During and after this election campaign, the working people should actively discuss these issues and a pro-people solution to them and not be limited to the solutions of paying the rich offered by the parties of the rich.

Map of the new Ontario Northland connecting a dozen Manitoulin communities and Sudbury.  If a northeastern Ontario passenger rail service is restored, bus and rail can be integrated to build a public transportation system that serves the people of the north. 

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Justice for Injured Workers Bike Ride

Four Days of Activities in Support of Injured Workers

Bike riders lead off Injured Workers' Day rally and march, June 1, 2017.

The Ontario Network of Injured Workers' Groups is organizing four days of activities in northeastern Ontario this weekend, May 25-28, to bring attention to their Workers' Comp Is a Right! Campaign.

On Friday, May 25, at the Lester B. Pearson Civic Centre in Elliot Lake at 1:00 pm, Janice Martell of the McIntyre Powder Project is hosting a free public seminar "Occupational Disease in Mining and McIntyre Powder Research" that will be of interest to mine workers, their families, local physicians and researchers, and the general public.

That evening, at 7:00 pm, at the same location, a reception will be held to inaugurate the fourth annual Justice for Injured Workers Bike Ride which will take place this Saturday and Sunday. The bikers will leave the Elliot Lake Miners’ Memorial Park at 7:00 am on Saturday, May 26, and ride to a 1:00 pm reception at the Massey Arena. The next day, Sunday, May 27, the bikers will continue their ride to Sudbury, finishing with a BBQ and reception at the Steel Hall on Brady at 4:00 pm.

Also at the Steel Hall at 7:00 pm on May 28, the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Group is holding a public meeting to organize a Sudbury Injured Workers' Group.

Peter Page, Executive Vice-President of the ONIWG and spokesperson for the ONIWG Bike Ride Committee, will be available for interviews to discuss these activities and the goals of the ONIWG, especially in light of the current provincial election, throughout these four days. To arrange an interview, contact Peter Page (preferred) at Email: peter_page@hotmail.com or Phone: 905-745-1003 or contact David Starbuck (alternate) at Email: david.starbuck.sudbury@gmail.com or Phone: 705-207-1133.

All are welcome to participate in any or all of these activities, see events listings below. For further information, click here. The activities culminate with Injured Workers' Day on June 1 at Queen's Park in Toronto.

Signs at the Civic Centre in Elliot Lake announce the May 25 seminar.

Left: Lester B. Pearson Civic Centre where the Seminar and reception take place;
Right: A statue commemorating Canadian uranium miners outside the centre.

Detail of a stone bas relief telling the story of the Canadian uranium mining industry.

Elliot Lake Miners' Memorial. Nearly three hundred names on memorial commemorate some of
the many miners who were killed on the job or died as a result of long time exposure to toxic chemicals in the Elliot Lake uranium mines.

(Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups, May 24, 2018)

May 25-28 Events

Elliot Lake

Seminar -- Occupational Disease in Mining and
McIntyre Powder Research
Friday, May 25 -- 1:00-4:00 pm
Lester B. Pearson Civic Centre Theatre

Inaugural Reception
Friday, May 25 -- 7:00-9:00 pm
Lester B. Pearson Civic Centre Theatre

Jim Hobbs Memorial Ride & Presentation
Saturday, May 26 -- 7:00 am-3:00 pm
Ride from Elliot Lake Miners' Memorial Park on Highway 108 North
to Massey and District Arena, 455 Government St.

Occupational Disease: The Other Workplace Fatality
Sunday, May 27 -- 4:00 pm
USW Hall, 66 Brady St

Public Meeting to Organize a Sudbury Injured Workers' Group
Monday, May 28 -- 7:00 pm
USW Hall, 66 Brady St

Click on image to download PDF

June 1 Injured Workers' Day

Overnight Vigil and Cultural Program
Thursday, May 31 -- 4:00 pm
Queen's Park.

Rally at Queen's Park and March
Friday, June 1 -- 11:00 am

Candidates' Townhall Meeting
Friday, June 1 -- 2:00-4:00 pm
OCAD, Auditorium -- 100 McCaul St., Room 190

Organized by Ontario Network of Injured Workers' Groups

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