Leadership hopefuls focus on Toronto.

Date01 February 2020
AuthorRobinson, David

On the weekend of March 6-7, 2020, Liberals from around Ontario will come will come together at the International Centre in Mississauga to pick a new leader. On the menu are six urban--mostly Toronto-region --politicians. This is as it should be in a province that is mostly urban and Toronto-centred.

Two of the candidates do have strategies for the North, which is encouraging. One has even been endorsed by several Northern politicians. But do any of them really understand Northern Ontario?

Or are they strangers in a strange land, applying what they know about the urban south to the mysterious North?

The most important fact about Northern Ontario isn't about the North at all. It is the great toad of the south, Toronto. Northern Ontario is not Toronto.

Toronto is by far the fastest growing city in Canada and the United States. Toronto, in fact, is growing three times as fast as its nearest competition, Phoenix, Ariz. Toronto adds the equivalent of one whole Sault Ste. Marie every year. Toronto adds a Sudbury every two years.

This puts Toronto issues at the centre of any provincial government agenda.

It also means that almost no policy that fits Toronto or even the province as a whole is likely to work in the North. Toronto is growing though immigration.

Like most resource-producing areas, Northern Ontario is shrinking through outmigration.

Toronto also sits in the middle of the second-fastest growing metropolitan area in Canada and the U.S., a massive market area. It is the core of one of the richest and most attractive regions in the entire world.

It is the centre of a high-tech, innovation-based economy. Northern Ontario has none of these advantages.

The Liberal Leadership candidates seem overly impressed by the fact that immigration is the source of Canada's growth, and especially Toronto's growth.

They imagine the same formula will work up here. It is not likely.

Toronto's growth is driven by people wanting to come to Canada.

People don't move from Iraq, Somalia, Kenya or Hong Kong hoping to settle in Canada because it is has a vast boreal forest. They don't flock to the boreal forests of Finland or Norway either. Most new Canadians are urban-trained and educated.

According to one study, 54.2 per cent of new immigrants in the prime working age had at least a bachelor's degree.

By comparison, only 27.9 per cent of non-immigrants have the same level of education.

Highly educated parents want educational and job opportunities for their...

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