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Ontario Hansard - 01-March2012

Mr. Victor Fedeli: I rise today to thank the member from Timiskaming-Cochrane for what I consider to be a very thoughtful motion.

There are areas of improvement that are needed, as you've heard about, but nonetheless, the very fact that you had to bring something like this to the Legislature speaks to the fact that there's a demand for a northern Ontario voice.

As a former mayor of the city of North Bay for seven years, I can tell you that we looked at the government and thought, like you, "They believe that Ontario ends at Steeles Avenue." As we travelled a little bit, and as the province developed, we think-we believe-they now think it ends at Vaughan. But nonetheless, they absolutely do not take a northern Ontario lens to anything at all.

I'm going to give you perhaps only one example today of why I believe in what you're doing today. I'll give you the story about Bill 26, oddly enough named the Strong Communities Act.

Now, here I am, as the mayor of the city of North Bay at that time, and I read about this Bill 26 coming, and I think, "Do they not have a clue about what is northern Ontario?" It is one that pretty much closed off the $40-million industrial park in North Bay because there are wetlands, and this Strong Communities Act stops you from building where wetlands are. I can understand why that's so important here in the GTA; I understand why. But in northern Ontario, our exemption is that if you need to build on a wetland, you can re-create that equal amount of wetland elsewhere in northern Ontario.

So in North Bay, the provincial government, the federal government and the municipality spent tens of millions of dollars to build an industrial park and, yes, it was built on a wetland years ago. But now today, under Bill 26, you cannot build in our industrial park. So we now have a $40-million industrial park with fully serviced streets. We've got paved roads, fire hydrants, utility poles, high-speed Internet-it must be the only wetland park that has Internet access.

It's unbelievable that the members of this government would pass a bill, not understanding that northern Ontario is built on rock and swamp. Sadly, those are the words we use: We're built on rock and we're built on swamp. There's nothing else. We have built beautiful cities on our rock and on our wetlands. We have built remarkable cities.

As mayor, I was so thrilled to be able to take 100 acres of wetland and turn it over to our conservation authority. We were able to take a wetland and build a huge retail complex at the entrance of the city, but replicate that wetland that we covered and move it and rebuild wetland in another area of the city, with wooden boardwalks, signage-it's a nature preserve. It's beautiful. We made something beautiful, because that was what we needed to do.

So here we are, with this $40-million wetland that we can no longer build on in northern Ontario, and that's because we do not take a northern Ontario lens and shine it on what this bill does for Toronto and area and the rest of Ontario, and what kind of impact this bill will have on northern Ontario. Had they only taken this approach that the member from Timiskaming-Cochrane is suggesting, they would have realized it's not good for northern Ontario.

So I commend you on this approach. It needs a little finessing to correctly satisfy the member from Muskoka and the member from Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke. But I commend you on your bill, and I thank you for it. And I thank you for shining the lens on northern Ontario, even if it's only for these few short minutes this afternoon. Congratulations to you.


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