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A book, a committee, the beginning of change

I thought when it happened it might be a little more dramatic...perhaps an illness, an accident, a retirement, maybe a bankruptcy. But no, the first official absence of my column from Northern Ontario Business in 25 years was mundane. I was busy.

I thought when it happened it might be a little more dramatic...perhaps an  illness, an accident, a retirement, maybe a bankruptcy. But no, the first official absence of my column from Northern Ontario Business in 25 years was mundane.

I was busy. Kelly had a better idea for a column and I suggested she write while I slayed other dragons.

Happily I own the publication. If there was any justice, Kelly would occupy this space every month. There is no justice. I’m not bankrupt, sick, or dead and therefore, I am back.

Last month was a good issue. We wrote about sending logs to Quebec, and you’ll find the Ministry of Natural Resources response to that story on page 12. Kelly warned us about the monetization of power plants owned by paper companies in Northern Ontario.

She is right. There is no economic benefit in sending already built hydro power into the grid.

It only brings economic benefit to the North when it enables value-added development. What made papermaking more economic is reasonable power rates based on having built your own power source. With this cheap power now monetized, it will now be sold at inflated prices, shareholders will be happy, and the North is again diminished and ignored.

David Robinson introduced us to one of his Northern Ontario heros, Shingwaukonse, once Chief of the Garden River Band near Sault Ste. Marie and a Northern Ontario partisan from the 1800’s.

On page 2, Bill Kipkie, a vice president at CVRD Inco, said one of the books he thought was worth reading twice was “Collapse, How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed”  by Jared Diamond, and on page 27, Chris Wray, the CAO from Wawa, was talking about how six small municipalities in Northern Ontario have come together to grapple with the near-death experience of being dependent on the forest today.

We are living in momentous times. Since our last issue, the Regional Recovery Program Committee in northwestern Ontario has filed its preliminary thinking on what needs to be done.

They are talking about a Regional Energy Authority for northwestern Ontario, a Regional Development Authority, and a Northwestern Ontario Policy and Research Institute to advise local politicians. They are demanding control over their future.  Check out their report at www.NOMA.com

The message is the same, one this newspaper has been expressing for many years. Northern Ontario governance isn’t working.

The society in many ways is breaking down. Wrong decisions are being made. The positive is that more and more people are realizing it. They are looking for, dare we say it, “a common sense revolution”.

If you haven’t done so already, take Bill Kipkie’s advice. The book “Collapse” by Jared Diamond is so descriptive of Northern  Ontario and its resource economy dilemmas, that it is chilling.

It is about societies that do not manage their resources intelligently and subsequently die. Interestingly, before this brilliant author gets to the Easter Islands, or the Anasazi of North America, or the Vikings of Greenland, he spends the first chapter on the economic collapse of the state of Montana, a place where he has lived part time for many years.

It is a state that used to have one of the highest standards of living in the United States, which has now collapsed to 49th. It is a story of stunning short-sightedness and unwillingness to take any responsibility for the sustainability of the land, the people or the future. There is much for us to learn.

Michael  Atkins
President
Laurentian Media Group

Michael Atkins is president of Northern Ontario Business and can be reached atmatkins@laurentianmedia.com




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