Latest Policy Bytes

Getting a Good Start: Teaching Kindergarten at Kejick Bay School

November 25, 2016 - Alisha Hill’s initial apprehensions disappeared a year ago when she met her Kindergarten class.  Like most teachers heading to Northern Ontario to teach for the first time in a First Nations community, she had read the tragic stories and was painfully aware of the troubles affecting reserve life.   

School of the Airwaves: Wahsa Distance Education – from Radio to Social Media

November 25, 2016 - Over the past twenty-five years, Wahsa Distance Education Centre (WDEC), has pushed at the limits of technology in the Northern education frontier. Since his arrival as Principal in 1995, Darrin Head has seen WDEC through a succession of dramatic technological changes in the delivery of its programs – from comparatively crude instructional radio to SMART board technology and social media.  

Northerners need lower online taxes

November 21, 2016 - Do you shop online? Are you a Canadian? If you answered yes to both of these questions, then you are likely being shafted. Well, shafted might be too strong a word, but not by much.

The Digital Divide: Internet Access in Northern Ontario

November 14, 2016 - For the majority, internet usage is an integral part of the everyday. It has infiltrated its way into our daily lives, and serves as an indispensable medium in the workplace, for commerce, education, health services, and functions as global gathering place for an open and democratic exchange of ideas. Individuals in urban centres tend to have access to seamless online connectivity and can pay bills at any time, from the comfort of their own home – even obtain a degree. This opens up the interesting question of whether affordable, high speed internet services, should be a legal right, or at least, a basic service. This question is particularly pertinent for individuals in northern Ontario who live in remote or rural areas, who by virtue of geography, are far enough away from urban cores to be at a social and economic disadvantage.

Want Good Public Policy? Be Prepared to Be A Guinea Pig!

October 24, 2016 - We know the lament. Northern Ontario is huge in size, small in population. Our urban centres are barely the size of large towns in other regions. A four-hour drive to get to a four-hour drive is the norm. Your cell phone might work right now, or it might not. Our economy is overly dependent on government. Private industry is largely focused in resource dependent sectors. Some of which are under significant competitive pressures as tastes and sensitivities change globally. We hear we are relatively old, sickly, poor and unattractive to newcomers. You get the idea.

Property Tax Powers by First Nations

October 17, 2016 - Indigenous communities can gain revenue and valuable experience tackling the problem of service provision by taxing residents and businesses on reserve land. First Nations in Canada have tax powers similar to those of municipalities. Under the 1989 Kamloops Amendment to the Indian Act, and the 2005 First Nations Financial Fiscal Management Act (FNFMA), indigenous communities can assert their tax jurisdiction on reserve land. The First Nations Tax Commission certifies property tax bylaws, ensuring that residents paying taxes to indigenous governments are treated fairly, and that they receive services (roads, fire, police protection, water, etc.) in exchange for what they pay.

The Provincial Policy Statement: Local Diversity Beyond the Rhetoric

September 26, 2016 - Land use planning is at the heart of the livability and sustainability of the communities in which we live. The province-wide, land-use planning document, the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), is an authoritative text used by local planning experts in Ontario to determine the layout of a community’s built and natural environment. It requires local decisions to align with provincial interests. Some Northern Ontario stakeholders in the land planning community regard the PPS as a product of provincial apprehension about overdevelopment and diminishing greenspaces in Southern Ontario. This premise stems from the document’s focus on growth management practices and its unnegotiable language that does not necessarily speak to local conditions in northern communities. The Ministry of Finance’s growth projections for Northern Ontario over the next 26 years are negative, with an estimated population decline from 798,000 in 2015 to 780,000 in 2041. Certainly, Northern Ontario is interested in seeing policies that encourage growth rather than constrain it, and this can be accomplished by loosening the reins of finite and protectionist policies in the PPS.