Latest Policy Bytes

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.

The Art of Not Getting Lost: Signage in Northern Ontario

September 19, 2016 - It’s the weekend and you’re driving around Timmins looking for a nice place to stop and enjoy the sights of Northern Ontario. You heard Kettle Lakes Provincial Park is a great place to visit so off you go down highway 101. Chances are, if you’re not from the area and you don’t have a GPS, you’ll drive right past the turn off to get to the park because there is no sign pointing towards its location. Odd, right? Where are the signs?

Northern Ontario, Truly Hidden Treasures

September 12, 2016 - Eight, double zero, five, six, five, seven, four, two, one. That’s eight, double zero, five, six, five, seven, four, two, one. Since the 1970’s that ditty has been bouncing around in my head. Sung to a catchy beat in the unmistakable tones of Stompin’ Tom Connors. It was then (and still is today) the phone number to call for Prince Edward Island tourist information. Go ahead, try it, you know you want to.

Festivals are a Golden Opportunity for Timmins and the North

September 6, 2016 - It has been a common complaint from Timmins residents in past years that the city does not offer the same amount or quality of events that other northern centres do. But recently, these critiques have been answered. Local businesses and members of the community have started stepping up to offer a range of events in town that will appeal not only the community but hopefully tourists visiting the area. There is support from the province to encourage tourism in northern communities because of the benefit and growth that events generate. The rise in the number of festivals and events in Timmins is certainly something worth celebrating.

I North What You Did Last Summer

August 29, 2016 - As another summer draws to a close, another Experience North program is in the books. This year, Northern Policy Institute welcomed ten policy and communications interns into the fold. Hailing from different educational and professional backgrounds, these interns provided Northern Policy Institute with new perspectives on existing research and innovative ideas of ways to grow Northern Ontario.