Latest Policy Bytes

Eliminating Homelessness in Northern Ontario: Northern Ontario as the next Medicine Hat?

Medicine Hat and Housing First

July 15, 2015 - Medicine Hat recently made headlines for being the first city in Canada poised to eliminate homelessness by the end of 2015. Mayor Ted Clugston credited this remarkable achievement to the city’s Housing First (HF) strategy. Housing First is a homelessness approach targeted at addressing the chronically and episodically homeless populations[1]. The founding philosophy behind HF is that an individual’s housing needs must be met before their other problems can be addressed. HF is guided by six principles: housing is to be provided as soon as possible, individuals must have choice in their housing arrangements and services, housing is not conditionally tied to anything other than accepting regular visits[2], individuals must contribute some of their income towards rent, housing should be integrated into the community to reduce stigma, and individuals are to be provided with the necessary supports to increase their self-sufficiency and help them graduate the HF program[3].

Northern voices can indeed be heard

July 6, 2015 - The Mowat Centre, a research institute associated with the University of Toronto, just released a “Federal Economic Agenda for Ontario.” The document essentially asks, and answers, two questions: What are the primary challenges facing Ontario? And, what does the evidence tell us about the best possible responses to those challenges?

Nudge Economics and Tax Compliance

June 30, 2015 - It would seem the latest bright shiny ball in the policy world is Nudge Economics. On the one hand, I suppose it is good that governments are finally getting around to reading some economics books. On the other hand, governments don’t seem to read the books too carefully since they can’t seem to understand the difference between Nudge economics and, well, economics.

Two years, too short: why a custom First Nations election policy is the key to stability

June 22, 2015 - Based on findings of the Royal Commission of Aboriginal Peoples of 1996, statements from the Assembly of First Nations and various First Nations communities, it is clear that First Nations are transitioning away from federal government policy to become self-sufficient and independent. A viable solution to political instability created by flawed election policy is for First Nations to create custom elections, allowing First Nations to acquire community input to develop their own election policy to develop political stability, address the unique needs of their communities and eventually achieve self-governance.

Do you Know the North

June 8, 2015 - I give a lot of talks about what is going on in Northern Ontario. Those sessions require me to cite data, lots of data: demographic data, health data, education data, economic data, and more. One of my favourite experiences is the quiet visit after the talk by some local expert. Often a subject expert or a local councilor or public servant. They almost always want to assure me that while they understand that the data I have just described applies to the region, or the district, or the province; it just doesn’t apply to their community.

Reflections on a year of learning

May 22, 2015 - I take my leave from Northern Policy Institute this month and return to the federal government work I left a year ago. My residency with Laurentian University and Northern Policy Institute has been more than I could have hoped for in my quest to learn about all things Ring of Fire.

Parents Reaching Out Grants: What's Being Funded in the Ontario North?

May 20, 2015 - Parent grant applications are underway in schools all over the Ontario North. Every May, school parent councils scramble to take advantage of the Ontario Ministry of Education’s coveted Parents Reaching Out (PRO) Grants. Few bother to ask: what’s being funded – and for what purpose? And what’s the actual impact been in Northern Ontario schools?

Health care does not mean health

May 11, 2015 - The vast geographic area and great distances between communities pose significant challenges for the delivery of many services in rural and northern regions of Ontario.  The delivery of health care services is no exception.  There has been much research and several provincial reports that clearly show the health care services received in the north are not equivalent to those available in the south.  With so few large urban centres, access to specialized healthcare services for cancer and other serious conditions requires northerners to travel on a regular basis.

A New Lens for Northern Ontario

May 4, 2015 - For more than forty years, debates on economic development in Northern Ontario have been dominated by several themes. The first of these is that primary industries are key to the region’s prosperity now and in the future. The second is that Northern Ontario provides more funding to Ontario through royalties and taxes paid than it receives in services. The third is that the north is of limited national and global significance. Finally, many observers think that policies and programming in the north can be framed with only passing reference to global trends and circumstances.

The North is growing, in places

April 28, 2015 - The response to my April column about recent successes for young people here in our region was met with a mix of relief and skepticism.  Relief that here at last we had some good news; skepticism that the news wasn’t all that good since it reflected more hitting bottom than getting better. In fact, I think one commentator used the phrase “rock bottom.” If this is “rock bottom” I will take it.