Latest Policy Bytes

Education is Not Advocacy

November 16, 2015 - I had a fascinating meeting with the then finance minister of New Brunswick several years ago. The meeting has come to mind often in the past two years as I travel about Northern Ontario and explain to people the difference between a think tank and an advocacy group. Or, at least the difference between Northern Policy Institute and the research branch for the “northern lobby”.

Northern Ontario bids farewell to a great leader

November 13, 2015 - On Saturday, November 8, 2015, O’Connor Mayor, Ron Nelson, passed away, leaving fellow colleagues, municipal and regional leaders, and everyone at Northern Policy Institute to mourn the loss of a true champion for Northern Ontario.

Living Off-the-Grid in Northern Ontario

November 9, 2015 - In late July 2015 the CBC reported that a Pan Canadian Task Force to Reduce Use of Diesel Fuel in Remote Communities was established by Manitoba, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Northwest Territories, and the Yukon. Ontario’s Ministry of Energy press release noted that throughout the country “there are nearly 300 off-grid communities with a total population of approximately 200,000 people.”  At first blush this number seemed to be very high, but how does this break down for Northern Ontario and where are these numbers coming from? The information was taken from a 2011 report by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) and Natural Resources Canada (NRC) on the status of remote/off-grid communities in Canada.

We can help people actually afford to save for retirement

November 2, 2015 - Like many other Ontarians, I have been following the debate about the introduction of our very own provincial pension plan with some interest. The latest reasoning put forward in support of the plan has me truly perplexed. As the argument goes, people can’t afford to save for retirement so we must force them to do so. It seems we have decided that it is more important that someone be able to purchase groceries in 40 years from now when they are 65 than it is for them to be able to purchase groceries today when they are 25.

Filling the Education Gap: Teach for Canada's First Nations Education Initiative

October 20, 2015 - Every September a fresh crop of hundreds of mostly novice teachers head North to teach in remote, mostly First Nations populated communities. Hired by northern public school districts or aboriginal education authorities, the recruits arrive flush with excitement and prepared to ‘sink or swim’ on a mostly unfamiliar educational terrain. 

Homework: Why it's Making a Comeback

October 14, 2015 - School has resumed for another year and most parents, teachers and students are once again confronting the thorny issue of homework.  After a decade-long campaign against assigning kids too much work to be completed at home, homework definitely making a comeback in Canadian schools.

Demonyms in the North

September 28, 2015 - Do you know what a demonym is? What if I were to ask you to tell me what the term Torontonian meant? You’d probably be able to tell me that this term describes someone who lives or is from the city of Toronto, and that’s precisely what demonym means. It is a term used to attribute the name of place or location to someone, usually a resident, and generally involves adding a suffix, such as “ian” or “nian” in the case of Toronto. The term traces its origins back to ancient Greece and is derived from the word “deme,” which was used to describe a township. The adjective demonymic, therefore, describes the process of attributing the name to an Athenian citizen according to the deme that they reside. Currently, the word deme is still used to describe an administrative division in modern Greece. 

Community Hub Schools: A Call for “Cage Busting” Leadership

September 16, 2015 - Transforming emptying or mothballed schools into community hubs is now becoming de rigueur for provinces and school districts. Three weeks ago, Ontario became the latest to embrace the policy initiative and take on the herculean implementation challenge. Breaking into that educational silo will take what American policy analyst Frederick Hess has aptly termed “cage-busting leadership.”

Our Experience Getting to “Know the North”

September 8, 2015 - As summer interns in Sault Ste. Marie, Mandy and I spent the summer working on a research project with Northern Policy Institute, called “Know the North.” Working out of Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre, a generous amount of our days were spent reaching out to economic developers in First Nations and non-First Nations communities, in hopes of arranging informal interviews. We were happy to speak with an average of 72 economic development players this summer. The goal of the conversation was to gain a better understanding of how First Nations and Municipalities are faring on a social and economic scale, as well as address regional themes that Northern Policy Institute can tailor its research around and open the door to the beginning of a lasting partnership with northern communities.  Seventy two interviews and six well-used notebooks later, here is a snapshot of the things we learned over the summer: