Latest Policy Bytes

Ontario School Closures: A “Dollars and Sense” Alternative – Community Hub Schools

March 4, 2015 - Smaller communities in Northern Ontario are accustomed to receiving the Queen’s Park ‘shock treatment.’ It happened again on January 28, 2015 when Ontario Education Minister Liz Sandals stated that $1 billion out of the $22.5 billion education budget could be saved by “closing about 600 half-empty schools.” A day later the Minister backtracked, saying that her primary concern was underutilized Toronto schools, not those in rural or remote communities.

Preserving Co-op Housing: Proposing Concrete Action

February 10, 2015 - In Ontario, “more than 7,000 households are slated to lose their rental top-ups.”[i] Over the years, both the provincial and federal governments have created programs to support the development of non-profit geared to income housing co-operatives. Rent to geared income (RGI) housing is subsidized housing. “The rent is based directly on the tenant’s income, usually 30% of the gross monthly household income. If you receive social assistance, the rent charges are based on the rent benefit set by the Ontario government, rather than 30% of the gross monthly income.”[ii] RGI subsidies are most often available in publicly owned social housing, but are also available in co-operative, non-profit and private housing. Subsidies have been provided to co-ops through agreements to pay the mortgage, and most were established in the 1990s for 20 or 30 year terms. These subsidies expire when each co-op building’s mortgage expires. When the federal government entered into this arrangement it was the most cost effective avenue to take: they could create affordable housing that works without actually having to run it. It was clear that this arrangement would come to an end one day, the question is – is anyone prepared for what comes next?

Public Transportation Not Just an Urban Concern

January 20, 2015 - Public Transportation is generally viewed as an “urban” issue[1]. However, Northern Ontario largely consists of small communities, with only five cities (Greater Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay and Timmins) having a population above 30,000[2]. Travel, regardless of the size of the community, is an essential aspect of life. Individuals must travel to access various activities such as:

Filling in the Gaps: The Meno Ya Win Classroom

January 5, 2015 - Jenny Pert-Wesley, a teacher in Sioux Lookout, has a wall of pictures in her classroom. She can point to any picture and tell a story of a student’s struggles and successes and like any teacher, she beams with pride.

A Vulnerable North: Lyme disease in Canada

December 8, 2014 - In recent years, the habitat of deer ticks from the south has begun to edge into more northern environments. This expansion, estimated at up to 46km/yr, is believed to have resulted from a combination of climate change and transport by ticks using white-footed mice and migratory birds[i]. With the ticks, comes a burgeoning threat to northerners, namely the potentially debilitating pathogens that reside within a percentage of the tick population (varying from 1% to over 60% depending on host availability)[ii]. The most concerning of these is the spirochete (corkscrew-shaped bacterium) borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease, an illness on the rise in Canada due to the spread of deer ticks.

Is Northern Ontario's population aging, or is it just getting less young?

December 1, 2014 - Canada’s aging population is not a new phenomenon. The process will inevitably lead to higher pension and health care costs, as well as a smaller tax base to pay for these costs. The demographic shift will impact consumption, investments, savings, expenditures, labour, and more. Although some believe there are silver linings to all of this – such as declining labour shortages or better quality of life – the general outlook is an added strain on growth and the overall economy.

Canary in a Gold Mine

November 25, 2014 - Some truths are difficult to point out, especially when your love of something complicates it more. In this case, my love of the north and wanting it to succeed is being undermined by the rest of the world falling out of love with our resources.

Genetically Modified Foods Not the Solution for Sustainable Agriculture in Northern Ontario

November 17, 2014 - Northern Ontario has always been the source of a vast amount of natural resources. These resources are generally focused on mining and forestry. However, another less publicized resource is becoming a more important contributor to the well-being of the region: agriculture. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs state that there is considerable potential for agriculture in Northern Ontario[1]. However, the harsh Northern Ontario climate can be a barrier to agriculture in the region as it shortens the farming season and increases the occurrence of frost, which results in a low crop yield.