Getting the message?

Communities across Northwestern Ontario are rallying around Kenora in the wake of Abitibi-Consolidated’s announcement last week that it is shutting down one machine at its paper mill there and idling the other one indefinitely in October.
But while critics lament the fact it takes a shocking headline to maybe make Queen’s Park notice us way up here in the northwest, it’s too bad municipalities similarly spring into action to slam the proverbial barn door after the horse already has bolted.
It’s not like the news came out of the blue. The financial viability of the Kenora mill has been questioned for years, and one machine there already had been lost. As well, NDP leader and local MPP Howard Hampton has been warning since the winter that the Liberal government’s policies, particularly with the price of electricity, is costing jobs across Northern Ontario.
Last Wednesday’s announcement only hammered home the point.
True, the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association had begun to take the bull by the horns, canvassing its members to contribute a per capita fee to hire a high-profile lobby group to raise the plight of the forest industry at Queen’s Park.
As well, Fort Frances did host a “community summit” earlier this year. But after the initial enthusiasm, the all-important follow-up work hasn’t materialized yet.
In a nutshell, the urgency has been lacking on everything from the forest industry to the closing of small businesses and the out-migration of our youth.
Does the forest industry deserve the same breaks the McGuinty Liberals have been giving to the auto sector, movie and television production, and casinos in southern Ontario? Certainly. Can we put our heads together and come up with a cheaper source of power? Surely.
In the meantime, though, area municipalities must do a better job of tackling problems and planning for the future. The writing, after all, has been on the wall for quite some time. Unfortunately, we only now seem to be taking the message to heart?

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