EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, Northern Ontario continues to take the hits

Reeve B.W. Zufelt

When Reeve B.W. "Bubs" Zufelt was interviewed by The Globe and Mail in June 1950 about Chapleau having the Trans Canada Highway, it was an occasion for great celebration in the community. 

Reeve Zufelt, who in the interests of full disclosure was my "Uncle Bubs", told Don Delaplante, a Globe and Mail reporter that it looked like "half the world is going to come driving down our Main Street." 
The Chapleau Post ran a banner headline "WE GOT IT" and schools were closed for the day to mark the occasion. The reeve had his picture taken pointing towards Schreiber in the general direction of where the highway would go from Chapleau.
Well, some 62 years later, we are all aware that the Trans Canada Highway never came through Chapleau, even though in 1951, Welland S. Gemmell, an Ontario cabinet minister, assured 2200 citizens at the official opening of the Chapleau Memorial Arena that it would.
Imagine the disappointment when the Trans Canada  took another route despite promise after promise by senior levels of government.
Such is the nature of politics, and for Chapleau and other communities in Northern Ontario, it seems plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose
Never mind losing the Trans Canada Highway, successive Chapleau councils have tried to get the Sultan/Ramsey Road completed to no avail.
However, let me get to the point of this column. I have very seldom written about current issues affecting Chapleau simply because I am writing from afar and am not  aware of what's really happening on the local scene.
But, this past week, after receiving emails and Facebook messages, about a  government decision to close provincial parks, the end of the Ontario Northland train between Toronto and Cochrane, a Grey Cup train that is bypassing Chapleau and Northern Ontario, enough is enough folks.
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources announced that overnight camping  at 10 Northern Ontario parks, including Shoals and Ivanhoe near Chapleau will no longer be permitted as part of its budget slashing process. Michael Gravelle, the Natural Resources minister said, “The decisions we’re making are necessary to modernize our business, make the ministry sustainable, and help the government balance the budget,” 
Gravelle added: “I’m confident that we will be more efficient and better organized to focus on what matters most to the people who rely on the ministry’s programs and services.”
According to a ministry news release, the changes will result in the elimination of 28 full-time and 102 seasonal positions, saving the Ontario government $6.1 million a year and future capital costs of $4.4 million.
Referring specifically to Shoals, the ministry news release said, "The Shoals Provincial Park near Chapleau had fewer than 5,000 visits last year, and Ontario Parks recovered only 30 cents on each dollar it invested in the park." 
With the closure of the parks, as part of its "streamlining and automating processes", whatever that means in terms people can understand, the government plans to focus on 104 parks primarily located in Southern Ontario.
Gravelle says he believes the ministry will be able to focus on "what matters most"  to people. Well, Minister, may I suggest you begin by making decisions that include consultation with the citizens directly affected in the communities who rely on the parks in many ways, instead of a mathematical model of usage and cost recovery created by bureaucrats at Queens Park.
There is no mention in the news release that other options were considered.
On September 28, Jennifer Wells a feature writer with the Toronto Star, was aboard the Northlander, the Ontario Northland Transportation Commisssion historic train -- operating for more than 100 years -- on its last run from Cochrane to Toronto. Although not directly connected to Chapleau, the Northlander has been used by its citizens over the years. It has been cancelled by the Ontario government.
One passenger on the Northlander told Wells, "The fight isn't over.... The divide between the north and south is now greater than it's ever been".
I imagine the passenger spoke for the majority of Northern Ontario citizens.
Meanwhile, an email arrived from Ian Macdonald, telling me about the train marking the 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup. I was unaware of the train's existence but after reading his email I, like him, was angered.
Here is part of Ian's email:
"Please note that Northern Ontario has been totally ignored!!!! If I still lived there I would be raising proper Hell. (Ian now lives in Winnipeg, but attended Chapleau Public and Chapleau High schools)
"Those of us of our generation can recall the trains stopping in Chapleau and other CPR divisional points en route to the Grey Cup in Toronto. The rail trip across Northern Ontario was an important aspect of the Grey Cup festival as we know it today. Ask any Calgary fan from that era. The schedule is: http://www.greycuptour.ca/
"This is truly an insult to Northern Ontario and displays a total lack of  understanding on the part of the CFL of how the Grey Cup Festival was launched and the communities and people who played an important role."P*****  off....... I remain, Ian"

Here is link to earlier feature on Calgary Stampeders and train stopping in Chapleau http://michaeljmorrisreports.blogspot.ca/2012/01/calgary-stampeders-bring-touch-of-old.html
Maybe it's time for every mayor in Northern Ontario from the Manitoba border to Thunder Bay, to Hearst, Cochrane, Timmins and on to North Bay, and along Highway 17 to Marathon, Terrace Bay, Wawa  to Sault Ste Marie,and to Sudbury, and of course Chapleau, to hop on buses and head to Toronto united in a common cause to get a better deal for Northern Ontario. Maybe let the CFL know Northern Ontario exists. 

Like my friend Ian, who says he is ever the radical, even though we are now 70ish, my email is mj.morris@ live.ca, Please feel free to be in touch.

Thanks to Anne (Zufelt) McGoldrick, Ian Macdonald and Mario Lafreniere for research assistance.

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Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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