Leveraging Better Policy for Long-Term Sustainability in Northern Ontario: New Approaches to Planning for Decline
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Decline is a real and protracted issue that has taken shape and form in different ways across Northern Ontario. While not all municipalities have been hit equally hard by the effects of industry flight, an aging population, and youth out-migration, the general trend is one of, at best, stagnation and slow growth. While the Province implemented the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario in 2011 to try and address these issues, it has been limited in its capacity to effect much change. The Growth Plan for Northern Ontario generally fails to address the needs and priorities of all communities, large or small, diversified economy or single-industry town. The smallest of the small feel left behind, while the largest municipalities are left wondering what the GPNO really does for them at all when the province fails to follow through on its promises or provide the resources to back up its policies. Following a comprehensive review of demographics, policy, case studies, and content and validation interviews, this report provides ten next step recommendations. These next steps are addressed to various levels of government and are not an exhaustive list of the various policies and initiatives that could be undertaken to address the issues of decline in Northern Ontario. However, what they do accomplish is presenting high-level directions for each level of government that prioritize local knowledge and decision-making. By empowering local communities, and listening so that they can be provided with the tools they know they need to succeed, provincial influence and investment can be applied in a much more directed and meaningful manner. This research presents ideas for how this can be realized, and hopefully inspires and initiates a conversation regarding how the implementation of these next step recommendations could benefit the North.