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Provincial leaders focus on the north

The provincial Liberals’ northern plan touches on access to health care, transportation, building up the north and more. 

Leader Steven Del Duca released the party’s costed platform on Monday (May 9), which includes pledges for the north. 

The Liberals’ plan “A Place to Grow” includes expanding the number of community health centres and nurse practitioner-led clinics in the north and creating a new $50 million Rural Development Fund. 

That will help build or repair rural and northern community infrastructure, like libraries and arenas. 

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Passenger rail service in the northeast is also detailed. 

The party pledges to restore Northlander service from Toronto to North Bay within two years and plan for passenger rail further north, including extending the Polar Bear Express southward to Timmins. 

Other promises include moving multiple government offices to northern Ontario, getting affordable, high-speed internet to everyone by 2025 and developing the Ring of Fire. 

Overall, the Liberals say “A Place to Grow” is about tackling Ontario’s affordability crisis and helping families get ahead – including the introduction of $1 transit fares, lowering the cost of food, and making buying and renting a home more affordable.

Meanwhile, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath also released the party’s northern platform on Monday.

300 doctors would be hired in the north, including 100 specialists and 40 mental health practitioners.

“I want people to get the health care they need without long waits or long drives. And folks need lower costs and more good-paying jobs, so the next generation can stay and raise their own family in Northern Ontario,” said Horwath.

They would also create a Northern Health Travel Grant guarantee and declare “the overdose crisis” a public health emergency.  

Additional supervised consumption sites would be expedited, with investments in treatment, detox and rehab beds. 

The NDP also says the Northlander passenger train will be fully restored and will connect with the Polar Express in Cochrane.

For the Progressive Conservatives, connecting northern Ontario is a priority.

PC Leader Doug Ford, who was in Timmins over the weekend, says Northern Ontario’s best days are still ahead.

He says if re-elected, his government will build safe highways across the region, build the road into the Ring of Fire, and unlock the economic potential of northern minerals and mines. 

Ford says the party will also build more homes in the north, and connect homes to both natural gas and high-speed internet.

Green Party leader Mike Schreiner says they recognize the unique needs of the north. 

Their northern plan includes creating good green jobs in the region, making dedicated investments in Nurse Practitioner-led clinics and building at least 4,000 supportive homes and 6,000 affordable community rental homes.  

Other planks include restoring and improving Northlander passenger rail service between Toronto and Cochrane and improved funding for education and French language access. 

The party also says a Green government would provide $1B in funding to First Nations communities to support Indigenous-protected and conserved areas and Indigenous-led climate solutions.

**With files from Brad Aubin

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