Northern Economist 2.0

Friday, 20 April 2018

A Unity Circle: Celebrating Thunder Bay

The new Thunder Bay City Council that will be elected in October of 2018 will have a number of economic and social challenges on its plate but there is one item that should be a source for celebration.  The year 2020 will mark the 50th year of the amalgamation of the twin cities of Port Arthur and Fort William and the rural townships of Neebing and McIntyre to form Thunder Bay.  The urban history of the Lakehead communities actually goes back to the late nineteenth century and both Port Arthur and Fort William obtained city status in the first decade of the twentieth century as the great boom drove their urban growth and development. 

I always thought it was somewhat of a shame that not more effort was made to celebrate the centennials of the twin cities circa 2006-07 but I suspect the history of urban rivalry between the two cities was such that no one really wanted to deal with it.  However, we now have an opportunity to celebrate amalgamation and I think it should go beyond simply a number of commemorative events and the publication of self-congratulatory histories.  I think an effort should be made to leave behind something concrete that adds to the city’s environment and is a legacy for the future.

As a result of its urban history of being two separate cities, Thunder Bay has always lacked a more centrally located focal point that could serve as a gathering place for the public to celebrate events.  Many cities around the world often have public squares or sites that can serve as gathering points for celebrations and events and that act as emblems for the city.  Think of Trafalgar Square in London, for example or Washington Square or Times Square in New York or the iconic four columns in Barcelona.

We of course cannot reproduce these types of landmarks nor should we but I think as a city we can take the step of creating a public space that celebrates the creation of Thunder Bay as well as points the way to a future that includes all its residents.  Somewhere in the Intercity area, preferably close to the banks of the McIntyre River – the old boundary between Port Arthur and Fort William – we should consider putting into place what I would like to call Unity Circle.  It would be a celebration of amalgamation and the bringing together of the twin cities to form Thunder Bay and would also look towards the future by including First Nations. 

Unity Circle would be a public space in the Intercity area that would contain a number of columns - I suggest six large columns of identical height arranged in a circle with the columns representing the original four municipalities that came together to form Thunder Bay, the City of Thunder Bay and Fort William First Nation. At the center of Unity Circle there would be a flame that would burn perpetually.  I think a message of unity is very important given the many social challenges that have faced Thunder Bay over the last decade and may help represent a way of moving forward into the future.

So, it is just an idea.  The actual piece of land and location is of course one of those details best left to the politicians and administrators and community leaders who make these decisions.  The design of the space and a suitable set of commemorative structures is also of course up for discussion and debate. What is most important right now is the concept.  The concept of a Unity Circle is something that celebrates our history and looks forwards by leaving the legacy of a substantial central public space that could form the focus of future public community events.  I think it is worth consideration.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Lakehead Faculty of Science & Environmental Studies Celebrates Service!

Well, today was the last day of classes at Lakehead and there was an impromptu gathering at the end of the day at the Lakehead Outpost of faculty from Economics, Chemistry and Physics to celebrate the end of term.  As well as celebrating the end of this term's classroom service, there was also  recognition of the long time service of three faculty members - two who are are the table in the accompanying photos.  Dr. Steve Kinrade from Chemistry and Dr. Bakhtiar Moazzami from Economics have reached the 30 year service milestone - I'll let you guess who they are.  A third member of our faculty - Dr. Scott Hamilton from Anthropology - also is celebrating 30 years and was even seen at the outpost but did not make the photo.  Congratulations to all our colleagues on the completion of another teaching year!

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Yet Another Growth Plan for Northern Ontario

Most of us are familiar with the Northern Ontario Growth Plan which is a 25-year plan that was released on March 4, 2011 by the Ontario government that aimed to strengthen the economy of the North by:
  • Diversifying the region's traditional resource-based industries
  • Stimulating new investment and entrepreneurship
  • Nurturing new and emerging sectors with high growth potential. 

The Plan's policies were built upon six themes that each was to  contribute to the region’s long-term sustainability and prosperity: Economy, People, Communities, Aboriginal Peoples, Infrastructure and Environment.  I have discussed this plan in several posts on this blog.

Well, it turns out that the federal government also has a growth plan for northern Ontario though I must admit that it has flown under my radar.  I guess, when one works in an ivory tower, one sometimes loses sight of activity on the ground though how I never got wind of the extensive range of consultations escapes me. I am obviously moving in the wrong social circles.  As part of the follow up to the 2017 budget, FEDNOR began to put together a Prosperity and Growth Strategy for Northern Ontario (PGSNO) as a “roadmap to economic development and success” for the region.

FEDNOR undertook a series of engagement activities from June to November 2017 which included round tables, meetings and online tools aimed at reaching stakeholders across the region. According to FEDNOR, there was an online questionnaire with over 600 respondents, 33 round tables and 12 presentations with over 400 participants.  The result was a report with 12 common areas/themes of action (see the report for details):

1.    Infrastructure (broadband; transportation; and, energy)
2.    Diversification and self-sufficiency
3.     Northern image
4.     Rural and remote communities
5.    Timely and effective support
6.     Shortage of human resources
7.     Indigenous participation
8.     Building on regional strengths
9.     Business supports
10.   Indigenous enterprises
11.   Technology adoption
12.   Access to support for innovation

There was an item by MP Bob Nault in February 2018 discussing the report and its availability online but there seems to be little else until now.  Apparently, on Monday April 9th there will be an announcement by federal ministers Navdeep Bains and Patty Hajdu with respect to the PGSNO.  One imagines that there will be an announcement of federal development money to implement or address some aspect of the PGSNO.  Or perhaps there will be an announcement of further study and consultation.  Maybe both? Nevertheless, given that the federal report had twelve themes as opposed to six for the provincial growth plan, I would imagine that it will be twice the fun.