LITTLE CURRENT—Canada’s only “off-grid” radio station, 103 Country in Little Current, has been getting a lot of high profile attention in recent months. First, the Slovakian ambassador dropped in for a tour during Haweater and now, most recently, federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh stopped by for a visit while on a tour of Northern Ontario communities.
Mr. Singh declared himself impressed with the radio station as owners Craig and KT Timmermans took him through the station’s facilities and on a tour of the Flatrock Entertainment grounds off Harbour Vue Road.
“I was on Manitoulin Island before while on vacation with my brother,” said Mr. Singh. “I was very impressed with the number of small businesses that have been making a success.” The NDP leader cited the green radio station, kombucha and mushroom cultivating buildings and two breweries as examples of Northern Ontario ingenuity.
In addition to touring Island businesses and meeting people on the street, Mr. Singh dedicated time to meet with local First Nations leaders. What he found were many of the same cost of living concerns to be found in the southern part of the province, such as housing and the escalating costs of housing and fuel but noted that many of those challenges are exacerbated in reserve communities.
“For us it is putting people first,” he said of the NDP approach to tackling those issues and pointed to his party’s success in forcing the Liberal government to introduce a number of policies and programs aimed at helping the most vulnerable through these challenging times, in particular the recently announced doubling of the GST rebate to $600, the first phase of a national dental care plan and a top up to a housing benefit for renters.
“We fought hard and have been demanding since the spring that the Liberal government step up and give people some respect, the dignity to be able to afford their own groceries. And we have won,” said Mr. Singh. “We have forced this government to deliver three things. Each of these items would not have happened but for the fact that we forced the government to deliver on this respect for people. We’re putting money back in people’s pockets.”
“Here in the North the cost of living is even tougher,” he said. “We need to find ways to get more support for those who need it the most—more needs to be done.”
Mr. Singh noted how Canadians depend on their health care system and the shortcomings that have been highlighted by the strains of the pandemic. “People really, really depend on the health care services,” he said. As to tackling the issues facing that health care system Mr. Singh said, “I think it comes down to a different approach.”
Among the underpinnings of that approach is a respect for Indigenous peoples across Canada.
Mr. Singh noted that plans to reduce the number of seats in Northern Ontario are counter intuitive to ensuring the voices of Indigenous communities are heard in Parliament.