Official Opposition leader Patrick Brown visits Little Current hatchery

Former Progressive Conservative candidate Joe Chapman and Little Current and District Fish and Game Club President Bill Strain discuss the observation platform at Bass Creek with Official Opposition Leader Patrick Brown. photo by Mark Volpini

SHEGUAINDAH—This isn’t Progressive Conservative Leader of the Official Opposition Patrick Brown’s first visit to Manitoulin, he has visited the Island with his family in the past and made a point of coming to Little Current during the whirlwind leadership campaign that propelled him from being an outside longshot the polls placed at one percent to leapfrogging the heir apparent and caucus favourite Christine Elliott to secure the Progressive Conservative leadership.

On Friday, August 5, Mr. Brown’s plane touched down at the Manitoulin East Municipal Airport where he was greeted by a delegation led by local Progressive Conservative Riding President Mark Volpini for a quick tour and meet and greet session before heading on to Kenora.

Mr. Brown’s consistent mantra when he talks about the North is that he has visited (by this time) 19 times since winning his party’s leadership. He notes the impetus behind these visits is the importance he places on getting to know both the challenges and opportunities that the North presents.

He contrasts his approach to the development of infrastructure and development in the North to what he characterizes as the Liberal government’s approach of simply renouncing programs without anything new or innovative. Under a Brown government, people would be thinking not of the Ring of Fire roads that were never built, “you would think of a transportation network that would parallel any state or province.”

Mr. Brown cited the previous and current energy ministers’ lack of urgency on the cost of energy. “When I met with Northern mayors and officials they tell me again and again that energy prices in particular are killing any ability to create industry, to create jobs in Northern Ontario,” he said. “The new energy minister Glenn Thibeault says that everything is fine, that there isn’t an energy crisis. I am telling you there is an energy crisis in Ontario. Energy prices are unacceptable, triple that in Quebec, double that in Manitoba.”

Mr. Brown went on to attack renewable contracts, citing that energy produced is sent out of province and “that is not an environment in which businesses will flourish.”

The opposition leader then took aim at the state of education in Ontario, particularly in the North. “The repair budget is being completely ignored by the minister,” he said.

On the issue of tackling the transportation challenges in the North, he said that there has to be more than lip service. “Right now you see announcements made 20 years out,” he said. Governments should run on infrastructure promises within their own mandate period, he asserted. “I will be prepared to make significant investments in Northern Ontario infrastructure,” he continued, but stopped short of details, noting that he will be announcing a Northern policy committee (to be announced this summer) chaired by a notable Northern mayor for policy made in the North for Northerners. “I will make a serious infrastructure investment it will measured within the mandate I am elected on,” he committed.

On the Hydro One “fire sale” Mr. Brown said that the money “is going into temporary budgets not being spent on infrastructure, it is all going for the next two years to prop up their books.”

Key message, “in Northern Ontario you have a friend in need that is going to continue to show up for Northern Ontario,” he said. “I believe the potential is unlimited,  If you have a government that is willing to partner, that is committed. You have a commitment from me to invest in infrastructure in a measurable fashion and that I will acknowledge there is an energy crisis in the North and will do something about it. The Liberals are living in a fantasy land.”

During his visit, Mr. Brown toured the Little Current and District Fish and Game Club’s hatchery operation with club president Bill Strain, as well as the fish ladders and viewing stations that were built in Sheguiandah, before setting out for the airport to meet with local party faithful as well as business and political leaders. Mr. Brown said that he was dismayed when he saw the party blow their leads in previous elections and vowed that would not happen under his watch.

Former Progressive Conservative candidate Joe Chapman spoke words of greeting to Mr. Brown following the leader’s remarks to the gathering of the faithful.