By MATT McEACHRAN
The Province of Southern Ontario. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
Now that all hope for Toronto to become its own province has once again faded into a Lake Ontario sunset, perhaps it’s time we looked at another option. If they don’t have the intestinal fortitude to form their own province, perhaps we should.
Forget how crazy the idea sounds at first. It’s not an anti-Toronto idea, it’s a logical idea. How can somebody in a city of millions of people, care about, or even understand the issues of small town and rural southwestern Ontario?
There’s talk about the annoying Toronto mentality, and it exists for sure. They are the centre of the universe in their mind, but to a certain point they are right. As the largest city in Canada and the financial capital of the nation, they are definitely different. Not necessarily better, but let’s face it, the issues the GTA has are not even close to the same issues we have here in Sarnia Lambton.
And in fairness, the issues we have in southwestern Ontario are very different than Toronto’s issue. We shouldn’t expect them to understand all of our issues, and certainly can’t expect them to know how to fix them.
So what’s the problem? Why is talk of this dismissed so quickly? Do we love the 13% HST that much? Or maybe it’s all that centralized power, three hours away that we just don’t want to turn our backs on.
We should take whatever part of the rest of Ontario that wants to come with us, but even if we drew the line somewhere just west of Kitchener, we would be in a strong position.
That would give our new province a population of approximately 1.4 million people, making Southern Ontario the 5th most populated province. We would have a higher population than any of the maritime provinces, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and 11 US states.
People also worry about losing the tax base from Toronto. The details aren’t all fleshed out yet, but let’s face it, if Alaska or Wyoming can make it on their own with a few hundred thousand people and a much larger geographical land mass, we should have no problem.
What’s the worst that could happen to us; we go from an economic powerhouse to a have-not province? Oh wait, that already happened.
But there are other benefits too. Wouldn’t a provincial capital in London, for example, be an upgrade? As big as London is, they still get it. They are 5 minutes from farms and small towns, and they know exactly where smaller towns like Sarnia, Chatham and Owen Sound are on a map.
The closer one is to the problem, the better one can handle it. A capital close to its constituents will be more responsive and will better represent us. My guess is a Southern Ontario provincial government would also be a lot smaller, and a lot less spendy than our big city counterparts.
Ontario is a vast province, and we are all friends, but the notion of one mega-city dishing out “one-size fits all” rules to communities from Kenora to Toronto to Sarnia might have made sense in 1867, but things have changed a little since then.
There is nothing wrong with exploring our options to do better.