Another politician from southern Ontario made the rounds in Northern Ontario earlier this week during their leadership campaign for the Ontario Liberal Party.
Yasir Naqvi launched his bid earlier this year, dropping his role as a federal parliamentary secretary to seek the position.
Prior to earning the Ottawa Centre federal seat for the Liberals in 2021, he served nearly nine years at Queen’s Park, including as Ontario’s attorney general and labour minister.
“I’m one of those people very comfortable in saying that I know what I know, but I also know what I don’t know,” Naqvi told Sudbury.com in the midst of his daylong stop in Sudbury earlier this week, addressing his southern Ontario background.
“In order for me to be a good leader and an effective leader, I will work with Northern Ontarians. I will make sure that they are the ones telling us what needs to happen in terms of growing our party in Northern Ontario.”
One of the people he’s been connecting with is past Sudbury NDP MP and Liberal MPP Glenn Thibeault, who was kicking the tires for a Liberal leadership run last year and is now co-chair of Naqvi’s campaign.
Naqvi points to his Northern Ontario platform as proof of his dedication to the region.
The platform includes three key pillars:
- Ensure that every Northerner can access family and emergency health care when and where they need it most.
- Grow the population of Northern Ontario through improved connectivity and educational and economic opportunities.
- Position Northern Ontario as a world leader in critical mineral extraction and processing while respecting Indigenous rights.
The health care pillar, he said, is the No. 1 issue he has heard during his tour of the north.
“Northerners, more than any other part of the province, their health care is even more fragile because of the underinvestment by the Doug Ford government,” he said, citing a doctor and nurse shortage in the region as being a significant gap that needs filling.
He pledged to invest in educational opportunities in the North so students can remain in the region, licencing internationally trained doctors and nurses with incentives to live and work in Northern Ontario.
Greater cellphone service in the North and completing the four-laning of Highway 69 are also included in his platform.
“The whole notion of equity when it comes to Northerners ... is not there,” he said of the current government.
“I think it’s a responsibility of the province to make sure that every Ontarian regardless of where they live gets the necessary services they deserve.”
When it comes to growing Northern Ontario’s economy and population, feeding off the “tremendous opportunities” in the mining sector, he said housing remains front and centre.
Rather than download development charges onto municipal taxpayers, as Ford has been criticized for doing, Naqvi said the province “should assume the cost of development charges and provide that funding for infrastructure build-up to municipalities based on outcomes.”
Further, he’d put accountability measures in place, “so the savings are passed onto the consumer and not pocketed by developers.”
His housing plan, released Aug. 17, also includes creating “real rent control,” and eliminating the Landlord and Tenant Board backlog to ensure grievances are heard within a 30-day guaranteed timeline.
Fellow Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate Bonnie Crombie toured Northern Ontario last month. Candidate Nate Erskine-Smith made an exploratory visit to the region in April, before affirming his candidacy the following month.
A series of five leadership candidate debates have been scheduled to take place, none of which to take place in the Greater Sudbury area. Events are slated to take place in Thunder Bay, Stratford, Toronto, Ottawa, and Brampton.
Party members will cast ranked ballots Nov. 25-26, and the deadline for candidates to register is Sept. 5.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.