This Christmas, like many parents, I look forward to my older children returning home for a visit. I have two children, aged 18 and 23, who are living in southern Ontario.
Mixed with my happiness is the unfortunate reality that my older children will return to an urban centre to seek meaningful employment.
My 18-year-old currently is attending school but has made it clear that, given the lack of employment opportunities in Northwestern Ontario, she intends to work in the Toronto area.
Meanwhile, my 23-year-old son would like to move back to Northwestern Ontario but is faced with the prospect of limited job opportunities.
And I’m not alone. Other parents face the same stark reality. The 2001 census indicated that youth aged 15–29 are leaving Northern Ontario in record numbers.
It is common for youth to head to cities for a taste of the “good life,” but what happens when they realize that their small town northern roots are calling them back but they can’t return due to a lack of jobs?
When I consider my youngest, who is in Grade 1, I also see a bleak picture for her should she wish to live, work, and raise her family in Northwestern Ontario.
Is it all doom and gloom? No, it doesn’t have to be. We have all the resources right here in Northwestern Ontario that we need to change this trend. Northerners deserve the opportunity to affect strong and powerful policy change within the provincial government.
But, when was the last time we saw our MPP focus directly on economic development?
If our leaders are mobilized and focused on ensuring a strong economic base with adequate economic diversification across Northwestern Ontario, there will be opportunities for our children to live and work in Northwestern Ontario—and enjoy the quality of life I believe surpasses anywhere in the world.
Cathe M. Hoszowski