09/24/2012 12:21 EDT | Updated 11/24/2012 05:12 EST

Northerners ponder separating from Ontario

The Northlander Train is set to make its final journey between Toronto and Cochrane this week, leaving behind many people who are still furious about the province's decision to sell the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission.

The move has disgruntled northerners who wonder — yet again — if the region is getting its fair share. It's a sentiment that's been expressed many times over the years by disgruntled taxpayers who think it might be in northern Ontario’s best interest to separate and become its own province.

The president of the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities said municipal politicians in the region feel they are being treated unfairly.

"The action this government has taken, they had promised a fair, open and transparent process and we feel that it's fallen substantially short of that to date,” Al Spacek said. “So … they are not happy with the provincial government over this decision."

He noted municipal politicians in the north don't feel they have solid representation at the provincial level and said the region needs a strong voice at Queens Park so good decisions are made for the north.


A history professor at Grand Prairie Regional College in Alberta whose research focuses on northern Ontario history, said the first conversation about separation came when provincial boundaries were being drawn in the 1880s.

Talk about separatism due to discontent came not long after that, said Daryl White, who also hails from the Sudbury area.

"In the 1890s … it started, unsurprisingly — over resource policy in northern Ontario."

White noted several issues over the years have prompted talk about how northern Ontario fits into the province.

“Resource revenue is a big one,” he said. “So was the cancellation of the spring bear hunt, and now the sale of the ONTC.”

Spacek added municipal politicians across the region are frustrated — but don't know where to turn.

"We don't seem to have any solid representation in government that is speaking on our behalf,” he said.

Still, Spacek isn't sure separation is the answer.

"We need to have a voice at Queen's Park in Toronto where those decisions are made,” he said. “That's the most effective way to control our destiny."

Coming up

Is the North getting its fair share? Take our poll, below, and stay with CBC Radio all this week as we debate that question, leading up to the Northlander's last run. On Friday, there will be special reports from the train with CBC News Sudbury reporter Megan Thomas.