Northern Ontario is home to many important infrastructure projects, especially in the transportation and resources sectors. Engineering is critical to these projects, so effective relationships between engineers and elected officials can only serve to benefit our province.
This makes the work of PEO’s Government Liaison Program (GLP) in the Northern Region particularly vital as they reach out to local members of provincial parliament (MPPs) in their ongoing activities. Chapter GLP members reinforce PEO’s legislative mandate to regulate the practice of professional engineering in the public interest to MPPs.
However, the vast distances covered by northern ridings create a unique challenge for PEO’s Northern Region chapters, as they must often work harder to get the attention of public officials and to bring engineers together. But their work organizing local outreach events has helped them to create some especially close relationships with MPPs. One great example is the PEO Lakehead Chapter Annual Engineering and Technology Conference. The 56th annual conference on November 3, 2017, in Thunder Bay, ON, attracted nearly 170 engineers and students and received cabinet-level attention as Bill Mauro, then-MPP for Thunder Bay-Atikokan and minister of municipal affairs, provided greetings. Another example is the 2012 GLP Academy and Congress in Sudbury, ON. It included MPPs like Vic Fedeli (Nipissing), Michael Mantha(Algoma Manitoulin) and John Vanthof (Temiskaming).
The North Bay Chapter’s symposium also has a long history. Its 48th Annual Professional Engineers Day Symposium was hosted on January 26, 2018, along with the Ontario Association of Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists (OACETT). Public figures in attendance included Anthony Rota, MP (Nipissing-Timiskaming), and North Bay Mayor Al McDonald, who is a former MPP. Vic Fedeliwould have also been there but was at Queen’s Park assuming the interim leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. He has been a regular participant in past symposiums, but he now has bigger responsibilities as minister of finance and chair of cabinet. As a former North Bay mayor, Fedeli had worked closely with North Bay’s chief engineer and former PEO Northern Region Councillor David Euler P.Eng.
In 2014, Fedeli made remarks in the legislature showing his respect for the profession and PEO: “It gives me great personal pleasure to stand today to pay tribute to a friend, David Euler, who will be recognized as a Companion of the Order of Professional Engineers Ontario on April 28 in Niagara Falls,” he said. This is one of many examples of northern MPPs demonstrating the relationships they have built with engineers when they are back in Toronto for the legislative sessions.
The extra efforts of Northern Region chapters complement the year-round plan of chapter GLP events like Take Your MPP to Work Day, licence ceremonies and National Engineering Month activities. These accomplishments are proving to be a productive combination.
BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS WITH KEY MPPs
The long-term relationships PEO Northern Region chapters are building with their local MPPs are particularly valuable because so many of these legislators have important responsibilities at Queen’s Park. Key northerners in the legislature include:
- Michael Mantha, MPP (Algoma-Manitoulin), NDP critic for northern development and mines
- Ross Romano, MPP (Sault Ste. Marie), parliamentary assistant to the minister of energy, northern development and mines, and the minister of indigenous affairs
- Sol Mamakwa, MPP (Kiiwetinoong), NDP critic for indigenous relations and reconciliation
- Judith Monteith-Farrell (Thunder Bay-Atikokan), NDP critic for natural resources and forestry
- Michael Gravelle, MPP (Thunder Bay-Superior North), Liberal critic for northern development and mines, and natural resources and forestry
LAKE OF THE WOODS CHAPTER:
- Greg Rickford, MPP (Kenora-Rainy River), minister of energy, northern development and mines, and indigenous affairs
NORTH BAY CHAPTER:
- Vic Fedeli, MPP (Nipissing), minister of finance and chair of cabinet
- Guy Bourgouin, MPP (Mushkegowuk-James Bay), NDP critic for francophone affairs, training and trades, and apprenticeships
- Gilles Bisson, MPP (Timmins), NDP house leader
- France Gélinas, MPP (Nickel Belt), NDP chief whip and health critic
- Jamie West, MPP (Sudbury), NDP labour critic
- John Vanthof, MPP (Timiskaming-Cochrane), deputy leader of the opposition and NDP critic for agriculture and food, rural development
Howard Brown is president of Brown & Cohen Communications & Public Affairs Inc., and PEO’s government relations consultant.