DAM THE DAMS, THE EMPTYING OF ONTARIO’S NORTH

The following is the entire text of a little book I self-published last winter. It is based on a series of columns for the local newspaper, which were previously posted to this blog. The appendixes in the book are not here, but my transcript of the main one is.

Originally conceived as somewhat tongue-in-cheek, when it is put together this way it is easy to conclude that a deal has been done between Ontario, Canada and the US.

those interested in conspiracy theories and wondering why northern Ontario fails to thrive might find this a worthwhile read.

the Contrarian.

DAM THE DAMS The emptying of Ontario’s north

THIS EDITION PUBLISHED DECEMBER, 2014

Self-published by the author, Mel Fisher, Dryden, On, who can be contacted by email at wunbun@hotmail.com.
See the authors blog at drydencurmudgeon.wordpress.com for more Contrarian thinking.

Printed in Dryden by MacPrint

Introduction –
Canada now is far different from Canada, 50 years ago. One of the big differences is that 50 years ago, and for all our history before that, we were in nation-building mode. That is, we were developing the wilderness, expanding the settled area of the country. This was done by migration from settled parts of the country, and by immigration. People came from all over the world, but mostly Europe and the United States, for the opportunity to own land, and thereby be free, able to be self-sufficient, not subservient to nobility or government. They were required to send their kids to school, where they would learn the language and the history so they would become loyal citizens of the British Empire; we were indeed building a country.
Population growth around the world is generally in large cities getting larger, and this is in part because the habitable land is all occupied – arguably most of the habitable but vacant land in the world is in Canada. This is because of water – vacant land in other parts of the world is either mountain or desert.
Canada today is locked into that popular mode of growing the population by making the biggest cities larger. Given that quality of life is generally diminished as cities grow larger, one has to ask, why would we do this? Why would we lock up the undeveloped parts of the country and prevent growth of the settled area of Canada? Just because it is fashionable in the rest of the world? Ontario is even more of a puzzle; we have to ask what purpose does it serve to consciously force rural Ontario to move to the big cities?
Water is the key to what is habitable. California grows much of the food for the US, based on irrigation, and California’s farmland/rural population is being diminished by lack of water, a condition which will not be allowed to play itself out, something will be done.
I do a weekly column for our local newspaper, the Dryden Observer, under the title ‘the Contrarian’. A contrarian is one who always looks for a point of view different from the mainstream. With all of the above in mind, I drafted a series of columns expounding on the premise that northern Ontario, our home, is being consciously depopulated so that the abundant water here on the upslope from the great plains can be diverted to where the population has outgrown the water supply, even as far away as California.
These were drafted tongue-in-cheek, as just some fun; however, as I developed and researched the subject, and as I got feedback from a variety of places, I realized that perhaps it is not a joke, perhaps it is something that should be protested. I got enough feedback that it seemed worthwhile to put these columns together in this small book. The following chapters are the columns, published in the summer of 2014, but edited slightly to smooth out the flow. You decide, is this is a joke, or a serious problem? If it is a problem, what can we do about it?

CHAPTER ONE, ITS ALL ABOUT WATER
The U.S. is the elephant in the room in global food production; by far the biggest volume of international trade in food originates there, and food export is an important part of their economy. Or it was before a huge amount of food corn was diverted into fuel alcohol by government edict.
Irrigation water is the limit -– every sizable river has dams to allow water to be taken for irrigation purposes, and they are using and reusing all the water they have. They have lots of dry-land and desert which could be irrigated, and Mexico and many other places have lots more, so the limit on world food production is not land, but irrigation water.
The other elephant in the room is that the US is running out of water, and it will be a crisis which must be addressed within the next 40 years. A big part of the problem is the Ogallala reservoir. A big swath of the American mid-west is underlain by a huge bed of gravel, running from Montana to Texas, and variable width between. This gravel deposit is full of water, and this is the Ogallala reservoir. Wells into this reservoir provide water for a large number of towns and cities, and big areas of farmland are irrigated with well water from this natural reservoir. The level of water in the gravel bed has been falling steadily for decades, and it is now below half its original level. This water is glacier water, left over from the last ice age, and is not being replaced.
So the breadbasket for the world is living on mined fossil water. Total depletion of this reservoir cannot be allowed to happen – the cost to the US and loss of reserve world food supply will not be tolerated. Nothing substantial seems to be being done to preserve or replace it, and this impending disaster is not talked about at all; it seems to be a taboo subject. Is there a plan? Yes, there is.
Canada has some 40% of all the fresh water in the WORLD, and by far the majority of fresh water allowed to go to the sea unused (some would say wasted) is Canadian. Back in 1964, an American think tank came up with a plan which they dubbed ‘NAWAPA, the North American Water and Power Alliance’. This is a huge scheme to divert rivers across northern Canada and Alaska to the mainland US and Mexico.
This drew international attention to a Canadian scheme called the ‘Grand Canal’, which involved turning James Bay into a freshwater lake, and diverting all the northern rivers now going into Hudson’s Bay into this lake. This lake would drain south to Lake Huron, from where it would be available to much of the U.S., including the Ogallala area. Readers interested in these studiously unpublicized schemes just need to google NAWAPA or Grand Canal and you could spend the day reading about it. For a reader’s digest version, just go to http://www.canspiracy.8m.com/article5.htm , especially as it relates to rivers running into Hudson’s Bay. If you are a bear for punishment, there is a big book titled ‘The Great Lakes Water Wars’.
There is no apparent benefit to Canada and especially Northern or Northwestern Ontario from these schemes, other than construction dollars. Fifty years ago there was a considerable concern here that this would limit our future by preventing development of the north, also some work needed to be done to prove that taking that much fresh water out of Hudson’s Bay would not affect wildlife or climate.
Perhaps that is why these schemes disappeared from the popular press, and are not talked about, ever, and most Canadians have not even heard of them. Perhaps the Observer will be visited by a Man in Black as a result of this column. Perhaps I will. I will keep you posted.

CHAPTER TWO DAM THE DAMS
Northwestern Ontario gets a fair amount of coming and going by small aircraft, float planes and helicopters, often taking fishermen to remote wilderness adventures, but also mysterious flights such as prospectors or mineral exploration outfits, taking care to see they are not followed as they disappear into the bush. Back in the late 60’s, folks in Red Lake, Pickle Lake, Sioux Lookout began to notice that a lot of these comings and goings involved single young men with short hair and shiny shoes. We ordinarily associate these (youth, short hair, shiny shoes) with police who think they are ‘under cover’, and there was some question as to what kind of a big crime bust could possibly be going on.
At the same time, Local bush pilots flying to and from remote reserves or exploration sites began to notice lines cut for long ways through the bush far from any development, and clearings here and there, mostly near rivers, some big enough to hold a landing strip. Somewhere along the way, somebody hooked these observations up with the NAWAPA/Grand canal proposal, and concluded the young men were not police at all, but the American Military doing field investigations in preparation for diverting our northern rivers.
A lobby group called ‘Dam the Dams’ was formed here in NW Ontario, (I joined, I think it was $10 at the time). They made an effort to lobby the province and feds to stop the project, and to publicize the goings-on. The province piously denied any such happenings and the press lost interest. After several years, the young guys with short hair and shiny shoes disappeared, and Dam the Dams lost momentum and disappeared.
When governments want to announce something with minimum publicity, they do it late on a Friday, preferably before a long weekend so it is old news by the time our intrepid newshounds are on the job. Sometime in the late 70’s Leo Bernier, Minister of Natural Resources, made just such a semi-hidden, weekend statement in the Ontario Legislature. He said that indeed the American Army Corp of Engineers had done some survey work on our big northern rivers, but that was all in the past and not part of any ongoing project.
This statement generated a brief flurry of publicity, but not the outcry one might expect – there ought to have been howls of ‘invasion of our sovereignty’, and ‘treason’, but there was not, the press was remarkably muted on the subject. Of course ‘if it didn’t happen in Toronto, it didn’t happen’ would be a factor. Also northern Ontario is regarded by our mainstream press as a deserted wasteland where nothing interesting could possibly happen – remember the 14-truck crash this winter which left one truck perched high on a rock cliff – that picture would have been on the national news for at least 48 hours had it happened with a hundred miles of Toronto. Being in the north, it didn’t make any newscast at all. Still, it seems more than these factors would be involved in that deafening silence about this covert invasion of Canadian sovereignty.
Very suspicious. And NAPAWA/Grand Canal was not forgotten.

CHAPTER THREE — WILLY BRANT’S DIARY — DOG IN THE MANGER
(Willy Brant is a recluse friend who lets me reproduce his diary, which is mostly conversations with his more erudite, but even more reclusive neighbour, Joe. Here is an excerpt from his diary)
Joe and I were having a beer after rounding up his calves so the males could be neutered. I just put a rubber band on my newborns while they are easy to catch, and they don’t seem to have much stress or pain, but Joe follows the more traditional path of waiting until they are half grown, so we can have our own little private rodeo.
Looking at the little creek that runs behind Joe’s barn, I remarked “did you see in the Observer, guy claims that most of the fresh water that goes to the sea unused comes from Canada? I find that hard to believe”.
Joe thought for a minute, then came up with “Well, the guy is a bit of a windbag all right, but I think he could be right. We have a lot of water, and we sure have a dog in the manger attitude toward it”.
“What do you mean?” from me. He says “You know, we have all this vacant land and unused water, we must be nuts to think that the rest of the world, crowded, sick and hungry in their ghettoes, will just let us keep it, vacant, because we think we can save the planet that way. Even worse, we are doing all we can to squeeze all the rural Canadians into the big cities and leave the country even more empty. China has already noticed, they just tied up a big chunk of rural Ontario in a huge dairy farm which just exports milk to China, no benefit to Canada at all; in fact we bent all the marketing board rules to let them do it. I bet we would all be amazed at how much of our land already belongs to foreigners”.
“Sooo, that doesn’t sound like we are a dog in a manger”, I said. {Note to diary –for those who do not understand this analogy, mangers hold hay, and dogs do not eat hay. So a dog in a manger, refusing to let the cows eat, is one who selfishly denies something to others, even though he has no use for it himself.}
“OK”, says Joe, “Here is the best example I can think of. This happened on both coasts, but let’s just talk about the east coast. There is a good-sized, remote, clean water river, falls off a cliff in Labrador into the Atlantic. Guy comes up with a plan, says we will hang a big funnel up on the cliff so it interferes with the waterfall a bit, so the funnel stays full. Park a big tanker ship under the funnel so the ship is filled, and haul it off to the Caribbean, where there are islands which import city water from Miami. Guy says he can afford to pay a pretty good royalty for the water, and still compete with Miami, so can he have permission to do this? But we tell him no thanks, we don’t need your royalties, Canadians don’t mind paying taxes, and we don’t mind the water being wasted, we have lots more. Of course we dig up oil, a non-renewable resource, and export it, but catching and exporting this constantly renewing resource is for whatever city-logic reason not acceptable. How is that for dog in the manger??”
OK, I guess he has me there.

CHAPTER FOUR — MINIMATA AND MERCURY
Back in the 70’s, the Japanese determined that a set of symptoms found in the population around the city of Minimata were caused by pollution of their drinking water with methyl mercury, present in tiny amounts in the waste water from an industrial plant. This was a chemical factory where mercury was actually a raw material in the process, completely different from any plant in Canada.
It should be emphasized that methyl mercury is a compound, and bears no more relationship to mercury metal than common salt does to chlorine gas. Old-timers will recall mercury metal from high school lab days. It is liquid at room temperature, very heavy, with a high surface tension so it would form balls which could be rolled around on the science lab desks, split into smaller ones and reformed into bigger ones, smeared on a penny to make it look like a dime, until it wore off into tiny balls in your pocket, and so on. It was fun stuff. Its most common use was as the liquid in thermometers.
Minimata was worldwide news, and caused everybody to look at where there might be methyl mercury, or even other mercury compounds, including in Canada. We all remember ‘mercurochrome’, a mercury-based disinfectant slopped around with abandon in our hospitals, and there were a few other uses of mercury compounds, but these were all discontinued decades before. When no newsworthy mercury compounds were found, our scientifically illiterate press went looking for mercury metal. It was part of the amalgam used by dentists to fill teeth, but before the press could get their teeth into that one, they discovered chlor-alkali plants, much more fun to beat up on industry than people’s teeth.
Chlorine and sodium hydroxide are basic industrial chemicals, used as raw materials for many processes, and used as disinfectants in many ways. Our water is kept safe by injection of a tiny amount of chlorine gas; common bleach is made from chlorine, many soaps and cleaning chemicals are made from sodium hydroxide, they are present in some form in every house. They are produced in a chlor-alkali plant in a simple, elegant process which uses electricity to change common salt and water to chlorine gas and sodium hydroxide, plus a small amount of hydrogen gas, with no waste and no by-products. Mercury metal is used as a medium to carry the electricity and to transport the sodium away from the chlorine. It is very inert, in fact turning it into compounds like methyl mercury is quite a project, so it is not consumed or used up in the process, it is just part of the machinery.
Mercury is very expensive – the quantity purchased to start up a chlor-alkali plant represents millions of dollars. I recall when our plant in Dryden was being built the mercury was being purchased in small quantities on the London metal exchange, so it wouldn’t drive the world price of mercury up. It was delivered in sealed flasks which were stored in a vault. A flask was heavy enough to require two hands to lift it, but would fit into a lunch kit and would be worth several thousand dollars. A tiny portion of the mercury used to carry the sodium, say one pound out of tons circulated, goes with the sodium and must be recovered, and a measure of a plant’s efficiency is how much mercury must be purchased to replace what is not recovered.
There was a brief flurry of sensationalist publicity around the chlor-alkali plants. There were 11 chlor-alkali plants in Canada at that time, including Dryden. Dryden was one of the most efficient, that is, lowest in mercury loss, and so did not get any more press or criticism than the others. After the brief flurry, the matter was almost forgotten by the press. Until?? Answer next week.

CHAPTER FIVE – REED AND THE NORTHERN WOODS
Early in the 70’s, Reed International, the owner of the Dryden paper mill and chemical plant, announced a very large plan to build a major pulp mill at Ear Falls, north of Dryden. They applied for massive big timber limits to support it, extending far into the north where the big rivers are. Not all that long after that announcement, publicity about the mercury business took a very substantial turn. The focus suddenly turned from chlor-alkali plants in general, and zoomed in on Dryden.
The appallingly bad quality of reporting in the media storm that followed was truly staggering. Some minor examples, Warner Troyer, a CBC reporter with no technical background whatsoever, wrote a sensationalist book about the evil Dryden mill, which starts out with something like ‘the rusty metal siding on the mill buildings looms over the town’ – actually that siding was asbestos-board, stained by effluent from the mill, not ‘rusty metal’. Shows the quality of his research, he missed a big chance there, could have added asbestos to mercury. A better example, a shot of the mill from across the river, shown literally hundreds of times on CBC television, would talk in ominous tones about toxic wastes while zooming in on a pipe protruding from the river bank in front of the mill, dribbling a stream of foamy-looking liquid. That pipe was the drain from a yard catch basin, the liquid coming out of it was rain water! The actual mill outfalls are huge pipes, underwater. Of course the mercury being lost could have been carried out in a small pail, one trip a week.
I was senior enough among mill staff to have some knowledge, but not so senior to have to worry about confidentiality. Even at my level it was obvious that a well-managed, well-funded public relations program designed to drive Reed into the dirt was underway, although we had no idea as to managed by whom?, and funded by whom?, and why? A single anecdote to illustrate this point —
Reed sponsored an art exhibition, travelling across Canada, and I attended the Winnipeg showing. There was a noisy protest, several dozen university students, dopey kids having fun, I got involved is some such stuff myself in university days. Except one guy, who was older, probably in his thirties, the very articulate and media-savvy spokesman for the group, and presumably the guy orchestrating the whole thing. They were carrying professional-looking signs, and one had to wonder who paid for those. They called a media conference in a sizable room at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, and one had to wonder who paid the rent on that. I was told that the same fellow led a similar demonstration of university students on a lark (who was buying the booze?) at all the stops the show made, all across Canada. These demonstrations were each lovingly reported with all the mercury trimmings, over and over again, using media tricks to make a dozen students look like a mob.
Because of the media circus, Reed even went so far as to demolish the chemical plant using the mercury process in favour of an experimental and ultimately unsuccessful process which did not use mercury. The media firestorm continued. The other 10 chlor-alkali plants continued to operate (and still continue to operate, buying replacement mercury as needed). Being more cost-effective, they drove the experimental, mercury-free Dryden plant out of business.
Finally Reed got the message and announced a cancellation of its expansion plans. It would not be building a new pulp mill, and they withdrew the application for big new northern timber limits. Almost like magic, the media firestorm disappeared, and mercury and Minimata disappeared off the public radar in Canada.

CHAPTER SIX — WILLIE BRANTS DIARY — SPECIAL FORCES TRAINING
I just read a story about a Frank Meyers; age 86, having a tear in his eye. Seems that the government decided they needed his farm to form part of a training ground for ‘Special Forces’. His farm has been in his family since the war of 1812, that’s 200 years, since the queen granted his ancestor a tract of land in recognition of his ancestors service in that war. He had a tear in his eye as he watched heavy equipment demolish the family house and farm buildings. Heavy equipment sent by his own country, the one he and his ancestors fought for.
His farm was on one of the few tracts of really good farmland in eastern Ontario, near Trenton. Not far from Trenton air force base, which the government sees as justifying this action. Trenton Air Force base, like most of them, is built on good farmland, as that is often the cheapest place to build close to population centers, where the votes are. Of course it’s not a very good place for weather, lots of fog and so on, or for air traffic, being between Toronto and Montreal and not far from New York City, but again, that’s where the votes are.
Rainy day, and I was sitting there thinking how much cheaper it would be to build a military air base on one of the huge sand flats or big gravel eskers that litter the landscape in northern Ontario, a bulldozer could make a runway in an afternoon. Also thinking how much better it could be for weather and air traffic, when in walks Joe. So I invite him in out of the rain, saying “Good you are here, we can have a game of crib, there is cold beer in the fridge”, then I told him the story about poor old Frank being victimized, and my theory that air bases should be built in the north on better, cheaper land, away from the great lakes. “Damn politicians”, I concluded.
Joe says, “Well, yes, but don’t blame the ruling party; all three parties are guilty of pork-barrel politics, putting development where it buys votes. Look at the scandal Ontario got into moving gas plants to suit party politics. Same everywhere, I think pork-barrel is just the price of democracy.”
He thinks a bit, shuffling the deck while I set up the crib board, then goes on “And as for the north, it’s just a given that nothing can happen in northern Ontario, no matter how much sense it makes. Good local example is the water bomber training flight simulator. It was costing a lot to send water bomber pilots for refresher training from Dryden to Montreal to the Bombardier flight simulator, and a case was made that a flight simulator at Dryden would make sense, that is where the biggest bomber fleet is stationed, and it could serve all of western Canada. But Ontario put the simulator at Sault St Marie, closer to the votes, even though there are like 2 pilots stationed there. And it costs as much to go to the Sault from here, by way of Toronto, as it does to go to Montreal, so the new simulator saves nothing. The money was wasted, but hey, it went where the votes are.”
“Well, I got you there”, says I, “At least the Soo is in the north, so everything doesn’t go south!” Joe just looks at me sadly, and says “It appears you haven’t noticed, the line has moved, Sudbury and Sault are now on the good side of the north-south line. Look at all the hoops Ontario is jumping through to make sure all the Ring of Fire jobs go to Sudbury. No, we are still doing a good job of keeping the north vacant, and guys like poor old Frank will continue to be sacrificed to keep all the development where it belongs, and that’s not north, no matter how well-suited a northern location might be”
Still, it’s too bad when guys like Frank have their lives ruined just to keep the north vacant.

CHAPTER SEVEN — THE MID-CANADA CORRIDOR
Back in the 50’s, somebody came up with the notion that, if we are ever to be a real country, we need to develop more than just a strip along the American border. John Diefenbaker became an enthusiastic supporter of a concept of developing ‘Mid-Canada’, a strip along the north side of the presently settled part of Canada, mostly vacant, mostly Canadian Shield, and mostly boreal forest. The concept noted that Canada can potentially be much larger in population, there are a mass of people who would like to immigrate to Canada. It noted that there is little advantage in making bigger and bigger cities, which just means bigger and bigger crime, traffic, smog, water supply and pollution problems. This means the sensible way to grow is to develop that vast area of Mid-Canada, new towns, cities, farmland. Diefenbaker even made this a major plank in his 1958 election campaign.
Change the subject for a minute. Flat maps do not work when looking at long distances on spherical planet earth. Try this, stretch a string from China to Britain on a globe. You might be astonished to find it goes over the North Pole, and going through the Panama Canal is a huge detour, doubling the distance. Somebody came up with a concept of using this shorter route but avoiding the arctic by building a ‘land bridge’. This would be a dedicated, perhaps over-width rail line, with an accompanying service highway, between the deep water ports of Prince Rupert on the Pacific, and Baie Comeau on the Atlantic. Stretch a string between these sea ports on the globe, and with a bit of wiggling it runs north of Lake Winnipeg and near James Bay, so that most of the route would be through undeveloped ‘Mid-Canada’. Much easier and cheaper than putting such a connection through the developed part of Canada or the US. This notion of a ‘transportation corridor’, a land bridge on the shortest sea route from Asia to Europe, became part of the mid-Canada vision, and so it became the “Mid-Canada Corridor”. This transportation aspect has been downplayed since, but the name has stuck.
In the late 60’s, a Richard Rohmer, Canadian pundit and author, took up this cause. He commissioned a large study of Diefenbaker’s Mid-Canada area. This concluded that the vast resources of the area certainly could accommodate millions of people, in a lifestyle different from California, but very comfortable, comparable with much of northern Europe. Of course we who live here know it is the best place in the world, but urban Canada does not, and Richard did his best to educate them. He arranged a major conference on the subject in 1969, and this was well attended by much of Canada’s elite. The report from this conference is very interesting reading to any northerner; you can find it on the Internet. It recommended Canada begin working toward development of the Mid-Canada Corridor, and it was presented to the government in 1970.
Prime Minister Trudeau rejected the report out of hand, refusing to allow it to even be discussed. He was very vehement about it; in fact, his famous ‘fuddle duddle’ embarrassment came out of a sharp exchange on the subject.
Perhaps this was just party politics at its worst; a Liberal government could not even look at a Conservative proposal. Or perhaps there was more to the story. Keep tuned.

CHAPTER EIGHT — I REMEMBER A GROWING ONTARIO
I remember when one could acquire 160 acres of crown land merely by filing some simple papers. The province cancelled this program, instead buying up existing homesteads, thereby shrinking or destroying northern agricultural communities.
I remember an active farm community in Sioux Lookout, also in places like Upsala, Nipigon, Shebandowan, Kenora, Hearst, and so on. Kapuskasing was quite a large farm area. All were abandoned, at least in part due provincial action or inaction.
I remember when a friend wanted to establish a summer place on an undeveloped lake, no problem; he was able to lease a chunk of lakefront on an indefinite lease, for something like $20 per year. Now there are no new leases on any reasonable terms, and the yearly payment on leases already in place has been raised to thousands per year.
I remember regular lotteries at which one bid to buy a lot in new waterfront subdivisions being established on our many beautiful lakes. There have not been any new waterfront subdivisions for decades.
I remember when tourist camps and outpost cabins were springing up like mushrooms across the north, no problem to acquire the land. Not anymore. And existing ones are being squeezed by regulatory overkill.
I remember going to the ministry for permission to cut some crown land cedar for fence-posts. No problem, just call them when I am done, and they will scale my pile and charge me a nominal fee ($3 per cord?). Crown wood is now completely unavailable; recently a friend was made a criminal for taking some firewood for his house, from a pile in the bush destined to be burned as waste.
I remember commercial fisheries on many area lakes. Just try to get into that business now. Even trapping is being hemmed in by more and more restrictions, and the writing is on the wall.
I remember one would see a regular procession of small aircraft on skis or floats, coming and going, a rare sight in Dryden now. Regulations now require small aircraft to be fitted with electronics suitable for a 747 but absurd in the context of flying out for an hours fishing, making recreational flight unaffordable.

One of the benefits of our area was access to wilderness, canoe routes maintained by Junior Rangers, now disappeared; bush roads all over, now closed and bulldozed when the forest company is done. Snowmobiles were everywhere, but now are rare because of regulations appropriate for the counties where all the land is privately held, but absurd in the north and making snowmobiling unaffordable for casual users.
When the TransCanada highway was built in the 50’s, it was to a similar standard all across Canada. Now our northern Ontario section is a primitive cow path compared with the rest of Canada, it is a national embarrassment. Most traffic goes through the United States, and Ontario’s share of federal TransCanada highway money is going to a new bridge at Windsor/Detroit, to ensure highway traffic stays out of the north.
The CN northern line was built on the great circle (minimum distance) route from Winnipeg to Quebec City, a failed early version of the Mid-Canada corridor. When the government took over rail passenger service, they shut down local rail passenger service in the north. They chose this rickety little CN line for their transcontinental route, over the double track, heavily ballasted, high speed, safe and reliable CP main line. This meant passengers were treated to a dull trek through black spruce swamps, instead of the world-class scenic splendour of the CP route. More importantly, it avoided most of the towns and cities, settlements, agricultural areas, industries, and population, thereby ensuring passengers see the north as uninhabited and uninhabitable.

Economic development of any kind is stalled due to absurdly excessive deference to anti-development ‘environmental’ groups. Even mineral finds rich enough to survive this hurdle can only be developed on the basis of fly-in crews, the jobs must go elsewhere.
Construction of road access to remote reserves was stopped, even though demonstrably a very sound economic and social investment compared with travel by air and ice roads.
The Provincial Planning Policy provides that there will be no new communities in northern Ontario, case closed, which means that the frontier is frozen where it is at now. Well, except that the actions discussed above are about rolling back the frontier and returning northern Ontario to wilderness.
In short, official government policies have changed from building up the north, to depopulating it, the change starting as far back as the 60’s. What has all this to do with Dam the Dams? Wait for the next installment.

CHAPTER 9 THE CONSPIRACY
I love conspiracy theories. I don’t necessarily believe them, I just find them fascinating. My favourite fiction author is Taylor Caldwell, who wrote fictional stories based on history, most famous probably being ‘Dear and Glorious Physician’, based on the life of Saint Paul. Even her earliest works show a belief that a small group of rich and powerful people pretty much control the world’s big events, including wars and depressions, in their own interest. In her later novels her conspiracy theory bias showed through strongly enough that she fell into disfavour with the intelligentsia. But I still like her, partly because I like conspiracy theories.
So here is my conspiracy theory. If I am right, I suppose the Men in Black will appear at my door within a few days after you read this. If there are no more Contrarian columns, you will know that they got me.
* * * * *
Step one (when North American Water and Power Alliance idea was new): Men in Black talking to Prime Minister Diefenbaker – “if you will protect the NAWAPA/Grand Canal rivers area in northern Ontario, and cancel your Avro Arrow which is so good it is embarrassing us, we will enter into an ‘Autopact’ which will guarantee Canada gets more than its share of auto manufacturing. Oh, and by the way, forget all about the ‘Mid-Canada corridor’”.
Step two (1960’s, northern survey work for Grand Canal scheme going on): Men in Black, talking to Ontario and Canada: “Look folks, these Dam the Dams guys are making too much waves, you need to defang them, deny, deny, deny. Make sure no media reports any of their information. We do not want any publicity while our army is working up there.”
Step three (l1969) Men in Black, to prime Minister Trudeau:, “Listen up, turkey, if you want to keep your auto industry, shut that clown Rohmer and his Mid Canada development idea down as soon as you can. The consequences otherwise could be dire.”
Step four (1970’s, Reed Ear Falls mill/northern forestry project): Men in Black use propaganda tactics and the mercury scare to totally destroy Reed, reducing it to a quivering blob from a dynamic firm encompassing some 45 corporations manufacturing all kinds of stuff all over North America. Ear Falls project dies, and northern forest is declared off limits to anybody. Reed International (world-wide company) dies a slow death as a result.
Step five (1990’s, ongoing) Men in Black keep the pressure on the province. New Provincial Policy declares there will be no new communities in northern Ontario, case closed. Far north is declared a ‘preserve’.
Step six (2008 economic depression) Men in Black, talking to Ontario/Canada: “OK, guys, here is the deal. We will allow you to keep your automobile industry even in this depression. In return, you must depopulate northern Ontario; destroy their economy; stop building infrastructure, and shut down northern industry any way you can. Ridiculous power rates and absurd levels of regulation ought to do the trick. “
Step seven (soon) Canada and the US proudly announce a new NAWAPA pact, under which the Americans get Northern Ontario’s water, Toronto gets lots of American money, and we in the north are screwed.
Hey, folks, this is not the national news. Previous columns on this subject were based on real events, but this one is just speculation from a broken-down old columnist. No need for panic in the streets, although I have been watching the sky for black helicopters.

CHAPTER 10 THE SEQUEL
I have been getting a lot of feedback to my ‘Dam the Dams’ series of columns. The most common comment is that all the background I quoted fits with their personal knowledge and experience. Even though they realize the ‘men in black’ conspiracy theory was meant to be in fun, they think maybe I am onto something. I better keep watching for that black helicopter.
Except one guy, who kept poking me in the chest and spitting on my shirt he was so vehement. He said our being shut down is not a conspiracy, it is not about water, it is just Toronto-centric arrogance and stupidity. He said that Mike Harris appointed a bunch of city-bred academic egghead bureaucrats to a Commission to make recommendations on Ontario’s future. Their conclusion was that rural Ontario is ‘too expensive’ to maintain and they recommend Ontario ‘abandon’ its rural areas, and encourage everybody to move to Toronto. He said the most infuriating part was the recommendation that special schools be set up to ‘train’ we rustic yokels so we could survive in the city. He said that by the time the commission reported, McGuinty was in power, and you can see McGuinty is following the reports advice, what with shutting down all our industry with silly regulations, and sticking up those dopey windmills all over the place!
I said that sounds like a joke, and he said “stop laughing, I am serious. The report is called ‘Investing in People’. You could google it up and see for yourself”.
My first reaction was to add it to the conspiracy theory. – 2004, Men in Black, talking to McGuinty — “OK, pilgrim, here’s the deal. We have cooked up this report calling for closing down rural Ontario, you better show progress on making it happen, or your Autopact is gone, also we will make sure the Toronto Maple Leafs never ever wins a Stanley cup.”
My second thought was to think this is too far-fetched to be fiction, so I better google it. OMIGAWD, he is right. The report is called “Investing in People- creating a Human Capital Society for Ontario”. It appears they envision the golden horseshoe, or at least the Greater Toronto Area following the model of say Singapore or Hong Kong, places with no land and no resources. One of the sub-reports acknowledges that the growth of the GTA has been ‘fueled by growth in the service sector’; apparently they think wealth is created by flipping hamburgers for each other, with no thought as to where the beef comes from! If you wade through all the bureaucratese long enough, you will come up with the conclusion – shut rural Ontario down!
Investing in People is a big report; a whole lot of Ph. D.’s spent a whole lot of time juggling numbers. Well-meaning people, no doubt, and clearly well-educated people, but we see big-city arrogance and condescension shining like a beacon throughout the report, especially through the section on ‘rural and remote’ Ontario. They obviously start with the assumption that people who live outside the big smoke are some sort of sub-humans, no ambition or entrepreneurial or business skills, not capable of looking after themselves. It assumes our sub-human population is the cause of the decline of rural Ontario. Being impractical academics they are not aware that our decline is caused by the endless government interference and regulation whose main purpose is not what it purports to be, saving the planet, food safety, animal welfare and so on. Its main purpose is ensuring the wealth all goes to the city.
Along with these breathtakingly arrogant assumptions, they miss the point that wealth is created by actually producing something of value to mankind, shuffling paper and slicing and dicing government subsidies do not create wealth, flipping properties or investments do not create wealth, bureaucrats do not create wealth, the ‘services sector’ does not produce wealth. Rural Ontario produces wealth – who will produce wealth to sustain the new province of Toronto? With an empty hinterland and resources securely locked up?
Rural Ontario is the real Ontario, most people have roots going back many generations, 200 years, and the intricate connections between people is what makes a community. Greater Toronto’s population mostly arrived these past 40 years, those people are all newcomers, very few having roots going back more than one generation. It is not a real community, just a government-created monstrosity. Carpetbaggers!
Pursuing that line of thought, if rural is the real Ontario, this report could be read as the GTA’s Declaration of Independence, they propose to separate from Ontario! We have been talking about Northwestern Ontario separating, maybe this is a better answer — Toronto, whose culture and history is so different from real Ontario, should separate! Just take the incredible layers of bureaucracy and regulation and appalling piles of debt with you, and leave us the wealth you have been taking from the real Ontario these many generations, and leave us in rural Ontario alone! Good Luck. Don’t slam the door on your way out!
Of course the process of emptying the north has been going on for fifty years, and this report is only ten years old. So maybe I am right after all, we are being shut down because the Americans need our water, but reinforced by Toronto arrogance! Watch for that helicopter!

EPILOGUE
A number of authors have chronicled how government policy has worked to force the agriculture-based population of the US into the cities, ever since World War 2, and of course Canada slavishly follows so much of what the US does. However, northwestern Ontario is more than agriculture, it is resources, it is tourism, it is people’s life and home, and what is happening here is more than the general push from the country to the city.
And it still goes on – we see the Fort Frances mill deal founder on the province not being on-side. We see the government pledging perhaps a billion to make sure the Ring of Fire jobs all go to the south, much less a city at the Ring of Fire location and jobs across the north, while Minister Gravelle piously talks about the government supporting northern development. Perhaps it is just the colonial system in action, perhaps it is just city arrogance as my friend suggests, and perhaps it is all about water or some other commodity we do not even know about. It doesn’t matter.
We really have very little to lose. It is time we look at separation from the city – the new mayor of Toronto will demand that more and more provincial dollars (that is, our dollars!) flow to Toronto.
We in the far northwest have more in common with Manitoba or Minnesota than northeastern Ontario (even Thunder Bay), much less the rural parts of southern Ontario. My own feeling is we in the area stolen by Ontario (west of Lac des Mille Lacs) with our western roots and outlook would be better off in a province of our own.
But that’s just a side issue, the real issue is that it is time the real Ontario divorce itself from the artificial culture of the big city (built around the religions of environmental concern and multicultural ‘richness’). Action, not apathy is what is needed.
**********
I have appended a copy of some stuff from the ‘Dam the Dams’ action group of the 70’s. Also appended is a press release from the Northern Ontario Heritage Party (which I also supported), northern Ontario’s first political movement to separate. When it got to some 25 000 members, the largest political party in Ontario, it was such an embarrassment to the Province that action was taken to destroy it – now it is trying to resurrect itself.
APPENDIX ONE
Here are some interesting pages of correspondence from Dam the Dams. Following is a regurgitation of the text on the faded document titled ‘Water Diversion’
WATER DIVERSION
Leaflet number 1, 2nd edition, revised February 1972
A matter of grave concern to northwestern Ontario – to all Canadians
This leaflet is to inform you about what is happening – and suggest a course of action
For five years now, the people in the northern parts of Northwestern Ontario have known that surveys of the water resources in our northern areas have been in progress. In Nakina, in Nipigon, in Pickle Lake, and other communities people have expressed deep concern about this activity. They have reason to believe these surveys were connected with plans to divert our waters south to the United States.
Our elected representatives asked questions in the Provincial and Federal Houses. They got no satisfactory answers. We were assured this was ‘just a study’. But people talk to people. Surveyors told people it was a huge water diversion project. It became common knowledge in the north. But we could get no tangible proof.
A group of us in Thunder Bay decided to get the facts. We have been researching, collecting evidence, looking into the activities of certain government departments. It’s been slow work. And it’s still not complete. But what we did find out was so disturbing that we hired a plane and flew to the Pickle Lake area last August, taking photographs of work already in progress at some dam sites and interviewing residents.
HERE’S THE STORY –
YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW IT!
We are faced with a massive plan to divert Canadian waters (and power) south to the United States. It’s not just Northern Ontario. It extends from B.C. and the territories through to Quebec. The Columbia River, the Bennett Dam, South Indian Lake, Kettle Rapids, the Quebec Hydro Project, Northwestern Ontario all appear to be part of this plan.
Remember the NAPAWA scheme? — A gigantic plan to divert Canadian water and power to the U.S. It was dreamed up by the Parsons Co. of Los Angeles for a consortium of American business interests. This plan was endorsed by the United States Senate in 1966. Canadians were appalled. General A.G.L. McNaughton called it ‘a diabolical thesis’. The scheme dropped out of public discussion. We thought it was a dead issue. But is it? What is occurring now is either the NAWAPA scheme or something very like it. And it’s going forward across Canada, quietly, with no public debate, no chance for Canadians to know what’s actually happening. Strangely enough, it appears that even many (or most) of our senior elected leaders don’t know about it either.
Here in Northwestern Ontario the planning stages are completed. Provincial and Federal government agencies are starting ‘salvage’ operations to recover archeological and ecological information from the areas to be flooded.
The people at Ogoki and other Indian Reserves north of the C.N. rail line have been told they will have to be moved out. Central Patricia will be under water. Maps of the proposed dam sites are in our possession.
People who have seen these maps have raised some questions as to the feasibility of the project. We are neither engineers nor ecologists but apparently whoever has planned this ‘project’ thinks it will work. Engineers have inadvertently created ecological disasters many times before this.
All Canadians will know what this frightful scheme means to our country. Vast tracts of our land will be under water. One of our greatest natural wilderness areas will be ruined forever. Thousands of our people will be displaced. What it will do to Hudson’s and James Bay, to our climate, to other living creatures, we don’t know. We can guess. And what of Canada’s sovereignty — can we cut off the southward flow to supply our own needs once that flow has started?
We think you’ll agree with us. It can’t happen. It has to be stopped. We want every Canadian citizen to demand an end to this madness.
THE DAM THE DAMS CAMPAIGN
Our aim — to stop the planned water diversion scheme here in Northwestern Ontario and start a national movement to prevent other such schemes across the country.
We demand — 1) Full government disclosure of this matter. 2) No export of water. 3) No export of power. 4) No displacement of peoples. 5) Canadian resources for Canadian people.

WHAT CAN YOU DO
(paraphrasing, a discussion on organizing cells to fight this diversion plan, says there is a pamphlet near ready for distribution)
DAM the DAMS Campaign,
General Delivery,
Thunder Bay P, Ontario

APPENDIX 2
This is a press released from the Northern Ontario Heritage Party from 1976. It is to clarify the party’s platform of the north separating from Ontario and forming a new province of its own.

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