5.1 Preamble

Efficient, modern infrastructure is critical to Northern Ontario's future. Transportation, education, health, energy, water and wastewater infrastructure, information and communications technology and community infrastructure are the building blocks for economic growth. Throughout this Plan, policies and priorities are identified related to skills development, health, research and development, business innovation, sector diversification, and much more. The success of each of these will depend on the necessary infrastructure being in place to support and sustain them.

Transportation infrastructure, including roads, rail, air, and waterways, connects communities within the North to one another and to the rest of the world. Northerners often need to travel great distances to access work, education and health services. Northern businesses need to be able to reach markets around the world. For Northern Ontario's remote communities, winter roads and air transportation are vital lifelines for fuel, food, basic amenities and access to education, health and emergency services. An integrated, long-term transportation plan is needed to maintain and enhance the North's transportation infrastructure and to improve connectivity among the various modes of travel.

Information and communications technology infrastructure is now core infrastructure for businesses and industries of all sizes. It is critical to the delivery of education and health services and it has become mainstream in communications, social interaction and leisure activities. In a global marketplace, access to current information and communications technologies has become a minimum requirement for businesses to operate competitively. Infrastructure for modern and efficient information and communications technology is particularly important to rural and remote communities. It provides residents with access to information, public services, health support, education and training, and employment opportunities.

Energy generation and transmission infrastructure in Northern Ontario supports all sectors of the northern economy, particularly large energy users in the manufacturing and resource sectors. It also supplements the energy supply to other parts of the province. The availability of renewable resources, such as hydro-electric, wind and biofuels, places the North at a significant competitive advantage when it comes to expanding Ontario's renewable energy supply. Investment in Northern Ontario's energy generation and transmission infrastructure supports the growth and development of the energy sector and also provides secure and reliable energy supply for all sectors of the northern economy.

This Plan provides a vehicle for aligning and co-ordinating infrastructure investments to support its economic development priorities, and to meet the needs of existing and future residents. This requires working closely with partners including the federal government and municipalities.

5.2 Co-ordinated, strategic infrastructure investments

5.2.1 Infrastructure planning, land-use planning, and infrastructure investments will be co-ordinated to implement this Plan. Infrastructure includes, but is not limited to: transportation systems, water and wastewater infrastructure, waste management systems, energy infrastructure, community infrastructure, and information and communications technology infrastructure.

5.2.2 In Northern Ontario, the Province will give priority to infrastructure investments that support the policies in this Plan.

5.2.3 The Minister of Infrastructure will work with partner ministries, the federal government, and other public sector partners to identify strategic infrastructure needs to support the implementation of this Plan.

5.2.4 Infrastructure planning and investments will contribute to a culture of conservation by, wherever feasible, utilizing approaches and technologies that reduce energy and water use, increase efficiencies, and promote intensification and brownfield site redevelopment.

5.2.5 All municipalities are encouraged to co-ordinate with neighbouring communities and industry to improve the long-term viability and sustainability of infrastructure investments.

5.3 A multi-modal transportation system

5.3.1 Transportation system planning, land-use planning, and transportation investments will be co-ordinated to implement this Plan.

5.3.2 The transportation system within Northern Ontario will be planned and managed with an emphasis on opportunities to:

  1. optimize the capacity, efficiency and safety of the existing transportation system
  2. link major markets, resource development areas, and economic and service hubs
  3. meet the needs of the existing and emerging priority economic sectors and help implement regional economic plans
  4. enhance connectivity among transportation modes including rail, road, marine and air
  5. create or strengthen linkages between economic and service hubs and rural and remote communities
  6. reduce emissions and other environmental impacts associated with transportation.

5.3.3 In recognition of the vital role that the air transportation network plays in Northern Ontario with respect to economic development, mobility, and access to core services such as health care and fire protection, the Province will participate in efforts with the federal government and municipalities to develop business development strategies for northern airports that address capital and operating needs and financing options.

5.3.4 The Province will work with partners to optimize the freight transportation and tourism development potential of northern waterways and ports in an environmentally responsible way.

5.3.5 The Province will work with remote communities and other orders of government to realign winter roads and work towards improved access for residents of these communities.

5.4 Education infrastructure

5.4.1 The Province will work with the education, research and economic development sectors to increase access to education and training in Northern Ontario through innovative approaches to distributive education including:

  1. technologies to deliver on-site training in rural communities
  2. multi-use facilities for learning and training
  3. strengthening partnerships among school boards, training boards, postsecondary institutions including Northern Ontario's French-language colleges and bilingual universities, Aboriginal education and training organizations, distance learning networks, innovation centres and industry.

5.5 Information and communications technology Infrastructure

5.5.1 Investments in information and communications technology infrastructure will support:

  1. economic development, including the implementation of Policy 2.2.1, as well as the implementation of regional economic plans as described in the Policies in 4.5
  2. educational attainment, including the implementation of Policy 3.2.1
  3. access to health care services, including the implementation of Policy 3.4.2
  4. public safety and emergency preparedness.

5.6 Energy

5.6.1 The Province, working with the Ontario Power Authority and licensed transmission and distribution companies, will identify investment opportunities in Northern Ontario's transmission and distribution systems to maintain reliability, meet new and growing demands, and accommodate renewable energy generation.

5.6.2 The Province will work with Hydro One, the Ontario Power Authority, remote off-grid communities and the federal government to identify opportunities and assess the feasibility of long-term alternatives to diesel-generated power.

5.6.3 The Province will work with the Ontario Power Authority and local distribution companies to seek opportunities to increase the efficiency of energy use in Northern Ontario communities.