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Livio Di Matteo: Economist diagnoses Northern Ontario’s economic decline


Livio Di Matteo is a professor of Economics at Lakehead University specializing in health economics, public finance and economic history. He holds an Honours BA from Lakehead University, an MA from the University of Western Ontario and a PhD from McMaster University.

In this interview, Dr. Di Matteo attributes the decline of Northern Ontario’s economy to the increasing mechanization of the resource industries and the resulting decrease in employment levels. Income flows in the form of resource rents and profits to government and corporations based outside the region, and the lack of jurisdictional sovereignty are equally responsible for the region’s stagnation.

According to Dr. Di Matteo, employment levels have declined seven per cent since 1990 in northwestern Ontario and one per cent in the northeast, while employment levels have increased 23 per cent in Ontario as a whole during the same time.

Northern Ontario’s share of the province’s population peaked at 12 per cent in the early 1950s, is now just under six per cent, and is projected to decline to four cent by 2046. With only four per cent of the province’s population, any political clout we currently have will be further eroded, he warns.

Government has made efforts to stimulate the region’s economy, but most of these efforts have failed because they have not addressed the core economic problems of the region.

While Northern Ontario as a whole lacks local decision making power and control over our land base, he points out this is not the case with the region’s Indigenous population owing to their increasing assertion of sovereignty over their traditional lands. According to Dr. Di Matteo, retained income resulting from the Indigenous community’s assertion of sovereignty has the potential to stimulate Northern Ontario’s economy and is an opportunity the region should be prepared to take advantage of.

An increased flow of immigration to Northern Ontario would also help to stimulate economic growth. If Sudbury had a population of 200,000 to 300,000 people, Thunder had 250,000 people and Sault Ste. Marie had a population of 200,000, the North would have a more dynamic internal market, more opportunities, more diversification and a stronger economy.