Leaders want action on mining infrastructure
Northwestern Ontario municipal leaders are outlining their priorities this week during the Association of Municipalities of Ontario annual conference in Ottawa.
One of those priorities, being touted by the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association, is that the province lead plans for mining infrastructure in the region.
“Northwestern Ontario is on the cusp of a mining explosion, and we need to ensure that both government and opposition members recognize the full impact of these developments for the province,” NOMA president Ron Nelson said Tuesday.
“This is not just a northern project as it has the potential to drive the economy of Ontario for decades to come,” he said, adding that “the province needs to take the lead by planning, developing and owning the roads and energy infrastructure that is needed to support mining developments in the Northwest.”
“It will be expensive, however,” Nelson said, “the return on that investment through provincial tax revenues over the next 100 years will be immense.”
In its presentation to cabinet ministers, NOMA said that the province has a key role to play in ensuring First Nations communities benefit directly from the mining-related economic growth; and that the government must work closely with workforce planning boards and training providers to ensure sufficient training and apprenticeship opportunities are in place to address projected labour needs.
“We are pleased with the discussions held with the government and both opposition parties,” Nelson said. “We believe that our message was heard and we look forward to working together to ensure the immense opportunity in the Northwest is fully realized.”
NOMA represents the interests of 37 municipalities from Kenora and Rainy River, west to Hornepayne and Wawa.
Another priority for Northwestern Ontario delegates at the AMO convention was traditional infrastructure funding.
Atikokan Mayor Dennis Brown agreed, saying that a consistent and adequate funding program for small municipalities is needed.
“We’re having trouble right now with our arena. The chiller is broken . . . and we won’t be able to use the facility this winter if we can’t get help to buy a new one (worth $132,000),” he said, noting that small municipalities such as Atikokan “need to have dependable infrastructure funding every year.”
And, the municipality’s share of a project cost “needs to be 10 per cent at the most. We can’t afford our share, even a third (of the cost of an infrastructure project) is too much,” he said.
Dryden Mayor Craig Nuttall says municipal funding is also a concern of that city’s council.
Nuttall said they had meetings with Municipal Affairs Minister Kathleen Wynne and Natural Resources Minister Michael Gravelle as well as FedNor Minister Tony Clement.
“We talked with Clement about infrastructure funding,” he said, particularly about the federal government coming up with a third of the $1.8-million cost of repaving Highway 17 through the city.
“The federal government is looking at a new funding program, and it was great to have a meeting to voice our opinion (as well) on where infrastructure money should be going,” Nuttall said.
“We talked to Minister Wynne about the city’s financial difficulties, and that we’re willing to work with her and ministry staff in Thunder Bay (to find solutions),” he said.
“With Gravelle, we talked about the airport, and the lease coming up with MNR’s (fire management centre there), and how we’re going to be fair about (renewing the lease).
“It was good to get the message out there,” he said, of the city’s issues.
Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs, who is also attending the conference, could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
Northwest municipal leaders are among 1,600 in Ottawa for the AMO conference which wraps up today at the Ottawa Convention Centre.
This year’s program featured close to 50 plenary sessions and workshops, and more than 75 speakers, reflecting the broad scope of municipal responsibilities. Topics included leadership, municipal law, infrastructure, energy and conservation, public sector pensions, policing costs, accessibility, social housing, planning, water and wastewater treatment, waste diversion, biodiversity.
Ontario cabinet ministers answered questions from conference delegates during an open session on Tuesday afternoon.
AMO is a non-profit organization representing almost all of Ontario’s 444 municipal governments.