Date published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Alan Spacek, Mayor of Kapuskasing, and President of the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM), expressed his satisfaction with a high level meeting held with Premier Kathleen Wynne and Cabinet Members Zimmer, Orazetti, Gravelle, Jeffrey, Murray and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Energy, Bob Delaney Monday at the Ontario Good Roads/Rural Ontario Municipal Association Annual Meeting.
“We had a candid, full and frank conversation with leaders of the Provincial Government – the Premier, the Ministers Municipal Affairs and Housing, Native Affairs, Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines, Transportation and Infrastructure and the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Energy. What a difference a year makes,” claimed Spacek.
President Spacek, along with his Vice President, Tom Laughren, Mayor of Timmins and Paul Schoppmann, a Director on the FONOM Executive and Mayor of St Charles met for over an hour with Cabinet members. Mayor Spacek was particularly pleased that the Premier was in attendance. The tone of the meeting was collaborative and cordial.
Mayor Spacek, supported by the Northern Mayors and the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association, requested an increase of $75 per household to the Northern Community Grant to help municipalities provide infrastructure and services. Another issue discussed included the Ontario Northland Divestiture, which has been of major concern to Northern Municipalities. Northern Development and Mines Minister Gravelle undertook to establish a formal mechanism to consult Northern stakeholders on this important matter. “We need a Northern Transportation Strategy,” noted Spacek. “Involve us in your deliberations. We have a wealth of knowledge that can help address the complex transportation issues facing Northerners and Northern business.”
Spacek then suggested to the Premier and Cabinet that the Province, in consultation with FONOM and other key stakeholders establish an infrastructure renewal program that works in the North; save the North’s Provincial Parks from Closure and keep Northern MNR jobs intact. Electricity was another ‘big ticket’ item discussed, and FONOM recommended that the Province, Northern municipalities and other key stakeholders need to implement a northern electricity pricing regime and develop updated transmission capacity in order to make northern industries more competitive and open up resource development across the Northeast.
Mayor Tom Laughren, FONOM’s ‘point person’ on the Northern Growth Plan file spoke about the faltering Northern Growth Plan and recommended that Growth Plan address the growth potential of all municipalities in Northern Ontario. “I was pleased to hear the commitment to the North made by these Ministers today” noted Laughren. The Vice President of FONOM then said he was pleased that the Provincial Government “got back to the table to work with us”.
FONOM President Spacek concluded by saying “Ministers, we want to work with you. We have offered to help find solutions to these issues to help Ontario be strong – but to do that, we need to build on the strengths of the North. Let’s work on building that strength together in cooperation and not in isolation. Let’s both seek Federal participation in our struggle to make Ontario’s North a major, sustainable contributor to Canada’s and Ontario’s economic well-being.”