THUNDER BAY – The Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA) took a different approach to their meetings with provincial leaders this week in Ottawa. “There were definitely some areas where NOMA was very critical about government action,” said Mayor Wendy Landry, NOMA President. “We wanted to highlight that these are very real problems for northerners and that inaction is not acceptable. While we have had some success, there clearly is more to do.” said Landry.
Members of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA) Board were on hand to address important issues with provincial ministers at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference held this week in Ottawa.
This year, NOMA took a different approach and presented a report card regarding government action on important regional issues. The report card covered off topics brought forward over the past three years. In an effort to provide for constructive dialogue, ministry officials were given the NOMA briefing document late last week. This approach paid off as it gave time for the government to recognize and address areas of concern.
Problems with Endangered Species
One of the issues that NOMA expressed grave concern on was the Endangered Species Act and the plan to post a draft Species at Risk Guide to the Environmental Registry. The proposed changes to the guide would have decimated the forest industry in the north at a time where there has been increased activity and growing employment opportunities.
Northern Mayors were called to an emergency meeting with Minister Kathryn McGarry, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Minister Bill Mauro, Ministry of Municipal Affairs. Minister McGarry announced in this meeting that plans to post the Species at Risk Guide to the Environmental Registry will be suspended until meaningful dialogue with First Nations’ communities, municipalities and stakeholders would be completed.
“While we graded the government as completely off track with regard to the Endangered Species Act, providing our document to them prior to our meeting was a driver in addressing this urgent issue. We sincerely appreciated Minister McGarry’s announcement that the posting would be suspended until a consultation process with all stakeholders is completed. That is something NOMA has been lobbying for. We thank Minister Mauro for his advocacy on this issue with his cabinet colleagues,” said Landry.
Issues receiving a failing grade by NOMA included the lack of expansion of natural gas to northern communities, the implementation of a four year annual increase in aviation fuel taxes, the lack of a four-lane highway from Kenora to the Manitoba border.
NOMA addressed the Multi-Modal Transportation Plan and the many elements it included. Fairing a passing grade was the recent announcement that the government is studying the opportunity to provide a subsidized transportation strategy that will link communities in the northwest.
“Like the rest of the province, NOMA has recommended that the province provide an annual subsidy in an effort to ensure that we have safe, efficient and inexpensive transportation opportunities for our citizens. Further, NOMA has recommended that the funds flow to the existing carriers to provide for service twice daily to each highway community in the northwest,” said Landry.
NOMA was pleased with the meeting with Provincial Minister’s and noted that they were extremely engaged in the message from the Northwest.
“An opportunity to meet with the decision makers in the province is paramount in moving Ontario forward from all corners. We felt confident that the dialogue we shared provided the government with insight as to the realities of northern issues and provided some ideas on how to address and resolve our concerns,” added Landry.