Strengthening our rural voice to bring sustainability to the North

Kenora MP Bob Nault and Minister of Transport Marc Garneau
Kenora MP Bob Nault and Minister of Transport Marc Garneau

KENORA – POLITICS – Last week, along with the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, I attended the Kenora District Municipal Association (KDMA) Conference in Red Lake. KDMA is an opportunity for Mayors, council members, and community leaders throughout Northwestern Ontario to gather and discuss issues pertaining to the North. The theme this year was the “Road to Sustainability”, which explored how we can continue to grow the North in a way that is environmentally friendly, but also sustainable for years to come.

Living in Northern Ontario provides a particular lifestyle: one that is very connected to the pristine beauty of our surroundings, including the boreal forest, wildlife, and our waterways. Many of us have chosen this lifestyle over the hustle and bustle of Canada’s urban centres because, as Northerners, we like to do things a little differently. Living a rural lifestyle puts us in a variety of unique situations. Transportation, infrastructure, and healthcare delivery, among others, all present challenges in our region. KDMA provides a stage to discuss and find solutions to these challenges.

In many ways, the North has made significant progress over the last few years. There have been a number of investments to help bolster the economy, connect the North, and improve infrastructure and services, such as housing, water, and transportation.

While Minister Garneau was visiting Red Lake, we took the opportunity to tour the Red Lake Municipal Airport in light of the recent completion of two safety improvement projects. An investment of over $152,000 for the completion of these projects came from Transport Canada’s Airport Capital Assistance program. The first project saw the purchase of a de-icer spraying trailer, which is used with a snow plow to help keep runways, taxiways and the apron clear of ice and snow, and the replacement of an omni-directional approach lighting system, including power converters and transformers, for Runway 26.

The second project was the completion of the omni-directional approach lighting system which is an important part of airport operations as fog and harsh winter weather are common in the Red Lake region. Replacing the power converters and transformers will ensure the new lighting system functions effectively.

While visiting the airport, we also took the opportunity to view detailed plans for the upcoming $10-million rehabilitation of Runway 08-26, Taxiways A, B and C, and Apron 2A adjacent to the Air Terminal Building. This project is also being funded through the Airports Capital Assistance Program.

Though our type of lifestyle may seem unique to some, we are not alone in many of the challenges we face. Other rural communities throughout the county must often overcome similar barriers, which highlights the importance of working together to make our voices heard not only here in the riding, but in unison with other regions of rural Canada. Our voice is important because, as rural Canadians, we contribute an estimated 30% or more to our country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In recognition of the important contributions and views of rural Canadians, the federal government has established a Ministry of Rural Economic Development, spearheaded by the Honourable Bernadette Jordan. Working as a part of Infrastructure Canada, Minister Jordan will oversee the creation of a rural development strategy, to help bring high-speed Internet to rural and remote areas and work with partners to meet rural infrastructure needs. This new Ministry provides rural Canadian’s with a voice around the Cabinet table and is an acknowledgement of the importance of our rural voice and our role in the success of our country’s economy.

Here in the North, we have seen and made significant progress towards bringing improved infrastructure to our region and modernizing our community facilities and services. Year after year at KDMA, my confidence in the municipal leadership throughout the North grows exponentially. I believe as we move forward, together, we will continue to grow vibrant communities in the North.

Hon. Bob Nault MP

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Bob Nault is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Kenora, where he serves 53 communities, including 42 First Nations. As one of the largest geographical ridings in the country, Kenora encompasses one third of Ontario’s land mass, and is approximately the same size as France. Bob was first elected in 1988 and ran successfully afterwards in 1993, 1997, and 2000, furthermore serving as the Member of Parliament for Kenora-Rainy River for over sixteen years. He was the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development from 1999-2003, and is a former Kenora City Councillor.