Friday, July 31, 2015

Premier’s visit a ‘good signal’

Premier Kathleen Wynne will be in Fort Frances later tomorrow to speak to the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association membership, which is holding its annual general meeting here.
“That’s huge. When was the last time we had a premier of Ontario in Fort Frances?” wondered NOMA vice-president and Fort Frances Coun. Andrew Hallikas, noting that neither Dalton McGuinty nor Mike Harris came here during their tenures.

“I think it’s significant that she’s coming,” Coun. Hallikas said.
“Fort Frances is in difficult economic times right now, and the Liberal government has reached out to us through Minister [Michael] Gravelle and some other ministers.
“We’ve really been getting some good treatment from this particular government,” Coun. Hallikas added.
“So the fact the premier has found time in her busy schedule to come here, not just to come to Fort Frances but to come to NOMA, shows that she and her government are taking the issues of not just Fort Frances and Rainy River District but Northwestern Ontario very seriously.
“Coming prior to an election, that’s a good signal,” he remarked. “That’s a form of reaching out, and I think only good things can come of it.”
Coun. Hallikas also said that because Premier Wynne is coming, the conference probably will get a greater number than usual of ministers showing up for the ministers’ forum (or “bear pit” session) on Friday, “which is always a good thing.”
More than 150 delegates from across Northwestern Ontario will be here for the conference, which opens with registration this evening and then runs tomorrow through Friday.
All events, including the banquet, will take place at the Memorial Sports Centre.
“It’s shaping up to be a really stellar function,” said Coun. Hallikas, noting the annual general meeting is being co-ordinated by NOMA executive director Kristen Oliver but the conference is being hosted by the Rainy River District Municipal Association.
“There’s a large committee of local people that have been working hard on this,” he noted.
“We’ve gotten lots of help not only from the Town of Fort Frances and staff, but also the other district municipalities, and they kick in a significant amount of money towards the banquet,” added Coun. Hallikas.
“It really is a communal effort.”
Coun. Hallikas said not only will area municipalities be represented, but Treaty 3 Grand Chief Warren White will be here, as will Métis Nation of Ontario president Gary Lipinski.
And there’s more than one seminar about working with First Nations.
“In this day and age, that has to happen, especially up north here,” he stressed.
“If you want to get ahead economically, you have to work with all of your neighbours,” Coun. Hallikas reasoned.
“I’m really pleased we have some of those sessions going on at the conference.”
Coun. Hallikas said local band chiefs should have received invites from NOMA and he hopes many of them attend.
The NOMA AGM was last held here five years ago and will be “a terrific opportunity to showcase Fort Frances,” said Coun. Hallikas.
“The fact that it’s being held here, first off, is going to give us the opportunity to unveil our new brand to all of the political leaders in Northwestern Ontario, as well as cabinet ministers and the premier,” he noted.
“The other thing that I’m excited about is we’re going to showcase some local talent,” added Coun. Hallikas.
“We’re going to have the Borderland Orchestra under Katherine Williams, and I think John Dutton is going to help conduct, and they’re going to provide some music after dinner.”
As well, Pipe Major Bruce Lidkea will be piping in dignitaries tomorrow morning.
Coun. Hallikas said the conference also benefits the local economy.
“We’ve pretty much taken all of the hotel and motel rooms in town,” he noted.
Coun. Hallikas also reasoned that in addition to local media coverage, there likely will be media attention from elsewhere in the province due to the presence of Premier Wynne and cabinet ministers.
“What an opportunity for Fort Frances,” he reiterated.

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