Area service board on fast track

Speed could be the essential for Rainy River District to have its own area services board (ASB)–and not be forced to join in with Kenora District.
Fort Frances Mayor Glenn Witherspoon said the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines wants no more than 10 ASBs across Northern Ontario. To help achieve that, he said it’s recommending the boards cover a population base of 30,000.
But because this district’s population falls short at 22,700, he noted the RRDMA is hoping to get Cabinet approval as soon as possible.
He added the only other district with fewer than 30,000 people was Manitoulin Island.
“With the directive that’s coming out of Queens Park, it’s very imperative that we get our draft finalized and passed by various councils, and moved on to Queen’s Park,” Mayor Witherspoon stressed Monday.
“One thing that would really help us is if Thunder Bay and the District of Thunder Bay could get together,” he added, noting that would “take some of the heat off.”
But Don Moorhouse, northern director of the “Who Does What” implementation team with the MNDM, assured the ministry was trying to be as flexible as possible–and not “prescriptive”–to allow municipalities to come up with their own solutions.
“As far as we know, there is no intention of having a population figure,” he said yesterday. “There is no prescriptive size.”
Instead, he assured approval would be based on the capacity of the group to deliver the services. And he stressed legislation still needed to be passed to give municipalities the tools to cope with the changes, particularly to allow them cost recovery.
“That’s what the legislation is for,” he noted. “Once the legislation is in place . . . then our minister will approve them.”
Meanwhile, the RRDMA isn’t wasting any time getting its proposal in. It’s working group met last night to hash out the final details on the proposal, with councils across the district to have resolutions back to the RRDMA by Tuesday, Sept. 30.
The draft proposal divides the unincorporated areas into three electoral areas, giving each one a vote. Fort Frances would have three votes on the board, Atikokan two, and each of the nine remaining townships one.