On May 18, Emo residents were invited to a community strategic planning meeting with the Rainy River Future Development Corporation (RRFDC).
Facilitated by RRFDC executive director Geoff Gillon, the evening involved asking residents what they’d like to see in Emo and did a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) Analysis of the town from the residents’ point of view.
Those in attendance were given cards to write improvements they thought were needed in Emo. Residents who couldn’t attend the meeting sent in some ideas for change in the town ahead of time.
Among issues that seemed to be top of mind for residents who participated were doctors and infrastructure improvements and maintenance. Another big category was expanding recreation opportunities. People said they wanted to see more events for teens and younger kids, several cards were submitted advocating for an outdoor rink for the winter time, and some of the cards said were submitted asking for taxes to go down.
It was also discussed that decreasing taxes would not be conducive to increasing services or opportunities.
Some suggestions were broad including “Maintain infrastructure,” while others were quite specific and suggested the town move its offices into the former OPP building.
Several people noted that the town needs more doctors. An issue which is plaguing many municipalities and even entire provinces across Canada, Gillon was quick to add.
Strengths of the town brought up included the town’s facilities like the arena and sports fields. Others mentioned how the people in the town including store employees are nice and friendly, and how the town has two newer subdivisions.
Residents were also willing to point out weaknesses in the community, including the aforementioned doctor shortage. Another was that the town has no industrial tax base. There are of course, commercial and residential taxpayers, but a larger operation like a manufacturing company or factory would pay taxes at a higher rate than smaller businesses and residents and allow for more of those suggested town improvements to be made. The last weakness added to the list was that the population is aging. Someone in attendance at the meeting estimated that over half of the population is older than 55.
Under opportunities, those in attendance said that Emo is the biggest town west of Fort Frances, and there is lots of space for the town to grow into. Their currently stable population was also listed as an opportunity. They also added their position in the west end of the District gives them access to market opportunities.
Threats people mentioned during the meeting included the aging population which was brought up during the discussion of weaknesses. Another threat that someone brought up was that the town has train tracks at either end and can under certain circumstances be boxed in with little or no access to the rest of the highway and cut off from emergency services. Other threats were the fact that industries that employ residents shut down like the Fort Frances mill in the past or the fact that New Gold Rainy River will not be there forever either. Other threats included the region’s vulnerability to extreme natural events like wildfires, floods, and droughts.
At the end of the meeting, Gillon said he was disappointed by the turnout. Not even half the seats set out were occupied.
Gillon added that he would like to have seen more residents in attendance, there were only 16 people and that included some of the town council, including Mayor Harold McQuaker and staff. Gillon said he has seen similar issues with other municipalities he had held meetings with recently as well.
All of the discussions held at the public meeting will be compiled and submitted to Emo’s town council in an effort to put together a long-term plan for the municipality and goals for this council and future ones to work towards.