Thunder Bay delegation feels their voices were heard at ROMA

By Kevin Jeffrey
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

THUNDER BAY — Mayor Ken Boshcoff along with Couns. Shelby Ch’ng, Kristen Oliver and Kasey Etreni made the trek to Toronto for the annual Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference and arrived back with optimism community issues have been recognized by those in Queen’s Park.

“One of the meetings that was positive, and progressive was with Minister of Infrastructure Kinga Surma, especially around the (Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital) property,” said Oliver, chair of the city’s intergovernmental affairs committee. It was great to hear that the minister and her staff have toured the facility and have a full understanding of its current condition, but better yet, the opportunities that are available with that building and that property.

“They recognize that there are developers who are interested in it and it’s a beautiful piece of property that would certainly help with urban infill and provide that further for us to meet our housing targets.”

The former LPH site was identified in the province’s December 2018 plan to accelerate the sale of surplus properties around Ontario.

Both Boshcoff and Oliver said they were also at the ROMA conference in search of a permanent solution to re-establishing a forensic pathology lab in Thunder Bay.

“We did have discussions with Solicitor General Michael Kerzner and Minister of Health Sylvia Jones about that, and I think it was recognized by both ministries that we are looking at how we can better streamline the autopsy process,” noted Oliver.

“Recognizing the pressure that it has on policing because obviously a police officer has to travel with a deceased person to Toronto for the autopsy. They also have to hold the scene here, which then puts more pressure on an added overtime cost.

“We talked about the issue from a compassion perspective that families don’t have to wait longer than they need to for grieving and mourning and to have any funeral service for the people that have passed away. That was certainly something that the ministries took away from our conversations as to why they should be considering a fulsome and permanent facility in the city,” Oliver said.

She is also hopeful after a conversation with the Minister of Finance, Peter Bethlenfalvy, about provincial downloading and the impact that it’s having on the municipal tax base.

“How do we ensure that the funding is attached to the programs that they’re downloading onto the municipality? We recognize and acknowledged to him that we have completed a services and program review here in our community. I have identified where we can streamline programming services in our community as well too,” Oliver said.

“How do we aim to work collaboratively so that we’re all essentially achieving the same thing and that’s better outcomes for people in Thunder Bay.”