Changes ahead for municipalities

From drinking water to the spring bear hunt, the changes lying before Ontario municipalities were clear, Fort Frances Mayor Glenn Witherspoon said after returning from the annual meeting of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario last week in Toronto.
“The premier [Ernie Eves] had a very interesting speech on tax-free zones and business incentives,” the mayor told council at its regular meeting here Monday night.
“The government will be spending an estimated $1 billion in Opportunity Bonds to provincial tax exemption to investors,” he noted. “They certainly realize the economy needs to be stimulated, especially to attract American investors.”
Eves’ speech also referred to a commitment to discuss how multi-year funding could be introduced into municipal planning and budget cycles, and an invitation to municipalities to host one of six pilot projects for the proposed tax-incentive zones.
Mayor Witherspoon said he’s interested in hearing more details on how the latter pilot projects will develop. “I guess we have a good a chance as any to be one,” he remarked.
The mayor also assured council there would be some word on both the proposed remand centre and youth detention facility here in the next month or so after speaking with Public Safety and Security minister Bob Runciman at the AMO meeting.
Meanwhile, with black bears on the prowl both here and elsewhere at this time of year, Mayor Witherspoon noted every single municipality in attendance at the conference voted to reinstate the spring bear hunt.
The mayor also said the new Safe Water Drinking Act was something council had to keep on top of.
“There was also a lot of talk with regards to Walkerton. At one of the workshops, we learned councillors have to be told how the water is treated in their municipality.
“We are going to be held accountable for an inadequate person running our systems,” he warned.
And as previously reported in last week’s Times, Thunder Bay Mayor Ken Boshcoff was elected AMO president at the conference. Council here had voted to support Boshcoff’s candidacy earlier this year.
“We got our man elected so the north is going to be attended to very well,” Mayor Witherspoon said.
The mayor added he, Fort Frances CAO Bill Naturkach, and Emo Reeve Russ Fortier also made a point to meet with representatives of the ministries of Transportation, Municipal Affairs and Housing, and Northern Development and Mines at the AMO meeting, which ran from Aug. 18-21.