Local delegates were on hand to take part in the 2023 Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA) annual conference and AGM in Thunder Bay at the end of April, with a handful of presentations resonating with Fort Frances mayor Andrew Hallikas.
As part of the mayor’s regular updates during Monday night’s town council meeting, Hallikas shared that he, along with councillors John McTaggart and Mike Behan, as well as interim CAO Travis Rob, attended the three-day event that took place from April 26 to 28 in Thunder Bay. According to the mayor, the conference was an excellent time for municipal leaders to hear from other municipalities who may be dealing with issues similar in scope to Fort Frances, as well as to learn about new or different programs or initiatives that might be of benefit to residents here.
The first day of the conference featured opening ceremonies, words from a number of political leaders, and a panel discussion titled “Building Relationships with your Indigenous Neighbours.” The second day continued to feature many panels and presentations for municipal attendees.
“Day two began with a presentation on the benefits of group purchasing put on by the Canoe Procurement Group, a group that the Town of Fort Frances uses often,” Hallikas said.
“This was followed by a presentation on insurance with the theme that ‘Claims drive Premiums’ put on by Intact Public Entities. The first keynote of the day was next. The title was ’13 ways to kill a community.’ It was an excellent presentation by an author named Doug Griffiths. He has written a book of the same title, which is available online. I have his contact info if anyone is interested in reading his book. The final presentation before lunch was put on by the Ontario Forestry Industry (OFI) and was on transforming the future. The presenter was Ian Dunn the President and CEO of the OFI.”
Hallikas noted the afternoon session featured five different presentations on energy, presented by Ontario Power Generation, TC Energy, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), Hydro One, and Enbridge.
“It was interesting to note the competition between electrical energy suppliers and natural gas suppliers, and the different way in which they used statistics,” he said.
The Association of Local Public Health Agencies and Nuclear Waste Management Organization were also featured presenters on the second day of the conference.
On the third day of the conference, Hallikas highlighted two presentations of note, the first of which came from the Town of Marathon. That presentation showcased the town’s student councillor program, which Hallikas said “wowed the house.”
“The presentation was done by one of their student interns,” he said.
“They did a superlative job of convincing most delegates that this program was worth looking into. I spoke with Mayor Rick Dumas later and asked him to send us his town’s policy on student interns.”
Hallikas also brought attention to one of the final presentations of the conference, a discussion on phragmites and the potential devastation they could bring to the region if left unchecked. Phragmites (pronounced frag-MY-tees) are an invasive species of wetland grass also known as the European common reed, common reed or common reed grass that forms “dense, near monoculture stands,” five or more metres tall and with a density of over 200 stems per square metre, according to a document prepared by the Ontario Invasive Plant Council. The species was noted as Canada’s worst invasive plant species in 2005.
Hallikas said the presentation was well done, and strove to impart the concern that northern municipalities should have in regards to dealing with the threat phragmites presents to local waterways and ecologies.
“They remind me of Day of the Triffids,” Hallikas remarked.