Feds not helping to fix highways: mayor

Duane Hicks

The federal government hasn’t been doing its share to help fix roads in Ontario.
That’s the message Mayor Roy Avis and Coun. Ken Perry got last week during the annual Ontario Good Roads Association/Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference in Toronto.
The pair attended a meeting with Transportation and Infrastructure minister Glen Murray last Tuesday to discuss the “Connecting Link” fund, which once provided provincial dollars—and matching dollars from Ottawa—to Fort Frances to do road projects connected to Highway 11 through town.
“The message that we were being delivered, just about throughout that whole meeting, is that the federal government is not paying their share to the province regarding road maintenance and infrastructure, and they’re falling behind year after year after year,” Mayor Avis remarked.
“The commitment should be around $15 billion a year and it’s quite a bit less,” he added.
Coun. Perry said the federal government only is giving about half of that commitment.
“He [Murray] just wants to see things turn around and see the feds step up to the plate in Ontario as much as the province does,” Coun. Perry noted.
“[Murray] said the province is giving two percent of the GNP [gross national product] and that’s what’s expected of a province,” he explained.
“Municipalities throughout Ontario are giving one percent, and that’s what they’re supposed to be doing.
“Yet the feds are giving .07 percent and they should be giving another two percent,” Coun. Perry said.
“[Murray] said the highway system in Canada is in an uproar right now because the feds are not funding their highways, and they’re not helping us fund our highways,” he stressed.
Delegates attended a round-table meeting with Murray the night before to express concern over winter road maintenance of Highway 11 and Highway 502, with Mayor Avis noting it seemed the other municipalities at the meeting had similar concerns.
Delegates also met with Natural Resources minister David Orazietti.
Mayor Avis said the town has made it clear it wants to have a seat at the table in the forest tenure reform process.
“We feel that it’s a very important process going forward, and that we should have at least the opportunity to contribute to the destiny of this area here,” he reasoned.
The pair also met with Northern Development and Mines minister Michael Gravelle to discuss a “wish list” of projects which might be eligible for government funding.
These include the demolition of the Rainy Lake Hotel and re-purposing of the property, infrastructure reconstruction of Scott Street from Reid Avenue to Colonization Road East, and fixing a portion of Front Street.
“Minister Gravelle was very receptive. He discussed it with some of his people at the table,” noted Mayor Avis, adding he’s looking forward to having a follow-up meeting with Gravelle here later this week.
Delegates also met with Steven Del Duca, parliamentary assistant to Finance minister Charles Sousa, regarding the changes to the Municipal Property Assessment Corp. and the assessment of properties in Ontario, not only for mills but landfills, wind turbine towers, and other industrial properties.
They were told there are 26 recommendations the government is going to put into effect in the next year or two.
However, they were not told what these recommendations were.
Both Mayor Avis and Coun. Perry noted that, overall, it was an informative conference with interesting speakers and workshops.
The pair also felt they were well-received by nearly all the ministers they met with.