Local delegates off to conference

Duane Hicks

Local delegates will be off to Toronto on Feb. 22-25 for the annual Ontario Good Roads Association-Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference, where they will attend workshops and speak with provincial representatives about issues pertinent to Fort Frances.
While the conference includes speeches, a “bear pit” session, and presentations on any number of topics, such as new legislation that will affect municipalities, Mayor Roy Avis said a major reason to go is the chance to speak face-to-face with various ministers or their parliamentary assistants.
“If we have a problem in this area, or we have a program we want to get moving and we need provincial funding for it, or if there’s some type of provincial legislation and we don’t figure we can work with it in this area, we have the opportunity to sit down with them, generally for 15 minutes, and discuss our issues and problems with them,” the mayor noted.
Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig said the local delegates—including himself, Mayor Avis, and Couns. Paul Ryan and Rick Wiedenhoeft—will have meetings with several ministries regarding:
•improving access to the Ontario Tourism Information Centre;
•the creation of “urban reserves” within the district;
•arbitrated settlements for emergency services;
•potential shortages of presiding justices of the peace in the region; and
•the upcoming expiration of the Pither’s Point Park lease.
Unfortunately, said McCaig, town delegates did not get an appointment with the Ministry of Finance to discuss reduced assessment for the industrial class, which has had an major impact on the 2009 budget and will echo into the future.
“That was one we really wanted,” he noted. “We probably wanted that one the most, and we were unsuccessful in that they are not going to talk to us.”
McCaig said OGRA-ROMA, overall, has proven to be a very worthwhile conference in the past, and he expects the same this time around.
“It’s a really good conference. It’s probably the best conference of them all—the most information is disseminated at this conference than anywhere else,” he noted.
“It’s very busy—you’re either running to meetings with ministries or sitting in on sessions.”
“When we go to these meetings, we really try and make them count,” McCaig stressed. “We’re spending money to send people to them and we try to get as much value out of them as we can, either through gathering information or advocating the various ministries on behalf of our town and region.”