Local reps bend ministers’ ears

Sam Odrowski

Town council had the opportunity to speak with a handful of ministers about issues affecting the municipality late last month at the Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO) conference in Ottawa.

Mayor June Caul said council had a very productive meeting with Solicitor General Sylvia Jones at AMO regarding their Community Safety and Well Being Plan that must be in place by 2021, as mandated by the province.

Council asked for an extension to the plan and monetary assistance from the government because of the financial burden associated with its development.

“She did give us a couple of names and some information on communities that have either done the plan already or are further along than we are, so that we can get some information from them and maybe piggyback from their plan so we’re not starting from scratch,” Mayor Caul explained.

Although the minister didn’t make any promises, she said council feels it has better direction moving forward as they draft the plan, which will be used by all municipalities across the district.
“We talked at our RRDMA meeting and we all agreed that we would work together on it,” she said. “We’ll have community partners coming forward as well as political partners in the district.

“We felt that it would be easier because–right through to Atikokan–we basically have the same issues whether it’s alcohol and drugs, domestic abuse or the homeless problem,” Mayor Caul added.

The plan involves all community partners such as the local District Social Services Administration Board (DSSAB), health unit, and all social service organizations.

First Nations will also be asked if they want to be consulted on the Community Safety and Well Being Plan as well, according to Mayor Caul

The plan is meant to address issues regarding drugs, mental health, individuals who are prone to breaking the law, and domestic violence.

“It’s meant to address any issues dealing with safety of people, or people who attack themselves or somebody else in some way basically,” Mayor Caul remarked.

In regards to domestic violence, she said providing safety to victims is key.

“These people who do the abusing often just get a slap on the hands and then they’re let out,” Mayor Caul said.

“So there has to be safety in place where people with children and a spouse are safe in their home when there has been someone who’s caused problems in the past and they need to be dealt with properly,” Mayor Caul noted.

At AMO council also met with the Minister of Finance Rod Phillips and Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney to discuss the issue of railroad taxation being incredibly low here compared to other parts of the country.

“If you check with Alberta especially . . . it’s a tremendous difference in funding that they collect compared to what we do in Ontario,” Mayor Caul noted.

Overall, she said the AMO conference was very productive for lobbying in favour of Fort Frances.

“We’re able to remind them that without the province’s help municipalities can’t run themselves on just [property] tax dollars, we need grants and funds from the province to help us out as well,” remarked Mayor Caul.