Proposal to go before ‘Smart Growth’ panel

The chairman of the regional “Smart Growth” panel is looking forward to receiving a proposal from the Northwestern Ontario Associated Chambers of Commerce, the Northern Ontario Development Network, and the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association at a meeting next Wednesday in Thunder Bay.
“Any suggestions, regardless of who it’s from or where it’s from, is of interest to us,” said Fort Frances Mayor Glenn Witherspoon, who admitted he has not yet seen any formal documents on the matter.
“But from what I’ve read, it looks like [the proposal] has the region’s interests at heart,” he added.
The proposal “provides clear recommendations that, when acted on by this government, will begin to build a healthy, strong northwestern economy,” said NOACC president Tannis Drysdale of Fort Frances.
The proposal puts forth seven “pro-active, pro-north concepts,” she said, including:
•regional “Growth Bonds” that would allow Northwestern Ontario residents to invest in their own communities;
•corporate relocation-expansion incentives to draw more big business here;
•resource-revenue retention fund that would restrict new taxation for the region;
•free trade zones at regional airports;
•provincial fuel tax reinvestment, whereby businesses that rely on extensive fuel use (such as transportation) would get some funds back;
•redevelopment of reclaimed land; and
•release of Crown lands for cottage lots.
If endorsed by the panel, the proposal will be passed on to the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines.
“We can’t see any reason this won’t be endorsed,” Drysdale said.
Next Wednesday’s meeting precedes the next NOMA meeting, which runs April 25-26 in Thunder Bay.
Mayor Witherspoon noted the timing of the “Smart Growth” meeting makes sense as about 70 percent of the panel also is actively involved in NOMA.
The “Smart Growth” initiative features five panels from across the province, with the purpose of evaluating how to promote economic growth in their respective areas.
The Northwestern zone will have as its priority the major issue of creating jobs and more opportunities for youth.
This zone includes the districts of Rainy River, Kenora, and Thunder Bay.