‘Smart Growth’ plan delivered to province

The Northwestern Ontario “Smart Growth” panel, chaired by Fort Frances Mayor Glenn Witherspoon, turned over its final report to Municipal Affairs and Housing minister David Young on Friday during the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association meeting here.
“Our advice lays out a plan that will provide young people with a better future and the opportunity to make Northwestern Ontario their home,” Mayor Witherspoon said before a crowd of almost 200 delegates at La Place Rendez- Vous.
“We have developed an agenda of action items that will create economic opportunities, sustain communities, and protect an enhance our natural environment,” he added.
Mayor Witherspoon commended the province for creating the “Smart Growth” initiative, adding, “Premier Ernie Eves and Minister David Young have clearly demonstrated leadership in providing northwesterners with the opportunity to develop our own progrowth plan.
“We look forward to all levels of government, businesses, and other partners working together to make ‘Smart Growth’ a northern reality,” he remarked.
The panel’s final report identifies the need to build on the region’s exiting strengths and resources for promoting and sustaining growth in the northwest.
Among the specific recommendations, the report calls for establishing:
•a formal designation of a “Cluster of Excellence” in the forestry and forest products sectors as a catalyst for partnerships to promote innovation;
•a strategy to make broadband widely available across Northwestern Ontario; and
•a Crown land disposition process that operates as a more effective tool for economic development while, at the same time, protecting important lands.
Entitled “Shape the Future: Northwestern Ontario Smart Growth Panel Final Report,” it includes public feedback gathered at open houses.
It also reflects a broad-based community vision for how to build prosperity and a brighter future for Northwestern Ontario over the next 15-30 years by providing the provincial government with a long-term growth strategy for the region.
Mayor Witherspoon thanked the panel members for their hard work, and stressed the important contribution made by the public to ensure Northwestern Ontario’s priorities accurately were reflected in the final report.
The “Smart Growth” panel, formed in February, 2002, also in-cluded Thunder Bay Mayor Ken Boschcoff, Kenora Mayor Dave Canfield, Dryden Mayor Sidney Wintle, Marathon Mayor Pat Richardson, and Mary Mac- Kenzie, clerk and director of corporate and planning services for the Town of Sioux Lookout.
Other members included Don Bubar (president and CEO of Avalon Ventures Ltd.), Lorne Crawford (president of Northwestern Strategies Inc.), Sandy Dickson (provincial chair of the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Advi-sory Board), Cliff Friesen (executive vice-president of Bearskin Airlines), Patricia Lang (president of Confederation College), and Mike Shusterman (president of the Land of the Nipigon Chamber of Commerce).
Rounding out the panel were Michael McGuire (president of Ontario Métis Aboriginal Association), Harold Wilson (executive director of the Northwestern Ontario Development Network), and Harvey Yesno (president and CEO of the Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund).