Town delegates voice local issues

Duane Hicks

Fort Frances delegates were among the hundreds of people who attended the annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference Aug. 17-19 in Ottawa, where they once again got the chance to bend cabinet ministers’ ears about local issues.
Mayor Roy Avis, who represented the town along with Couns. John Albanese, Andrew Hallikas, and Ken Perry, gave a report on the conference at Monday night’s regular council meeting.
They met with Linda Jeffrey, parliamentary assistant for the minister of transportation, to voice concerns about the timeliness of funding announcements for “Connecting Link” dollars.
Mayor Avis said they told the ministry the town likes to operate under a five-year forecast when it comes to road projects, and that it’s not fair to the town nor prospective contractors when the province waits until July to tell the town whether or not a project will be funded.
Such was the case this year with the project that would have seen Scott Street reconstructed from Reid Avenue to Colonization Road East.
“We stressed that we must know earlier,” the mayor said.
Local delegates also met with Aboriginal Affairs minister Brad Duguid regarding the ongoing Pither’s Point Park issues.
They “had a very god dialogue,” and told Duguid Fort Frances is “always open for communication on this very sensitive matter.”
As well, they met with Energy and Infrastructure minister George Smitherman to talk about renewable energy.
Mayor Avis also noted they heard keynote speakers such as Senator Pamela Wallin, who talked about Canada’s evolving relationship with the United States, and Don Drummond, senior vice-president and chief economist for TD Bank Financial Group, who spoke on economic turbulence and even predicted the Canadian and U.S. dollar would reach parity again by December.
Other speakers at the conference included Premier Dalton McGuinty, Environment minister John Gerretsen, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath, and Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak.
Coun. Hallikas said the conference also was an opportunity for the mayor and council to meet informally with their counterparts from elsewhere in Ontario.
He added they often found issues Fort Frances faces are similar to those others are experiencing elsewhere, and that it’s a good chance to “compare notes.”
Coun. Albanese said conferences like AMO are excellent opportunities to meet ministers face-to-face and explain the needs and concerns of the north, which can be far different form those in southern Ontario.
He added it’s important for the town to send a delegation to such conferences to represent those concerns.