Town lobbies for funding at ROMA

Sam Odrowski

Town representatives recently had the ear of members of provincial parliament and brought forward key issues affecting Fort Frances.

Coun. John McTaggart, Coun. Wendy Brunetta and Mayor Caul travelled to Toronto last weekend for the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference where they met with various ministers to discuss much needed funding and local concerns.

During their conversation with transportation minister Caroline Mulroney, they requested funding for the rehabilitation of approximately 400 meters of the Connecting Link Highway at the west entrance of Fort Frances.

“We are ready to do the engineering and tendering process with funds received last year,” Mayor Caul said. “Now we need funds to complete the project, hopefully during 2020.”

In addition to a request for funding, Mayor Caul said she also asked for revisions to the winter control standards for sidewalks which would give municipalities 72 hours to plow and sand walkways, instead of the current 48 hour requirement.

Another issue brought forward to minister Mulroney was improved bussing in the district for access to medical care in Thunder Bay and Winnipeg.

“With an aging population, this transportation is desperately needed,” Mayor Caul stressed.
During ROMA, she said Coun. McTaggart and her also met with solicitor general, Sylvia Jones to discuss the possibility of building a new jail to replace the current one, which is more than 100 years old and “in deplorable condition.”

Mayor Caul noted that when Jones had toured the local jail in August she was “shocked” by what it looked like.

She said she’d be looking into improvements in the future.

Jones has also spoken to jail staff and met with council previously regarding the issue.

Mayor Caul said there could soon be an opportunity to reduce the strain on the local jail; the Civic Centre will have vacant space once the OPP move into their new detachment, set to open later this year.

“We have asked if the government would be interested in renting the approximately 9000 square feet of space for some temporary relief of cramped space at the jail,” she explained.

“We stressed the need to reallocate the space for budget loss due to the OPP moving.”

The town also met with minister of health, Christine Elliot for their third delegation at ROMA where they expressed concerns surrounding local physician recruitment and retention.

“Our clinic is understaffed with doctors and our ER is overburdened because of this,” Mayor Caul charged. “We also are in need of an anesthetist.”

As well, she said they discussed new strategies for admission to the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM), a revamped curriculum and revitalized residencies for a customized and unique workforce plan for northwestern Ontario.

“We asked for the assurance of continuing stable and predictable funding . . . that will require residents from NOSM to remain in northwestern Ontario to ensure the physician shortage is addressed,” Mayor Caul noted.

In regards to the Ontario Community Infrastructure and Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund, she said council is happy to know funding will be stable through 2020.

“However the shrinking funds from the Ontario government make it almost impossible to afford much needed infrastructure rehabilitation and community services without forcing either a huge backlog of asset management commitments or raising taxes to the point that people can’t afford to buy other essentials,” Mayor Caul stressed.