Conference has packed lineup of speakers today

·3 min read

Thunder Bay, Ont. — Except for a last-minute switch of meetings, the opening day of the Thunder Bay District Municipal League annual conference went off without a hitch on Thursday at the Prince Arthur Waterfront Hotel.

The annual general meeting, which was supposed to open the conference in the morning, was switched to late in the afternoon with a municipal league board meeting taking the morning slot.

The 83 municipal leader participants listened to an eye-opening presentation by City of Thunder Bay drug strategy lead for community strategies manager Cynthia Olsen on the opioid crisis in Northwestern Ontario compared to the rest of the province. They also heard speeches by Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Mhairi McFarlane, Regional Food Distribution Association’s Volker Kromm, North Superior Workforce Planning Board’s Gary Christian and the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation duo of Laura Voltti and Sharla Knapton.

Township of Gillies Reeve Wendy Wright, who is also the second vice-president on the municipal league’s board, said she takes away quite a bit from conferences of this nature.

“(I take away) an awful lot,” said Wright, who has attended municipal league meetings since 2014 except for the COVID-19 years that were not in-person.

“This drug strategy one we just listened to, that was great. Some of the stuff I’ve read in the news before, not all of it.

“That kind of stuff was really interesting and this year in particular, because we’re actually back in-person, it’s really great. These people I haven’t seen in four years, except online.”

Marathon Mayor Rick Dumas, who is the league’s president, said getting the leaders of all the Northwestern Ontario municipalities in one room is beneficial for the whole region.

“As president (of the Thunder Bay District Municipal League), I’m a true advocate about the regional approach,” Dumas said. “I’m a representative of Marathon and the No. 1 goal for me is always about my community, but I also look at ‘What is the benefit for the region?’ because when you have a strong region, we all grow stronger and we all benefit.

“We’re better off by joining forces with (the City of Thunder Bay), joining forces with the 17 municipalities in the Thunder Bay district, we all benefit.

“Over the years, we’ve been able to develop all kinds of different programs and working in partnerships and sharing equipment, sharing purchases, working together. All those benefits come from these types of conferences working together with our neighbours.”

In a jam-packed final day of the conference today, Thunder Bay-Atikokan Progressive Conservative MPP Kevin Holland, Thunder Bay-Rainy River Liberal MP Marcus Powlowski and Thunder Bay-Superior North NDP MPP Lise Vaugeois will speak to the municipal leaders in the early afternoon.

Presentations will also be given today by Gary Ferguson (Salvation Army Journey to Life Centre), Shane Muir (Superior North Emergency Medical Services), Bill Bradica (District of Thunder Bay Social Services), Dr. Janet DeMille (Thunder Bay District Health Unit), Bill Groenheide (Ontario Federation of Agriculture), Wendy Landry (Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association), Paul Capon (Matawa First Nation) and Christian (North Superior Workforce Planning Board).

John Nagy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal