The Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) annual conference was held virtually this year due to the pandemic, where various levels of government attending for speeches, delegations and workshops.
From January 25 to January 26, more than 1,100 participants from rural areas in Ontario, municipalities, organizations, as well as provincial and federal governments joined the 2021 conference.
The theme for the ROMA conference this year was ROMA: Connecting Rural Ontario. This year’s conference was the first virtual ROMA meeting since the pandemic began.
Several topics discussed in the conference between provincial and municipal representatives included the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, municipal insurance, long-term care, economic recovery, public health, mental health resources, childcare, and broadband.
The Town of Caledon took the opportunity of this year’s conference to voice several issues that have been priority for Caledon.
These included COVID-19 assistance, improved technology in the courts system, increased broadband connectivity, traffic measures, GO transit services, Agri-tourism and the protection of employment lands.
“This is a great opportunity for Caledon to make our voice heard,” said Mayor Allan Thompson. “Despite the pandemic, we are continuing to work on behalf of the people of Caledon. Whether it’s better internet, safer roads, more public transit or support for agriculture, this is where a lot of the hard work gets done to make change happen.”
Mayor Thompson is the current Chair of ROMA and was one of the key speakers that led the conference.
He was joined by members of Caledon Council as well as staff who attended to advocate for the community. The Town stated the conference was an opportunity to connect with members of different levels of government and colleagues from across the province, as well as to bring up important issues.
Alongside Mayor Thompson, some other key attendees at the conference included Premier of Ontario Doug Ford, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark, Minister of Health Christine Elliott, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Ernie Hardeman, and several others.
Some of the major highlights of the conference included an announcement the investment of $40 million from the provincial government to assist small and rural municipalities provide the necessary services and programs for their residents.
The funding comes from the Municipal Modernization Program which is an $125 million project through 2022-2023 to help rural communities save taxpayers’ dollars.
“COVID-19 has highlighted opportunities for small and rural municipalities to modernize local services,” said Mayor Thompson. “This funding will help municipal governments to review processes and improve services to be more efficient and better meet community needs.”
In 2020, 184 projects led by smaller rural municipalities were funded by the province.
“Our government recognizes that COVID-19 has created challenges for everyone, including small and rural municipalities,” said Minister Clark in a statement. “By working hand-in-hand with our local partners, we have ensured that vital services continue to be delivered to individuals, families and businesses. The funding we are announcing today will build on the progress we have made together and allow for further review and modernization of local services so we can get the best return on taxpayers’ dollars.”
For further information about the conference, visit roma.on.ca.
Alyssa Parkhill, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Caledon Citizen