Rural concerns shared at AMO

·3 min read

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — Municipalities and townships surrounding Thunder Bay were well represented at the Association of Municipalities Ontario general meeting held Aug. 14-17 in Ottawa.

It included Municipality of Shuniah Mayor Wendy Landry, who is also the president of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA).

One of Landry’s main concerns, for both Shuniah and NOMA, was the resurrection of a proposal from the Ontario government that would see health units pared down from 35 to 10 as well as cutting paramedic services from 55 to 10.

“It’s not good for us in the Northwest because our health units and our (Emergency Medical Services) are so far apart,” said Landry, who was once again elected to the AMO board of directors.

“(The provincial government) would have a health unit for one big area. Right now, they have a health unit in Rainy River, a health unit in the Kenora district and the Thunder Bay district. It would become one for all of them and that wouldn’t be good.

“The modernization plan, (the provincial government) did put it on hold with the pandemic, but we’re just telling them that we definitely don’t support this at all.”

Landry’s NOMA team also discussed the fairness of the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund funding formula, the municipal taxation for railroad rights of way properties and the selling of crown land by the province for development within municipal boundaries.

On the Shuniah side of things, Landry, along with councillors Ron Giardetti, Don Smith and Meghan Chomut, talked to the appropriate ministers regarding new dock planning, senior housing, a designation for McKenzie Public School to avoid facing the chopping block, and produced their application and plans regarding the landfills in Shuniah’s two wards.

Medical services were also high among the concerns of Municipality of Neebing Mayor Erwin Butikofer, as well as the reopening of the Pigeon River Park, keeping the tourist centre open year-round and the expansion of the landfills.

The loss of the NorWest Community Health Centres mobile unit’s monthly visits will deal the aging Neebing population a large blow, but Butikofer said tightening of the province’s purse strings on more health measures could be catastrophic.

“I know that discussion (of paring down health units and paramedic services) has been out there for a bit,” Butikofer said.

“The final story’s in the details. I’ve yet to see any of the details what (the provincial government’s) proposal really is. It’s just like the health unit here (in Neebing). We didn’t see any details until they cut the strings off of us.

“In the grand scheme of things like say with the mobile health unit, some people say, ‘What’s the big deal?’ You go to Thunder Bay to shop, you do this, you do that and everything else, but at the end of the day, you don’t want to inconvenience people with everything they have to do in their life . . . at some point when you consider the amount you have to pay to the various organizations or various levees, you’d expect some kind of presence in the municipality. We’re losing all of them.”

With ministers meeting mayors, and associations chatting with ministries, many conversations were held among the 1,700 politicians at the four-day conference.

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