Residents in the new Corporation of the Municipality of Sioux Narrows Nestor Falls have little choice but to work with the changes implemented on their community.
When Sioux Narrows council requested a provincial commission to resolve a restructuring stalemate, even it was surprised by the size of the area included in the new municipality.
“That’s putting in mildly,” said Sioux Narrows Reeve Richard Motlong. “It’s a little larger than we anticipated.”
Commissioner Arthur Wellington presented his final draft of the municipality last Wednesday—one that will cover a 18,000 square km area (a 60-km trip from end to end).
NDP leader and local MPP Howard Hampton also denounced the commissioner’s report, calling the size of the new municipality as ridiculous.
“In parts of the proposed municipality, citizens will have to pay long distance charges just to call the municipal office,” said Hampton.
Hampton said these “made in Toronto solutions” are not efficient in Northwestern Ontario, and argued native rights and local democracy were ignored.
The area commissioned also surprised, and angered, many Nestor Falls residents.
Leona Forsyth, chair of the Nestor Falls local services board, attended Wellington’s presentation last week. She said apart from one angry woman, most of those on hand quietly took in the information.
“I think people see it’s going to change, they sort of sat there and didn’t say anything,” she remarked.
A number of Nestor Falls residents had been opposed to the first draft of the commission but the final draft saw little change.
“I guess people were disappointed . . . I was disappointed,” said Forsyth.
With most of the population in Sioux Narrows, residents in Nestor Falls and the southern part of the new municipality were concerned they wouldn’t be represented on the five-person council. In the final draft, one councillor who will be elected only by southern voters.
A second councillor will be elected by voters in the north, with two more councillors and the mayor elected at large.
“That will help, at least we’ll know we have one councillor. Too many people from here felt they needed the voice,” said Forsyth.
There is no appeal process—a commission’s decision is final—so now it will be up to a transitional committee to work out the details before the new council is elected in November.
All current local service boards, roads boards, and councils will be dissolved Jan. 1.
“We’re going to try very hard to make it work,” said Reeve Motlong. “I think it’s do-able if both communities make it work and if the unorganized [representatives] come into it with the right frame of mind.
“There’s a lot of good people out there who want to make it work,” he added.
Forsyth agreed the transitional committee will have to co-operate but warned it remains to be seen how the change goes over. “You better call us in three months and see if we’re still talking to each other,” she laughed.
While the commission was requested by Sioux Narrows, it comes as a result of provincial pressure on municipalities to share service costs and administration.