When mayors, reeves and councillors meet this weekend for the NOMA (Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association) annual general meeting, much of their discussions should focus on the recently released provincial government’s Task Force on Rural Economic Renewal report.
The report indicates that rural Ontario residents are committed to the development of a vibrant, healthy and sustainable rural economy. Nothing is different in Northwestern Ontario.
It outlines steps that could be taken to help keep rural Ontario strong. Among its recommendations are: To work even harder to co-ordinate services; to improve access to developmental venture capital; to continue eliminating job-killing red tape to ensure that all communities will have equal access to economic opportunity; to enhance rural infrastructure; to ensure that rural communities have better access to business development services; to make improvements to the overall profitability of the agriculture sector; to provide financial assistance for infrastructure enhancements; and to enhance education, health and social services provided in rural areas.
But it also reports rural municipalities across the Northwest are experiencing declining populations, and lower levels of income, education and occupational status compared to other rural regions of Ontario. And it documents the outflow of youth attracted to new sector job opportunities—problems that clearly call for action.
So when it comes to the NOMA meeting, municipal governments should challenge the attending ministers and their assistants to quickly accept these recommendations and put in place programs to deal with the problems identified. Without quick decisive action, the Galt Report could simply languish on the shelves of provincial libraries.