Following up on a resolution from the local Economic Development Advisory Committee, the Town of Fort Frances will call a meeting of municipalities from Northwestern Ontario to discuss lobbying for the relocation of the Tourist Information Centre here.
“I don’t know successful it will be,” admitted Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig, noting there was only one presentation in regards to the Tourist Information Centre made at the recent Tourism Competitiveness Study consultation in Kenora—the one by Mayor Roy Avis.
“We can take a shot at it. We can ask if there’s interest to do it,” he remarked. “If there is favourable interest in it, we can probably host a meeting here.”
Coun. Ken Perry suggested having the meeting in conjunction with another meeting, such as NOMA, but McCaig said April is too far away and that the issue has to be pressed now.
McCaig said the town has “gone to the well” time and time again, and told the Ministry of Tourism the current location of the Tourist Information Centre has been compromised since the construction of the new Canada Customs facility.
“I am not going to sit here and tell you I think it’s any further along,” he said.
“We’ve been talking about a specific problem in a specific town that’s been affecting a broad region. What the problem is is there’s a lost opportunity to market all the tourism opportunities the northwest offers,” argued McCaig. “The downturn in traffic through that facility is immense.”
“The irony in this is Fort Frances will not benefit from the relocation, it’s going to be Northwestern Ontario,” said Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft. “They’re the people that get their information out. We are the gateway. We’re going to benefit very little.
“I think the point has to be made to the Northwestern Ontario communities that if you want to see this done, somebody here has got to take the lead,” he added. “Fort Frances is willing to take the lead, but we cannot go this alone. The point has to be made to these guys to get off their butts and get involved in this process.
“Because the only way we’re going to make an impact with the ministry is if we come at them from all over Northwestern Ontario—Kenora, Dryden, Red Lake, Sioux Lookout, the Rainy River District, the whole works,” Coun. Wiedenhoeft stressed. “We’ve got to get together on this or it’s a lost cause.”
“We can’t financially take the lead on this as a municipality. It has to be done by the province because it affects all of Northwestern Ontario. But we as a community can . . . offer our assistance or coordinate meetings,” agreed Mayor Avis. “It’s up to the government to make a difference. We have to get our message out there to the municipalities.”
McCaig noted any tourism operators, hotels, or businesses are affected by the location of the Tourist Information Centre, and have written letters to the town asking what’s being done about it, should come forward and get involved in lobbying.
“We have been actively engaged, we’ve been the primary participant in this exercise. We’ve done numerous things and we’re looking for you to jump in and help,” he said.
“But we absolutely have not had our head in the sand on this. This council and the previous council have been actively engaged in this,” he added. “It kind of feels like we’re the only ones participating.”