Municipal leaders want a Northern Services board and they want it as soon as possible.
In fact, the Rainy River District Municipal Association is lobbying the province to give the Northern Services Improvement Act second reading immediately—and third reading by the fall, it decided at a meeting in Emo last Wednesday.
Fort Frances Mayor Glenn Witherspoon, who is also president of the RRDMA, said this was more than just being able to tax the incorporated and unincorporated areas for services.
If they’re going to be responsible for the services, they also wanted control over the budgets, he noted.
“We’ve been told that there’s a lot of priorities at the provincial level that would take precedence over this and it may not be a reality until next year,” the mayor said.
The bill has only received first reading so far.
“It’s now awaiting a vote on the second reading,” noted Rob Savage, press secretary to Northern Development and Mines minister Chris Hodgson.
But Savage blamed the hold-up on the opposition parties, adding that lobbying them might speed things along.
“The effort right now has to go into lobbying the Liberals and New Democrats,” he said yesterday. “If we had all-party agreement, we’d be happy to vote on it tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, unincorporated and incorporated areas are appointing reps to sit on the Rainy River District Social Services Administrative Board, which will be responsible for Ontario housing, “Ontario Works,” and child care.
In other news, the RRDMA also:
•agreed to forward an application to the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. to get provincial dollars for a cellular phone service throughout the district;
•support a resolution from the Northwestern Ontario Tourism Association (NWOTA) to preserve the economy of the tourism industry in Northern Ontario; and
•will ask the province to redistribute funds so that Ontarians will have access to the same level of public health services at the same cost across the province.