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City Highlights From 2023 ROMA Conference

By Adam Riley Jan 26, 2023 | 1:20 AM

(Adam Riley/Acadia Broadcasting Files)

The delegation sent to the 2023 Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference on behalf of the City of Thunder Bay has returned and they say the event allowed them to highlight many issues to members of the Ford Government.

One of those issues focused on mental health and addictions issues which the city among many others across the country continues to grapple with.

Councillor Kristen Oliver says the meeting held with Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Michael Tibollo regarding the city’s $34 million ask for funding to build a crisis centre in the city was well received.

However it was revealed the ministry isn’t allocated dollars for capital, and instead directs funding towards operations and programming in established facilities and organizations.

“There are significant challenges in our community and the Minister is very well aware, we’ve been having these ongoing conversations,” says Oliver who also praised the efforts of Thunder Bay – Atikokan MPP Kevin Holland who has been amplifying the city’s concerns. “Having that voice around the caucus table is really helping us.”

Undeterred Oliver says going forward the city plans to shift its efforts towards the Ministry of Infrastructure or the Ministry of Health, while still working with Mental Health and Addictions, in order to get the facility built.

The delegation was unable to secure any meetings with members of the government regarding funding for guns and gangs, Oliver notes however the conversations are still being held.

On the topic of crime Mayor Ken Boshcoff says his discussions with other municipal representatives from municipalities across the province confirmed his beliefs regarding homelessness, drug and crime issues.

According to Boshcoff what many perceive to be only Thunder Bay issues are in fact issues for almost all of Ontario’s 444 municipalities.

“There are very few that are unscathed shall we say, so this issue truly now is I would say, at epidemic levels.”

He believes all three levels of government need to come together to address the issues, citing the importation and trafficking of drugs and human beings across the country, and the impacts it is having on the healthcare system.

“No matter what kind of care they’re dispensing, is just overcrowded and overtaxed in terms of their capacity to serve the public so we have something that is really never been seen before on the planet at this scale.”

Boshcoff also took time to speak to provincial representatives regarding Alstom and local content requirements for various projects.

Specifically the province was asked to ensure a final assembly requirement for “large rolling stock” purchases, and that maintenance contracts are not considered as part of the local content requirements.

“The final pitch in this is that there be ethical and environmental components and concerns being included in any provincial procurement policies.”

The delegation was also given the chance to speak with Minister of Northern Development Greg Rickford, with a focus on several projects geared towards bolstering economic development in the city.

Topics and projects brought up in that meeting by Councillor Shelby Ch’ng included seeking matching provincial dollars for the Red River Road redevelopment, which the city has invested $11 million and is a priority due to changes in the city’s tax base.

“Our assessments are going down with our industry,” explains Ch’ng. “Which means the commercial spaces are going to be taking up a lot more of the tax base, so we really need to make sure those investments are there so that we can grow our assessment and keep our tax base healthy.”

Ch’ng notes other projects including the enhancement of Pool 6 and event management funding for the 2024 Ontario Winter Games were both well received by Rickford, and as a result remains hopeful the city will receive funding for those projects.


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