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Oliver and delegation set to meet at ROMA

By Adam Riley Jan 22, 2024 | 11:15 AM

Councillor Kristen Oliver (Adam Riley / Acadia Broadcasting)

This week officials from municipalities from across Ontario are in Toronto for the annual Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference.

The event provides an opportunity for municipal leaders a chance to meet with each other and with provincial officials, including cabinet ministers.

Thunder Bay’s delegation includes Intergovernmental Affairs Committee Chair Kristen Oliver who says number of topics are set to be discussed, which she hopes will result in policies that will aid municipalities.

One of those topics is in connection to the potential amalgamation of the Northwestern and Thunder Bay District Health Units, according to Oliver, currently the City of Thunder Bay pays 83 percent of the municipal levies. Should that go through she wonders what that would look like for the City, and would it end up paying more, while receiving less.

“Should municipalities be paying portions of healthcare, should that not be delivered through the Ministry of Health using our income tax dollars. Those are the types of conversations we’re looking to have.”

Oliver adds the current model of cities and towns paying for services out of the tax base, which were downloaded onto municipalities in previous years, without funding from higher levels of government is unsustainable.

Social services, policing and housing are also on the agenda, with planned conversations with the Minister of Finance on the services and program review, an update on guns and gangs funding and the need to have a forensic pathology lab in Thunder Bay to support all of Northwestern Ontario and would negate the need for an officer to escort a body to Toronto for an autopsy.

On the housing front Oliver is hopeful of a decision by the province to use some high profile land in the north end.

“The former LPH [Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital] lands, what are we doing with that, that’s probably one of our best underutilized properties and beautiful piece of property we have here in the city.”

Conferences like this often see communities coming to the province with “hat in hand” for community specific funding grants and proposals.

But Oliver says the Thunder Bay delegation is ready for those conversations and takes pride in the work done by staff in preparation for the asks and discussions they will end up having with the provincial powers that be.

“We have a well thought out well written, well researched document. Intergovernmental Affairs, certainly I as Chair, and our committee as whole, are so concerned about ensuring the information we’re bringing forward is evidence based…it’s not some willy-nilly idea.”

The three day conference wraps up on Tuesday.