The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.
The mayors of Northern Ontario’s largest cities say they are frustrated by the slow pace of the province’s regional growth plan and intend to come up with their own strategy paper.
“We want to quit talking about it and we want to look at the strengths of our respective areas and get plans in place that develop us,” said Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Debbie Amaroso on Thursday.
Mayors from Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, North Bay, Thunder Bay and Timmins met in the Sault over two days this week to discuss the province’s progress in rolling out the Northern Growth Plan it launched in 2011.
Amaroso said the Growth Plan offers a good foundation but implementation has been “frustratingly slow” and the mayors have agreed to come up with a strategy paper to be presented to provincial ministers in August at this year’s Association of Municipalities Ontario meeting in Ottawa.
“As municipalities, we are prepared to do the required work and take the lead on this,” she said. North Bay Mayor Al McDonald said the five cities know what needs to be done to help development in Northern Ontario, and are bringing forward a united front from the region the province has so far been unable to do.
“We’re united, we’re strong and we know what we want,” said McDonald.
The communities are calling for immediate action and less consultation, as well as strong investments aimed at economic growth. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the municipalities are pushing for increased funding. The mayors said they met Thursday morning with representatives from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp., which stays at $100 million this year, and FedNor, which will have $36 million for the region.
Joe Fratesi, the Sault’s chief administrative officer, said the communities will be calling for the funds to be “refocused.”
“All of us have a sense this is a new commitment to the North,” said Fratesi.
Each municipality is expected to put forward how it believes it can play on its strengths. For Sault Ste. Marie, for instance, that will include alternative energy.
The paper will include strategies for infrastructure, immigration, transportation, forestry, mining, housing, municipal assessment, revenue from the provincial gas tax, healthcare, education, energy, branding and skilled trades.
Sudbury Mayor Marianne Matichuk and Timmins Mayor Tom Laughren were not available to media on Thursday. Matichuk travelled to Toronto for meetings, while Laughren returned to Timmins where flooding threatens parts of the community.
Amaroso said the mayors together discussed a strategy to help each of the cities benefit from a revitalization of the mining industry. She said all five mayors have also backed efforts by North Bay and Timmins to preserve the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission.
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