Concerns of Northern [Ontario] cities outlined to province – by Benjamin Aubé (Timmins Daily Press – September 18, 2013)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

TIMMINS – Like the black flies of spring or the relentless nights of winter, leaders in Northern Ontario are making it clear to the government they’re not going anywhere soon.

Timmins Mayor Tom Laughren was among the five Northern Ontario Large Urban Mayors (NOLUM) who met with eight provincial Liberal ministers at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario meeting in late-August.

At that meeting, the five NOLUM leaders – representing Timmins, Sudbury, North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay – presented a document titled Linking Municipalities and the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario.

Laughren hailed it as “historic” in its depth, explaining it outlines six distinct focal points Northern Ontario representatives will be pressuring the government on over the coming years.

“Anything we put in here was related to the Growth Plan, and it’s our ideas to how the government can push the Growth Plan forward that we believe that provide a benefit not only to those five communities, but of all Northern Ontario,” said Laughren at Monday’s city council meeting.

One of the key goals is to improve intergovernmental communication.

“There definitely is a need to build that relationship, and to have that relationship between municipalities, the provincial government – whoever that is – and the federal government is very important,” said Laughren

Other stated priorities for NOLUM are infrastructure, energy, workforce development, revenue sharing, and research and innovation.

Laughren cited the cancellation of the Ontario Northland passenger train service last September as an example of the lack of understanding and respect towards Northern Ontario.

“We really believe they need to get on with those studies and get out and meet with councillors, with mayors, with citizens, because there’s no way you can compare transportation in Northern Ontario to Southern Ontario,” said Laughren.

The cost of ambulances, the unceremonious cancellation of the Connecting Link program to repair crumbling city highways, and multi-million dollar expenses to meet new wastewater regulations were identified as other municipal concerns that haven’t been addressed by the province.

Northern Ontario represents 85% of the province’s landmass, but only about 6% of its population. Still, Laughren said Northern Ontario is “the economic engine” of the busy streets of Toronto.

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