The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.
TIMMINS – Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s visit to Timmins for the first Northern Ontario Leaders’ Forum included a commitment to quarterly meetings between her Northern ministry and municipal and regional leaders.
Michael Gravelle, the province’s Minister of Northern Development and Mines, explained he’d be at meetings approximately every three months with groups such as the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA), the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM), the Northern Ontario Large Urban Mayors (NOLUM), and leaders of the First Nations and Métis Nation.
Wynne admitted there was a disconnect between Queen’s Park and the communities and people it services in the North that needs to be fixed.
“Where there are bottlenecks and where there are procedural issues that need to be addressed, having an opportunity to talk about those on a regular basis makes a lot of sense,” said Wynne. “We’re very supportive of Minister Gravelle’s suggestion that those (meetings) happen on a regular basis.”
Over the course of Friday morning, Wynne highlighted a panel of speakers which included most of the Liberal cabinet ministers relevant to Northern Ontario. These included Health Minister Deb Matthews, Minister of Natural Resources David Orazietti, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Michael Coteau, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs David Zimmer, Minister of Economic Development Eric Hoskins and Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation Glen Murray.
In the afternoon, the ministers split into different groups, and mayors and other community executives were able to go over specific questions and issues. Leaders from almost every city, town, township or community across the North were in attendance for what was being coined a “Northern Summit.”
Organizations such as NOLUM have long wished to have a louder voice to policy affecting the North, such as the government’s recent Growth Plan for Northern Ontario.
Though Wynne was careful to state that no one project defined her government’s vision for the North, she said the Ring of Fire was clearly a big piece of the puzzle.
After a meeting on Thursday with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Wynne had hoped to come to Timmins with news that the federal government had agreed to match provincial funding when it came to the potentially massive chromite mining projects in the undeveloped James Bay lowlands.
Wynne explained her original hopes didn’t exactly materialize after talks with Harper, but added she was more optimistic than she had been that the feds would eventually come on board with funding. She didn’t directly respond when asked whether the project could move ahead without it.
“I think it’s clear (Harper) recognizes how important the Ring of Fire is as an economic development opportunity,” said Wynne. “He has said he’s open to considering the development corporation, which is the mechanism we believe will get the infrastructure built. It was a good conversation and I’m very glad he was willing to engage with us.
“We’re not giving up on the Ring of Fire. We are carrying on.”
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