Plan to pressure the province for action on Ring of Fire – by Gord Young (North Bay Nugget – June 15, 2016)

Rising electricity prices topped the agenda of a meeting of the mayors of Northern Ontario’s largest cities in North Bay Wednesday.

The Northern Ontario Large Urban Mayors group – consisting of North Bay, Sudbury, Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay – has agreed to request a meeting with Ontario’s new energy minister during an upcoming municipal conference in August. The group hopes to lobby Sudbury MPP Glenn Thibeault, who was recently appointed the the portfolio, for changes that will provide some hydro relief for homeowners and businesses.

“It is the topic around the table from all of the mayors,” said Mayor Al McDonald, noting there is growing concern that rising electricity prices are driving industry out of the province and making it increasingly expensive for residents to live in their own homes. “We believe it’s becoming a crisis in the province.”

McDonald said the high cost of power is a dilemma for municipalities trying to attract industry. “They can go to Manitoba or Quebec. They don’t even have to leave the country to find significant savings,” said McDonald, noting he hears regularly from businesses that are concerned about the impact of electricity on their operations.

The mayor’s group also is concerned about the stalled Ring of Fire project and has agreed that Timmins Mayor Steve Black will lead the effort to pressure the province to forge ahead.

McDonald said North Bay is advocating for the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission to serve as the carrier for deposits from the site via rail.

The Northern mayors also discussed concerns about the impact of large property assessment appeals on their budgets.

He said North Bay isn’t the only community that’s had to make up for hundreds of thousands of dollars at budget time due to successful appeals by businesses to the Municipal Property Assessment Corp.

McDonald said North Bay and other Northern communities have seen large businesses hire teams of lawyers to argue their cases. He said it is unclear if the problem is associated with how properties are being assessed or with the appeal process. And, he said, the mayors’ group is going to take a closer look at the issue.

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