East Ontario wardens lobby province
Improving infrastructure resources and removing barriers to new business growth was the double-barrelled approach from Eastern Ontario’s regional leaders, during their meetings with the provincial cabinet in Windsor.
The delegation from the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (EOWC) pressed provincial ministers for government policies that would both improve economic development opportunities within the region and help encourage residential growth. Reasonable energy rates, including the option of natural gas instead of hydro for heating, and several other key regional issues made up the EOWC lobby portfolio during the annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference.
“In the case of energy costs, they are increasing at an unprecedented rate, with no end in sight,” stated Peter Emon, EOWC chairman and current warden for Renfrew County, “and the reality is that rural customers are shouldering a disproportionate burden compared to their urban counterparts.
High energy costs force families to choose between electricity bills and other basic necessities and services, posing a growing threat of ‘energy poverty’ across our region and the province. They also hurt the growth potential of our businesses, which have also expressed the need to address grid reliability issues and high expansion costs.”
The EOWC is pressing the province for expansion of natural gas service into more rural areas, both to benefit area residents and existing and future commercial development. The caucus also urged immediate improvement and expansion of the hydro power grid to “serve the growing needs of businesses and industries across the region.”
Other economic development assistance suggestions from the EOWC include improved access to mobile broadband service for both commercial and residential customers by closing the current coverage gaps in existing cellular service networks; building a first responder public safety network that will serve as a model for both the provincial and federal levels; provincial policy planning focus on ways to help grow the rural economy of Eastern Ontario instead of creating more barriers to development; policy help to deal with the rising cost for OPP and other emergency services, which affect municipalities’ ability to invest in their local infrastructure.
The EOWC also presented its own brief to the provincial energy ministry with recommendations for Ontario’s next long-term energy plan. The white paper report suggests needed infrastructure investment for expansion of energy supply systems, providing reliable links for natural gas and electricity to rural and remote areas of Eastern Ontario, and working on “more affordable” energy supply plans for rural communities.
“We spoke directly with Ontario ministers about concerns that create significant financial burdens on municipal budgets,” stated Guy Desjardins, warden for Prescott-Russell, “such as the rising cost of policing and emergency services, the broken interest arbitra- tion system contributing to those escalating costs, and the current legal system known as joint and several liability, that holds municipalities financially responsible for issues often out of their control and jurisdictions, and raises their insurance premiums.” Tony Surette, deputy Grand Knight for the Knights of Columbus (St. Edith Stein Parish council), presents a $500 cheque to Yvon Huppé, president of Centre d’aide Rockland Help Centre, for the non-profit group’s food bank operation. The money comes from part of the proceeds of the club’s various fundraising events aimed at helping the community.