Rift over division
South Glengarry’s deputymayor is hoping to get the attention of ROMA officials whom he feels need to be sent “a clear message” regarding their refusal to negotiate the reestablishment of the annual combined OGRA/ROMA conference.
“I’m very disappointed in the actions of ROMA (Rural Ontario Municipal Association), complete disdain, as far as I’m concerned, for the will of probably 90 percent of the elected officials in the room at the OGRA (Ontario Good Roads Association) conference (February 24 to 27) when the resolution was passed,” Lyle Warden said during the May 21 regular township council meeting.
“We passed a resolution today, at Counties council, to send ROMA a clear message that we’re not happy and that we would go as far as to boycott their conference.”
At the upper-tier meeting, council authorized Warden Jamie MacDonald to “forward correspondence to both OGRA and ROMA urging them to reunify their annual conferences, and further advise ROMA that the Counties shall boycott future conferences until such time as the conferences are reunified.”
During the South Glengarry council session, Mr. Warden proposed that South Glengarry forward a similar resolution.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s total disregard for the taxpayers of this province because they pay for the cost of these conferences,” added the deputy-mayor.
“Municipalities across Ontario just cannot afford two separate conferences. They (OGRA and ROMA) need to go back together the way it was.”
Upset with the current arrangement, Municipality of Markstay Warren (east of Sudbury) Mayor Steve Salonin tabled a resolution during the OGRA conference in February calling for the OGRA board to “approach the ROMA board to establish a working relationship to organize an annual ROMA/OGRA combined conference.”
OGRA president Rick Kester subsequently forwarded Mayor Salonin’s resolution, along with a letter of his own, to ROMA chairman Allan Thompson.
Mr. Thompson replied that the ROMA board is not “prepared to enter into discussions with OGRA for the purpose of combining our respective conferences at this time.”
He added that the stand-alone ROMA conferences of the past three years (2017, 2018 and 2019) have allowed the organization “to better meet the needs of its constituents, and have strengthened ROMA’s influence and ability to advocate on behalf of the municipalities it serves.”
Both OGRA and ROMA have long histories – during which they have mostly operated independently.
Celebrating its sesquicentennial in 2019, OGRA hosted its first conference in the year of its founding – 1894. ROMA hosted its first rural municipal conference in 1934.
The two organizations decided in 1999 to hold a merged session and that combined format existed through 2016, when ROMA unilaterally decided to revert back to holding its own separate conference, starting in 2017.
Soon after ROMA’s decision, OGRA executive director Joe Tiernay, in a letter forwarded to member municipalities across the province, stated that his organization “remains open to reestablish the combined conference partnership with ROMA because that is the best way for both organizations to serve their municipal members.” The next OGRA conference will take place at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto from Feb. 23 to 26, while ROMA will hold its next conference in Toronto from Jan. 19 to 21.