Northern Mayors Task Force/Northeastern Ontario Municipal Association (NEOMA) Policy Paper (February 28, 2011)

PRESENTATION to Minister Michael Gravelle, Ministry of Northern Development, Mines & Forestry

Submitted by: Northern Mayors Task Force Northeastern Ontario Municipal Association (NEOMA)

February 28, 2011
Toronto, Ontario

On behalf of the Northern Mayors Task Force and the Northeastern Ontario Municipal Association (NEOMA), we would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.

Northern municipal governments are united in their aspirations for the future of those it serves. Northern municipal governments are tasked with building communities, balancing budgets and delivering a wealth of services. Our objectives are grounded in knowledge that much more can be accomplished when governments work together. We worked together to help weather the recent economic storm.

Although there are many important issues facing northern Ontario communities, we will focus on the following issues, which are of major importance to northern communities:
• Government legislation and policy
• The deterioration of the property tax base
• Infrastructure
• Energy
• Transportation

GOVERNMENT LEGISLATION AND POLICY

It is crucial to ensure that Provincial Policies and Legislation reflect the realities of Northern Ontario’s context in order to ensure that development is not inhibited. Currently, policy and legislation development are driven by the context of Southern Ontario rather than Northern Ontario’s context. Unlike Southern Ontario where growth management consists of trying to control and contain rapid growth, the North needs a plan to accelerate growth. Documents such as the Places to Grow Act and the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) largely ignore the unique circumstances of the North. Places to Grow and the PPS are better suited to addressing the challenges faced in the more densely populated and rapidly growing communities, in other regions of the Province.

Northern Ontario anxiously awaits the release of the Northern Growth Plan and trusts that the plan supports sustainability and growth.

The following two (2) examples highlight the impact of provincial policies and legislation and how they affect northern Ontario.

The Iroquois Falls Experience

The Iroquois Falls pulp and paper Mill operated by AbitibiBowater is a very important employer in Northeastern Ontario.  Consequently, Council, Northern Mayors and residents have been very concerned about the future of the mill if the hydro dams (owned & operated by AbiBow) were allowed to be sold to an independent operator.  The three dams (Iroquois Falls, Twin Falls & Island Falls) currently provide 80% of the mill’s electricity needs.  The closure of the mill would have a very serious negative impact on the community as well as the whole of the Northeastern region and Ontario.

Through a Press Release dated February 11, 2011 – AbitibiBowater announced it has signed a binding agreement for the sale of its 75% indirect interest in ACH Limited Partnership (“ACH LP”) to a consortium formed by a major Canadian institutional investor and a private Canadian renewable energy company (the “Consortium”).  ACH LP holds hydroelectric generating assets in Ontario by the Company’s Abitibi-Consolidated Company of Canada subsidiary (now AbiBow Canada Inc.).

The Waterpower Lease Agreement that grants AbitibiBowater’s privilege of operating its hydro dams on public land was not intended to create an asset that could provide a one-time enrichment to the operator of the Dam or the Mill.

The proposed sale of the Dams would crystallize the future benefit of the Lease and allow it to be diverted from the Mill at Iroquois Falls to the general corporate benefit of AbitibiBowater – to the detriment of:

• the present and future competitiveness of the Mill
• present and future employees of the Mill
• the economic wellbeing of Iroquois Falls, Northeastern region and Ontario.
Further, no value will be left in the community of Iroquois Falls as intended by the Government of Ontario since the lease was originally granted.

Iroquois Falls is disappointed with the lack of transparency being exhibited by AbitibiBowater to this point and looks to the Government of Ontario for assistance in solving this. Ideally, Town Council would be in a position to champion the interests of its most important employer and industrial taxpayer.  In present circumstances, however, Town Council has no choice but to guard against short sighted transactions that may be good for the short term corporate interests of AbitibiBowater, but bad for the long term interests of Iroquois Falls and Ontario.

In our view, it is inconceivable that the Government of Ontario would permit the Board of AbitibiBowater to take for itself and its private investors and bondholders, all at once, a benefit that was intended for the long term public benefit of Iroquois Falls and Ontario as a whole.

This would defeat the public policy purpose for which the lease was granted in the first place.

We ask that the Government of Ontario:

• Withhold any approvals for any transfer of the waterpower leases, or the power purchase agreement of the proposed sale until a full public review of this proposed transaction has been completed.  We hope the Minister of Natural Resources will agree this means hearing from concerned stakeholders and members of the community in an open and public forum as well as the proper disclosure of all materials relevant to assessing the proposed sale.
The second example is the enactment of the Endangered Species Act and the subsequent proposed approach for habitat protection for woodland caribou. This is another example of short sighted provincial policy and legislation.

Also, please see comments from Hearst in Appendix One (next posting).

The following highlights some concerns with respect to the proposed approach for habitat protection for woodland caribou under the Endangered Species Act:

• The Proposal does not incorporate maps which poses difficulties in terms of proposal evaluation. Caribou, natural resources and living in the North are all about geography and it is important to see where and how the different zones will be applied on the ground.  We cannot fully understand how the people of Hearst, Kapuskasing, Timmins, Cochrane, Constance Lake, Longlac etc will be affected without seeing maps and reviewing the collected data which supports the proposed zones.
•        The Proposal reflects a land use planning exercise but without the public focus and involvement that land use planning normally requires.  When the Cumulative Impacts Assessment and the Caribou Insurance Policy described in the Caribou Conservation Plan come to bear at a later date, because this Proposal does not address them now, economic activity may be further constrained or halted.  This in effect may create new “no-go zones”.
•         We are informed that Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge is not being utilized.
•         A Socio-Economic Analysis about the impacts of Ontario’s caribou legislation has not been undertaken.  The MNR is embarking on a complicated analysis of the effects of human activity on caribou but we are not informed about plans to measure the impacts of this policy on Northern Communities.  The Proposal now on the EBR does not commit MNR to conducting a Socio-Economic Impact Analysis. 
•         In Northwestern Ontario, the Ministry established the caribou line at the edge of today’s known caribou occupation, a scientific line.  In Northeastern Ontario, the Ministry has established an arbitrary line, perhaps to introduce caribou beyond where they are today. This is not a scientific line.  It is vital that Northeastern Ontario benefits from the same approach as Northwestern Ontario and local resource managers report that the Great Claybelt is not caribou habitat.  For over a year the Northern Mayors, NEOMA, etc have asked that the line be changed to reflect the reality of where caribou exist today.  We need to see the change on maps.

In conclusion, Government legislation and policy has had a net impact “on the way of life” of Northern residents. Northern Ontarians have as much right as anyone else in the province to live our own way of life and have the largest say in our own way of life.  The science behind the caribou initiative is not sound and this suspect science will have a negative impact on the way of life, the economy and the people of Northern Ontario, and more so, have a serious effect on their ability to provide for their families. We firmly believe that the woodland caribou population can be protected without sacrificing the economy of Northern Ontario and the way of life of Northern Ontarians.
 
THE DETERIORATION OF THE PROPERTY TAX BASE

Northern Ontario is an essential asset for the Province of Ontario and, therefore, should be a priority. In terms of economic output, the 2005 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Northern Ontario was roughly $24.2 billion, surpassing the respective GDPs of Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and all three of the territories combined. Unfortunately much of the wealth generated by this activity leaves the region in the form of corporate profits, Federal and Provincial corporate income tax, and resource specific taxes/fees such as the Mining Profits Tax, Crown Timber Charge, and Water Rental Fees.

Northern Ontario has witnessed a decline in the share of property tax paid by the resource sector for the last several years. The last five years have seen a 77.6% increase in the Federal tax revenue from the Ontario mining industry, and the province has seen a 109.8% increase. Municipalities however, have seen their property tax revenue from the mining industry decline by 4.5% during the same period.

Along with the above noted property tax revenue impact, many one industry cities and towns in Northern Ontario also have to deal with a number of assessment appeals from large industrial/commercial taxpayers. At the present time, the total assessment risk of tax base loss with respect to these assessment appeals is in the tens of millions of dollars of assessment and further property tax revenue loss.

The following highlights the Northern Ontario experience:

• In 2011, the City of Timmins will experience approximately a $6 M loss in property tax revenue due to the closer of the Xstrata metallurgical site and an assessment appeal by Grant Forest Products.  This $ 6M loss in tax revenue represents a 7.1 % reduction in the total tax revenue base for the City of Timmins.
• In 1990 the Spruce Falls paper mill in the Town of Kapuskasing accounted for 60% of the property tax base. Within the last number of years, Tembec has been successful with assessment appeals for their Spruce Falls paper mill on two occasions. The result of the successful assessment appeals in 2000, for the years 1996 to 1999 resulted in an assessment reduction of 40% ($8 million dollars) which equated to a municipal tax reduction of $2.4 million dollars. In 2009 for the taxation years 2003 to 2008, Tembec was successful in having their assessment reduced by $8 million dollars, and this equated to a municipal tax reduction of $2.2 million dollars. The assessment for this paper mill in the Town of Kapuskasing has been reduced from $41 million dollars to $24 million dollars, which represents their share of the tax base being reduced from 33% to 16%, whereas the residential section increased from 40% to 54%.

It is clear that municipalities that rely on resource development are severely impacted when there is a downturn in the economy.

The root cause of the many challenges faced by Northern Ontario communities is a fiscal imbalance that sees municipal governments struggling to meet growing responsibilities with shrinking revenues.

The Northern Mayors Task Force and NEOMA believes Northern Ontario municipalities must have adequate, predictable and stable revenue that reflects the true cost of funding local municipal priorities. All municipalities, regardless of their size or location, face fiscal challenges. New funding plans must be implemented through co-operation with the federal and provincial governments to provide political autonomy and revenue-raising flexibility. Municipalities are left far too reliant on property tax, a poor alternative, since it tends to lag population growth and has only an indirect connection to economic activity.

Municipal revenues are not keeping up with the cost of living, let alone the service responsibilities. Northern Ontario understands the province’s fiscal challenges but the North has been facing similar pressures for years. Sustainable solutions must be found to address the growing fiscal imbalance. Our system maintains the most potent revenue streams for Federal and Provincial governments – taxes on income and sales, leaving local government with a highly sensitive and relatively inadequate property tax to carry the load on such costly responsibilities as health services, social services, public transportation, waste management, water purification, public safety and roads.

For example, the City of Timmins relies heavily on the property tax base to fund its expenditures. Historically, property taxation represents 60 to 63% of the total revenue the City of Timmins receives. Another large source of revenue is from Provincial grants, and they represent, over the last number of years, approximately 24 to 28% of the total revenue for the City of Timmins. The City of Timmins is not fortunate to have other large sources of revenue such as dividends from public utility commissions, casinos and the like.

The most stable local government seems to have municipal businesses. For example, Hanover has its raceway; Kincardine has equity in a successful telephone/telecommunications company; the legacy of the Bruce municipal telephone system; Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury have casino revenue while Thunder Bay has a public utility.
 
In order to ensure predictable and stable revenue for Northern Ontario municipalities, we are requesting the Provincial government develop a mechanism for resource revenue sharing. It is important to note the following:

• Northern Ontario possesses an abundance of natural resources – forests, metals and minerals, and water, all of which contributes significantly to the economic wealth of this province. The cost of maintaining vital local infrastructure such as roads, fire protection, water etc. have increased and are demonstrated to be higher for communities in Northern Ontario than in other regions of the Province due to geographic and climatic conditions as well as the increased costs associated with servicing the natural resources industries that are predominant in Northern Ontario.
• Company’s profits have risen substantially and the Federal and Provincial governments have enjoyed significantly higher tax revenues as a result. At the same time, Northern communities have witnessed a decline in property tax revenue.
• The Northern Mayors Task Force and NEOMA strongly urges the establishment of a resource revenue sharing agreement which would see a greater portion of the wealth generated in Northern Ontario sent back to Northern Ontario municipalities, allowing them to provide the infrastructure and services required by local residents and local industry. Such an arrangement will ensure that strong and fiscally sustainable communities continue to thrive in Northern Ontario now and well into the future.
• The Northern Community Grant is currently set at $235 dollars per household for all northern Ontario municipalities. The Northern Mayors and NEOMA are requesting a $75 dollar per household increase to the Northern Community Grant, in order to help northern municipalities meet their budgetary challenges.
• The Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) remains an essential equalization program for many communities. For example, without the OMPF, Northern municipal tax rates would need to be an estimated 2.5 times higher than they currently are, to sustain existing services.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Northern communities require the resources to build, renew and enhance their basic infrastructure. This would maintain the quality of life that is necessary to generate jobs and investment in local economies. A guarantee of provincial government funding for infrastructure for years to come, will allow municipalities to make long term plans to upgrade the existing infrastructure within their cities.

Infrastructure renewal costs far outstrip current revenue sources. Northern communities are often unable to take advantage of current infrastructure programs because of insufficient municipal resources. The competitive and unpredictable nature of the current programs must be replaced with a program that has flexible eligibility criteria and guarantees funding on an annual basis. Smaller municipalities do not have the staff resources to prepare the detailed applications and engineering studies that are required prior to applying for funding. Therefore, upfront costs are huge, and there is no guarantee of funding. This dilemma can further deplete the already scarce resources of a municipality. However, it must be pointed out that Northern Ontario municipalities responded to the global economic developments of 2009 with their share of infrastructure investments. For every Federal dollar spent, and every Provincial dollar spent, a municipal dollar was spent too.

Solving Northern Ontario’s infrastructure deficit is going to require a serious commitment and long term investment from all levels of government. The conclusions of the Provincial Municipal Fiscal and Service Delivery Review – Infrastructure Working Table are alarming, and the need for action clear. Future fiscal requirements for infrastructure are much larger than the resources available to meet them. To close the estimated gap between actual infrastructure spending in recent years and what is needed would cost at least $5.9 billion a year over the next ten years. This amounts to just over $1,200 a year in additional taxes for every Ontario household, or an average increase of almost 50% to current residential property tax bills.  Northern Ontario municipalities clearly do not have the collective fiscal capacity to fix this problem. All orders of government need to be involved.

While ad hoc assistance, such as the Federal Gas Tax Transfer and the Provincial Infrastructure Funding programs have been useful, the elimination of the infrastructure deficit is a long-term commitment that will require strategic planning backed by long term financial support.

Therefore, in order to ensure the continued wealth generation of Northern Ontario resources, the Province needs to ensure better management, development and control of Northern Ontario resources while providing sustainable revenue streams for municipalities to maintain and update local and regional infrastructure.
Northern Ontario communities have experienced the following:

• Bridge maintenance and replacement costs – many studies have identified a direct relationship between heavy trucks and bridge costs. Overall stress on a bridge is one of the contributing factors that reduce the life of this type of structure. In this case the total load on the bridge introduces high level of stresses on the supporting structure. The weight distribution due to axle configuration may be adequate but the overall weight still needs to be carried by the entire bridge.
• It has been often referred in many similar studies, that one heavy truck can cause as much stress and damage to a roadway as 10,000 passenger cars
• Over the next 15 years, the City of Timmins will have to spend approximately $100 million dollars to meet government regulatory changes and maintain its infrastructure system. This $100 million dollar expenditure will only have a minimal affect on reducing our long-term infrastructure deficit. The City of Timmins will require a greater investment to reduce the infrastructure deficit.
• Timmins also faces a noticeable infrastructure challenge with its current building portfolio. The average age of the City’s building stock is approximately 30 years. Many of the City’s facilities have exceeded their useful lifespan and have served the municipality well for more than 40 years. The estimated value of the City’s 70 buildings and facilities is more than $100 million dollars. A building condition assessment study was undertaken for 32 key buildings within the City of Timmins (estimated value of $81 million dollars) which was completed in 2010. This study identified approximately $26 million dollars of required rehabilitation costs over the next ten (10) years. An estimated $32 million will be required to maintain the complete building inventory over the same time period. The City of Timmins is currently implementing strategies to help manage this huge infrastructure challenge however, it is clear that such strategies must be complemented by senior government partnership approaches.

The Northern Mayors Task Force and NEOMA are recommending the following for your consideration:

• The Province must develop a long-term plan to eliminate the municipal infrastructure deficit. This plan must take into account the affects of climate change on critical infrastructure and make the necessary resources available to ensure municipalities can protect the health and safety of their residents.
• Provincial funding needs to be put on a long term track to allow for long term planning, especially given the time spans involved in planning and building major infrastructure projects.
• The plan must be based on a real commitment to eliminate the infrastructure deficit and on agreed-upon investment priorities and strategies.
• The Northern Mayors and NEOMA are calling on the province to create a new infrastructure investment fund. This fund should not be a grant application process. These are inefficient and laborious. It should provide predictable sustained levels of support over a long period of time.
• We are also calling for infrastructure funding to help with the extensive social housing stock transferred to municipalities. This stock alone presents hundreds of millions of financial risk and exposure for municipalities.

Municipalities own almost 50% of all infrastructure – more than either the Provincial or the Federal governments – arenas, community centres, housing, transit systems and libraries – all requiring extensive modifications in order to meet the accessibility needs of a growing number of Ontarians. This too is a shared interest. We understand the benefits of inclusion. We understand the spending power of those with disabilities; however, most of it benefits the Province and Federal governments through consumption taxes.

While we are supportive of the accessibility policy for municipalities, it is a new unfounded mandate. The Northern Ontario environment presents challenges and we believe the province must consider a funding approach to help us meet this Provincial regulation.

In addition to the infrastructure demands in Northern Ontario, the downloaded responsibility to maintain former Provincial highways has created an even greater burden for some northern Ontario municipalities.

The cost of maintaining local roadways and the former provincial highways and bridges are now funded through property taxes. The Northern Mayors and NEOMA believe that there is a need to study the ability of municipalities to fund and manage responsibilities that have been downloaded onto them, such as provincial highways.

Northern municipalities are currently maintaining these highways but cannot afford to assume the annual capital construction upgrading and maintenance costs without major increases in municipal taxes.

ENERGY

High energy costs are putting much of northern Ontario’s energy intensive, resource processing industries at a competitive disadvantage, as compared to other jurisdictions. Failure to address this reality could result in the north devolving into nothing more than a point of extraction for natural resources such as minerals, metals and timber.

Northerners understand that electricity is a key tool for the development of our resource-based economy. Major elements in our economic development centre on the transmission, distribution and pricing of electricity.  These elements give us the ability to attract and retain industry. These resource-based, extraction industries are heavy users of electricity. Mines must go where the ore is. The electricity supply must be brought to where the power is required.  Significant barriers to our economy moving ahead are the availability of electricity where it is needed and the high price the Province imposes on that resource. 

Price, transmission and distribution of electricity has made it very difficult for Northeastern Ontario to compete with Quebec where companies are being offered 20 year supply contracts to move their operations there. While the Northern Mayors and NEOMA appreciate the current 25% reduction in industrial hydro electric rates for a period of three years, we would like government to extend the three-year time period for this rate reduction. We feel that three years is not long enough to ensure Northern Ontario’s competitiveness. A prime case for building good will would be a commitment from provincial leaders regarding what they would do to ensure Cliff Resources builds a refinery to process their chromite mined in the ‘Ring of Fire’ area in Northeastern Ontario.

The economic potential of the Ring of Fire is staggering, but there are major roadblocks that could diminish these benefits. As many as 500 people could be employed at the mine, up to 300 people in transportation, and up to 500 jobs could be created at a chromite processing plant. Each dollar of capital investment could generate $15 to $25 dollars of economic activity. On top of this, development of transportation infrastructure could result in more intensive exploration in Northern Ontario. A crucial consideration for the Ring of Fire is the cost of electricity. Xstrata closed its Kidd Creek processing plant in Timmins last year, in favour of processing material in Quebec, in part, because power rates in Ontario are much higher than in Quebec and Manitoba. Contrast this with what the Province did to prop up the auto industry in southern Ontario when it was in crisis. 

Since a chromite processing plant would require huge amounts of power (estimated to be 2 times the requirement of the Xstrata metallurgical site), electricity costs could well be the deciding factor for the plant’s location. Although, there has been a change to the Province’s energy policy to address power costs, this major initiative only provides cost reductions for those who use power during off peak hours. Such a policy suits the forestry industry, but smelters run continuously – they are not strictly off peak users – so the benefits of this program for the Ring of Fire are limited.
 
Sustainable competitive energy pricing is needed as an inducement to the private sector developers in order to ensure that the value added processing with the associate employment and assessment, occurs in Northern Ontario. The proposed Northern Growth Plan contemplates setting “a new course for bold action”. The Northern Mayors and NEOMA would respectively suggest that the time is now to start charting this new course and that the first leg of the journey can start with aggressive energy pricing that will stem the outflow of resources and jobs from Northern Ontario.

The Province’s Long Term Energy Plan must be addressed in an Integrated Pan-Northern Power System Plan in order to attract new mines, forestry operations and manufacturing facilities, as well as improve the quality of life and standard of living in Northern Ontario.  To that end, transmission infrastructure, including the North-South Transmission grid, needs upgrading to accommodate growth.

We recommend that the Provincial Government implement a northern electricity pricing regime and develop updated transmission capacity that makes northern industries more competitive.

TRANSPORTATION AND TELECOMMUNICATION

The North is in dire need of upgrades to its transportation and telecommunication infrastructure. In addition to much needed expansion and improvements to the northern highway system, Northerners need improved rail and air service as alternatives to driving for travel. What is more, our communities are struggling to cope with a fiscal imbalance that results in expanded responsibilities with virtually no increases in revenue.

Due to the size of Northern Ontario, communities depend heavily on the existing network of highways and regional roads. These links are vital, not only on a regional level, but on a Provincial and national level as well. In fact the two lane section of Highway 11/17 from Nipigon to Thunder Bay is the only road connecting western Canada to eastern Canada. The northern road system is vitally important due to the high costs and limited availability of other modes of transportation. Mining and forestry rely heavily on these transportation gateways and without them the firms will simply take their investment to another Province or country.

While the people of Northern Ontario greatly appreciate the work being done to improve Highways 69, south of Sudbury and 11 south of North Bay, there are other important routes in dire need of improvement as well. Nearly the entire portion of the Trans-Canada Highway (Highways 17 and11 North), wind through Northern Ontario, are two-lane and are dotted with treacherous rock cuts. As a result there are long stretches of highway where commercial and passenger vehicles are forced to share limited driving lane space, leading to delays and an increased risk of accident. 

The scale and efficiency of our transportation and telecommunication infrastructure plays an important role in the performance of all economies by providing a greater level of competition in an international marketplace, to move goods and people in a safe, efficient manner, and by allowing for the strategic location of industries.

With a changing global marketplace, it is imperative that government recognize this reality and engage northern Ontario stakeholders in a discussion aimed at developing and implementing a northern Ontario multi modal-transportation strategy and continued investment in wireless telecommunication capacity. Transportation and telecommunication infrastructure is a vital component of any industrial policy, and by design, a stimulus to productivity, growth and overall competitiveness.

What is more, our communities are struggling to cope with a fiscal imbalance that results in expanded responsibilities with virtually no increases in revenue. As a result, local governments in the North do not have the financial resources to pay for the capital and maintenance costs related to roads, highways and bridges some of which were transferred to municipalities by the Province. These costs should be uploaded back to the Provincial level of government.

In addition to much needed expansion and improvements to the northern highway system, Northerners need improved bus, rail and air service as alternatives to driving for travel.  

Inter-city bus transportation is important for a variety of reasons – a mobile labour force, commercial parcel service as well as health care.  The lack of population and competition in Northern Ontario has resulted in line runs being cut back and abandoned, leaving small northern Ontario towns and individuals at risk with no other forms of public transportation.  We want increased support for Ontario Northland as this bus service is often the only transportation option for northerners who need medical services elsewhere.

There needs to be a revitalization of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission as an economic development agent to ensure that bus, road and rail services in the 21st century supports the expectations of a demanding marketplace.  This would strengthen and prioritize key transportation links between the major urban centres in Northern Ontario (road, rail, airports). In other words, major investment should be put into the existing infrastructure such as roads, ONTC rails, and bridges.  Further, we urge the Province to work with all levels of government to upgrade regional and northern airports to safely accommodate larger aircraft as a means of reducing freight and passenger costs.

As you are aware, in order for the financial benefits of the Ring of Fire to affect Northeastern Ontario municipalities, a major upgrade to the Ontario Northland railway is required. If this does not happen, Northeastern Ontario cannot benefit from the Ring of Fire development. The Ontario Northland must play a critical role in the development of the Ring of Fire resource. The Northern Mayors and NEOMA fear that ONTC is currently not an active participant, either on the government side or with the development companies. For the long-term benefit of northern Ontario, we believe that consideration must be given to use this public asset for its intended purpose. ONR has a long history of serving the region, of working cooperatively with First Nations and local communities to minimize impacts and maximize benefits. In addition, shutting ONR out of the Ring of Fire will deny them the ability to realize revenues that can be used to upgrade their existing system and force them to seek additional public funds to address a massive capital infrastructure renewal deficit. 

WHAT IS NEEDED:

• the Provincial Government must engage Northern Ontario stakeholders in a process that will strengthen our global position and competitiveness, in discussions that will lead to improvements in delivering pan – northern Ontario, multi modal, regional transportation. 
• to revitalize the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission as an economic development agent to ensure that rail, and telecommunication technology in the 21st century supports the expectations of a demanding marketplace;
• to strengthen and prioritize key transportation links between the major urban centres in Northern Ontario (road, rail, airports). In other words, major investment should be put into the existing infrastructure such as roads, ONTC rails, and
• In order to maintain the level of service and viability of O.N.R. services, such as bus and rail, to Northern Ontario, we are suggesting that the Provincial government seriously consider transferring the responsibility and funding for ONTC to the Ministry of Transportation. Currently, the Ministry of Transportation has the expertise and the funding to manage this important economic development tool for Northern Ontario.
On behalf of the Northern Mayors Task Force and the North Eastern Ontario Municipal Association (NEOMA), we would like to thank you for your time and allowing us this opportunity to speak to you.

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