Northern [Ontario] leaders unite through FONOM – by The Daily Press

The Daily Press is the newspaper of record for the city of Timmins.

Municipalities speaking ‘with one voice’ on provincial issues

Municipal leaders in Northern Ontario have formed a united front on provincial issues impacting their communities. Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM) president Al Spacek, mayor of Kapuskasing, announced Thursday the organization is concerned with the impact legislation has had on the North.

“What do imposed Royalty Taxes on Diamonds, the Far North Act and the Caribou Conservation Plan have in common?” he asked. “The answer: They were based on limited consultation and little regard for the opinions of Northerners.

“In this provincial election year, it is important that the FONOM board speak with one voice on behalf of the citizens of Northeastern Ontario, and concerns about resource sharing and legislative policy development that affects the North should be voiced, so that they directly benefit the taxpayers of the North.”

Spacek said Northern communities are not benefiting from the wealth created from natural resources.

“The federal and provincial governments have gained considerably from Northern Ontario’s natural resources,” he said. “Federal and provincial corporate taxes have been on an overall upward trend with recent significant increases in tax revenues. This contrasts dramatically with the gradual decline in property tax revenues received by municipalities from the mining industry.”

Along with 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 to Northern Ontario municipalities with respect to these assessment appeals is in the tens of millions of dollars of assessment and further property tax revenue loss.

Spacek said it is crucial to ensure that provincial policies reflect the realities of Northern Ontario life to ensure that development is not inhibited. Currently, policy and legislation development are driven by the needs of southern Ontario.

“Take Bill 151(the Local Forest Tenure Modernization Act),” he said. “It offers no flexibility and a ‘one size fits all’ approach that rarely works in the North because of wildly divergent circumstances to make any business enterprise work here. It assumes an untested business governance model that could be disastrous in the North.

“With the lack of consultation in Northern Ontario, it seems that this legislation is being rushed through to meet someone else’s needs, other than persons actually involved in the forestry industry.

“Why were there no consultations in the North with either businesses or municipalities after the legislation was drafted?”

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