Growth plan to include all of Northeast – by Wayne Snider (Timmins Daily Press – September 27, 2011)

 The Daily Press, the city of Timmins newspaper. Contact the writer at news@thedailypress.ca.

Northeastern Ontario Municipal Association (NEOMA) representatives provide input into pilot project

COCHRANE — The two urban centres targeted by the provincial government to pilot the Northern Growth Plan are making a concentrated effort to include all areas of their regions in the project.

The government selected Thunder Bay and Sudbury to begin the plan. Both groups are including input from Northwestern and Northeastern Ontario communities respectively for a broader based plan.

Sylvia Barnard, president of Cambrian College, was at Saturday’s meeting of the Northeastern Ontario Municipal Association (NEOMA) in Cochrane. Her discussions with NEOMA was just one of a series of meetings with regional groups to get input to define a model for Regional Economic Development Areas (REDAs).

“When we heard from sister communities, the feeling was ‘here we go again, Sudbury gets everything,'” Barnard explained. “But we wanted to see consultation from across Northeastern Ontario from people involved in economic development.”

Previous meetings have involved First Nation communities and representatives from areas such as Manitoulin Island, Sturgeon Falls, Blind River and the Algoma Region.

“Thunder Bay is also looking at the project from a regional point of view,” she said. “While it is not complete, they are ahead of use. They were working on it for about a year before the pilots were announced.”

She said it is important to work as a region when it comes to economic development.

 “We’re making sure every community in our region has at least one opportunity to take part in the dialogue.”

Timmins Coun. Gary Scripnick was encouraged by this approach taken by the team in charge of setting the direction for the plan.

“In the Northwest, every community had a different idea and it was identified,” he said. “Your input is not going to be disregarded.”

Barnard said the REDAs are meant to complement existing efforts taking place in Northern communities.

“This is not one community vs. another,” she said. “It is not intended to change or usurp any existing economic development agency. It’s about how we can collaborate.”

NEOMA members divided up into five focus groups, with representatives from different municipalities in each group. They discussed the pros and cons of three scenarios developed for the framework of the the REDA, plus a fourth one created during discussions at a similar meeting.

The scenarios presented were:

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