Central Manitoulin maintains stance in not providing operational funding for Manitoulin Welcome Centre

The Welcome Centre, built to provide information for the travelling public, opened for business for the 2020 season last Friday and Northeast Town Mayor Al MacNevin, second from right, dropped by to visit the bright, newly painted centre and welcome two of the students, who will be part of the staff this summer, to their new important positions. They are, second from left, Regan Hutchinson and, at the right, Morgan Hall. Welcome Centre manager Lisa Hallaert is on the left. The Welcome Centre is located on Highway 6, the first stop on Manitoulin past the swing bridge. It will be staffed seven days a week, 10 am to 8 pm during the summer months.

MINDEMOYA – Central Manitoulin council has once again voted in opposition to continue supplying operational funds to the Manitoulin Welcome Centre in Little Current. 

Councillor Dale Scott noted that the finance and economic development committee had, at its most recent meeting, passed a motion that council continue the Manitoulin Tourism Information Centre discussion at its council meeting. “I’ll open this up to questions and whether there is any interest in participating in the tourism centre.”

“Fundamentally, nothing has changed to the proposal, except that the costs (to participate) have gone up,” said Councillor Steve Shaffer. “I don’t see supporting another building outside the municipality to hand out brochures and materials. If it included the entire Island, maybe, but we have our own information centre; it’s time to cut ties to this building, there is no agreement in place with the Town of NEMI or the MTA (Manitoulin Tourism Association, which has since rebranded to Destination Manitoulin Island). We decided last time we discussed this we wouldn’t be participating and this was at half the cost.” 

“I agree with Steve,” said Councillor Rose Diebolt. 

Destination Manitoulin Island, which formerly operated the welcome centre, cut ties with the Town of NEMI within the past year. The destination marketing organization no longer operates out of the facility.

Municipalities previously supporting the welcome centre were part of an operations committee with NEMI, the owner of the building. By contributing funds to the operating costs of the building, the supporting townships and any businesses within their regions can display their promotional materials inside.

The townships of Assiginack and Billings have voted to continue supporting the welcome centre as of press time.

Any businesses in non-supporting municipalities such as Central Manitoulin may still display their promotional materials in the welcome centre but they will have to pay a fee per business for this privilege.

Councillor Derek Stephens stated, “I thought this issue was dead and gone. I see no value in supporting a building outside our municipality. We have our own booth here in the municipality to distribute tourist information. We didn’t support the lease agreement previously. I will put the motion forward that we don’t continue to provide support for the MTA building. I thought all of this was done before and we decided not to support the lease the last time this came up.”
It was pointed out by Councillor Scott that the proposed agreement has some changes in it.  

“We voted previously to break our lease agreement with the MTA. Why are we still sitting on the MTA board?” questioned Councillor Stephens, referring to the welcome centre’s operations committee. 

“We won’t be sitting on the (MTA) board if we are not participating,” said Councillor Scott. 

Councillor Stephens put forward a motion that the municipality of Central Manitoulin will no longer be supporting the welcome centre operations committee for the facility in Little Current, or paying for the costs involved. This was seconded by Councillor Diebolt.

Councillor Al Tribinevicius added, “we have a building in Mindemoya and the interpretive centre in Providence Bay that offers tourist information as well. And municipal office staff is willing to offer information to visitors. I am not in support of participating in the (Manitoulin Welcome Centre) anymore.” 

Northeast Town staff reported more than 100 visitors to the welcome centre on its first two days of opening this season.