WESTERN MANITOULIN—Municipalities on Western Manitoulin have shown initial interest in a proposal to work together to develop and grow this area of the Island by supporting the hiring of an economic development officer (EDO) to help develop plans and initiatives. The EDO would be housed by the LaCloche-Manitoulin Business Assistance Corporation (LAMBAC) and would include a new board being formed that would include one representative from each participating municipality and First Nation.
“This would provide an opportunity to work together on this distinct area of Western Manitoulin,” stated Mike Addison, general manager of LAMBAC, at a meeting held last week and attended by representatives of Burpee-Mills, Gordon/Barrie Island, Billings, Gore Bay, LAMBAC and funding representatives from FedNor and the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines. “If something is good for Kagawong or Gore Bay it is good for all of Western Manitoulin and it helps sustain the businesses we have in place today.”
Mr. Addison noted, “we are losing our young people because there is no incentive, no jobs available to them. Economic development will provide those jobs, and we would not continue to lose our post offices, service Ontario offices and businesses. We need a population that is sustainable so we don’t lose more people, businesses or services, not lose more, and maintain what we have and grow.”
“I agree 100 percent,” stated Gore Bay Mayor Ron Lane. “The days of each municipality and First Nation doing their own thing is over; we have to work together. And partnership is the name of the game for LAMBAC, FedNor and MNDM to help support us as well. If we work collectively just think of what we can do together and the growth we can see for the West End of the Island.”
“There is tremendous merit to all of this,” stated Lee Hayden, reeve of Gordon/Barrie Island. “Gordon-Barrie Island, Gore Bay and Burpee-Mills has had a lot of success together on joint boards and committees. This is another opportunity to move forward together and with other municipalities and First Nations on the Island.”
Mayor Lane had opened the meeting by welcoming everyone to the meeting and said, “this whole idea goes back to the genesis that had been created by Gordon/Barrie Island when they had an EDO, and asked us and First Nations, and municipalities on the West End of the Island to work together to grow and provide for better economic opportunities for this end of the Island.” He explained Gore Bay has been going through a strategic plan process for the past year and a half, looking at how to make things better for Gore Bay residents-visitors and the economy. “It is clear that Gore Bay depends on all of Western Manitoulin, so it seemed logical to look at having an EDO-tourism-recreational director for Western Manitoulin that would benefit all of us. For all of Western Manitoulin to share, partner, and help develop this unique part of the Island, and LAMBAC will host the proposal (EDO) and help look after funding applications.”
“But this is just the start of the discussion, we hope after the meeting that everyone will take Mike’s presentation back to their councils and then we can hold a second meeting,” said Mayor Lane.
Mr. Addison noted that the idea that LAMBAC brought forward to have an EDO for Western Manitoulin had been after a discussion held in the LAMBAC office by employees of the corporation. “Small municipalities don’t have the means to hire an EDO like NEMI (Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands) and Central Manitoulin. We had discussions in our office, and we work closely with Francoise Nadon (community economic development officer with FedNor, and Kim Murch (northern development officer with the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines).
“Western Manitoulin is in itself a region on the Island,” said Mr. Addison. He said that while it is normal that traffic flows from the West End of the Island to the east end, “we want to lure people to Western Manitoulin.” He noted it is hope that First Nations and unorganized municipalities like Robinson-Dawson will get involved in the project as well.
“By working together we have access to more resources,” said Mr. Addison, noting most municipalities have populations under 1,000. “If we apply for funding as a larger group to benefit the entire area, it makes a lot more sense.”
“We are hoping to achieve a strategy to highlight, and provide for features and projects and find innovative ways to achieve everyone’s goals and benefit the entire western region,” continued Mr. Addison.
An EDO would coordinate activities and projects for the entire region, with the advantages to all by having neighbour communities doing well, enhanced services to under serviced areas and better access to funding grants, as well as freeing up municipal clerks/CAOs to do their regular duties. Infrastructure over time can be improved and advertising and marketing would be improved. As well there would be additional employment such as youth summer employment opportunities created, and being part of regional meetings.
Each community has different needs and wants, and this is where the EDO would help to investigate, said Mr. Addison. He said a Western Manitoulin EDO could be hosted and housed in the LAMBAC office. “We have space for this person to work out of,” he said. As well he would be prepared to provide administrative services, with the board of directors to include one representative from each participating municipality-First Nation.
Ms. Nadon and Ms. Murch outlined the funding available to the municipalities and First Nations on Western Manitoulin Island. Funding is available for three years with 90 percent funding available to hire an EDO. This would probably be for a total cost of $80,000 to $90,000 per year (90 percent funded).
“LAMBAC could apply for funding on behalf of the region, and it would be up to you how we make up the 10 percent, on an equal share, MPAC or population base. It would be up to the committee to look and decide on this,” said Mr. Addison. “The municipalities would be looking at a cost of about $8,000 in total, so if we had eight participating municipalities and First Nations it would work out to be about $1,000 each.”
Austin Hunt, Mayor of Billings, asked whether First Nations on Western Manitoulin will be at the table as well. “We would like to have them at the table and be involved,” said Mr. Addison, who noted that area First Nation communities had been invited to last week’s meeting.
Jack Clark, Gore Bay councillor, said, “I’m a big believer in this type of proposal. I have been pushing this idea for the last few years. We have to work smarter and together to have success. Status quo is not an option, we can’t work as small individual communities. We have to work together. For example, we have a joint Gore Bay-Gordon/Barrie Island fire department that is significantly better than we had before.”
“I agree 100 percent, the days of each community doing its own thing are over,” said Mayor Lane. “We have to work together.”
“I think there is great merit to this proposal,” said Ken Noland, reeve of Burpee/Mills. “And a contribution of $1,000 from each community to provide for an EDO for the whole area is a no-brainer.”
The EDO would also work with individual municipalities on projects they have in place or want to develop, the meeting was told.
“With this meeting we hope we have generated interest in this proposal,” said Mr. Addison. “Our goal for this meeting was to have enough interest shown that we could convene a second meeting.”
It was agreed by all those on hand at the gathering to hold another meeting later in the year, or early 2017 to continue the dialogue and process.