Manitoulin municipalities struggle with shifting blame at Good Roads conference

TORONTO—Representatives from the Northeast Town and Assiginack Township attended the Ontario Good Roads Association (OGRA) and Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) joint conference in Toronto last month. Though the Northeast Town was able to make some headway on its issues with the Manitoulin Planning Board, Assiginack was unable to have any of their concerns addressed or even snag a one-on-one meeting with a minister.

Northeast Town Mayor Al MacNevin said he was pleased with his meeting with the minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) Linda Jeffrey at the conference and said she offered her ministry’s support in dealing with the Northeast Town’s ongoing issues with the planning board.

“We were also invited, along with 17 other municipalities, to a breakfast meeting with Minister of Transportation Glen Murray,” said Mayor MacNevin. “We discussed the issues around the canceling of the Connecting Link program. We, along with a lot of the other municipalities, talked about how the program cancelation was going to greatly hinder future development. For us, the meeting was really important because they (the MTO) cancelled the program before phase three of our highway project in Little Current. We were there to discuss solutions with the minister, but Minister Murray said it was really an issue with reduced funding.”

The excuse of reduced federal funding was something Assiginack clerk Alton Hobbs also heard throughout the conference.

“We were unfortunately unable to get any minister meetings,” said Mr. Hobbs. “We discussed concerns about the costs associated with our water treatment plant (the need to replace water filter membranes at both the Assiginack and Sunsite Estate plants) at the NDP Northern Caucus, but we got the sense that all four parties are in election mode and are more concerned with the election than the municipalities’ needs.”

Mr. Hobbs said that in general, he heard that there was little provincial funding available due to federal cuts.

“The leader of the Green Party, Mike Schreiner, had the best quote of the conference,” said Mr. Hobbs. “He said ‘there is no magic pool of money to solve your funding problems’,” noting that this was something most municipalities heard repeatedly.

Robin Burridge