MTO abandoning Western Manitoulin, seniors, says GB mayor

GORE  BAY—Gore Bay Mayor Ron Lane says that the Ministry of Transportation has abandoned seniors on Western Manitoulin by turning down the Town of Gore Bay’s request for the ministry to overturn its decision to have the seniors driving education program cancelled in Gore Bay for local and Western Manitoulin seniors.

“Everyone has the attached letter that we received on August 25 (from MTO Minister Steven Del Duca,” said Mayor Lane, at a council meeting this past Monday. “You will recall the history behind all of this: back in the winter I found out the MTO had cancelled the 2015 seniors driving program in Gore Bay and corresponded back and forth with the (MTO) regional manager, to the point that she wouldn’t respond any longer to my letters.”

Council had sent a letter to the Minister of Transportation and Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha outlining their concerns and opposition to the move by the MTO, however based on a letter from the MTO Minister on August 25, 2015, “they will not be restoring the seniors driving program for Gore Bay.”

In a letter from Steven Del Duca, MTO minister dated August 25, 2015 he states, “thank you for your letter regarding the cancellation of the Senior Driver Group Education Sessions that have been offered in the town of Gore Bay.”

“The ministry is committed to supporting senior drivers on Manitoulin Island and its surrounding areas by providing access to services in centralized locations that include Mindemoya and Espanola, allowing the ministry to optimize service demands in the most cost-effective manner possible. Points of service for the delivery of group education sessions are determined based on demand for the area in conjunction with geographic proximity to other service delivery points,” wrote Minister Del Duca. “This strategy allows the ministry to increase the frequency of the group education sessions it can offer and provides senior drivers with more flexibility in scheduling their appointments.”

“As you  know, the ministry generally conducted one group education session every two months in Gore Bay, although not throughout the entire year. In Mindemoya, there was one group education session every two months and two group education sessions every month in Espanola. A recent review and analysis of the delivery of group education sessions on Manitoulin Island and its surrounding areas over the last five years found that Gore Bay had the lowest senior population concentration, the lowest senior driver attendance and the accompanying costs to deliver the program in Gore Bay was three times higher than in Espanola and approximately 60 percent higher than in Mindemoya.”

“The new group education session delivery structure for Manitoulin Island and its surrounding areas allows the ministry to deliver its mandatory program to more seniors by providing one group education session in Mindemoya and two group education sessions in Espanola each month,” continued Minister Del Duca. “This provides senior drivers greater flexibility in scheduling their appointments due to an overall increase in the number.”

“While I understand and appreciate your concerns regarding the cancellation of the group education  sessions in Gore Bay, current volumes and proximity to other service delivery points do not support continuing to deliver group education sessions in your community at this time,” wrote Minister  Del Duca.

“I don’t know where they get their statistics, that it costs 60 percent more to have the program here and that we have the lowest senior population,” said Mayor Lane.

“Now our seniors will have to go to Mindemoya for this program,” stated Mayor Lane, who said, “I discussed this issue with Mr. Mantha on Monday and he will be talking to the minister further on this issue.”

“Basically the MTO has abandoned seniors on the west end of Manitoulin,” stated Mayor Lane. “It defies logic as far as I’m concerned, but it is not surprising.”

“I think we should send another letter to the minister stating our concerns, especially with the statistics they provided,” said Councillor Dan Osborne.

“I support sending a letter as well,” said Councillor Jack Clark. “And we need to present the case that this is a centre that supported not only Gore Bay but all of Western Manitoulin. It may take 30 minutes to driver from Gore Bay to Mindemoya, but it is another 30 minutes to travel from Meldrum Bay.”

“I would agree that we send a letter back to the minister on our concerns and that we don’t agree with their decision,” said Councillor Clark.

“I have an aunt that is 92 who will now have to drive to Mindemoya,” said Mayor Lane. “Do I want her to have to go to Mindemoya, no, I don’t think she has ever driven past Gore Bay.

The MTO had previously notified the town that the current facilities-space used for the education program training is inadequate because they are not handicap accessible, however the town had already offered space in another location that would provide this.

Council passed a motion to send a letter to the minister asking him to reconsider the MTO  decision, and outline that council in the way the matter was handled, and that there is a high seniors population in Gore Bay and Western Manitoulin.