‘United Manitoulin Transit’ group seeks funding for proposed Island bus program

An initial feasibility study would consider transportation needs

MANITOULIN—A group of service providers from across Manitoulin have partnered together to find a solution to improving and expanding transportation options for Island residents.

Under the working name United Manitoulin Transit, the committee of 15 service providers includes representatives from First Nations on the Island, as well as many of the Island organizations and service providers.

“We have the support from the United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising (UCCMM) and from the Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA),” explained Guy Dumas of March of Dimes Canada (MODC), who is spearheading the project. “The MODC has agreed to act as a lead for the funding applications and we have issued a request for proposals for consultants for a feasibility study on improving and expanding transportation on Manitoulin.”

The group has received several proposals from the RFP and will be reviewing them and making a recommendation prior to Christmas. Mr. Dumas noted that the feasibility study is dependent on the group receiving funding.

“We have applied, through the MODC for funding through a number of agencies,” said Mr. Dumas.

Mr. Dumas wouldn’t reveal what agencies they were seeking funding from, but did confirm that they had submitted an application to the Community Transportation Grant Program.

The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) announced last Friday that they would be expanding bus service across the North.

“Ontario is launching a new Community Transportation Grant Program to help municipalities, Indigenous communities and other organizations throughout the province provide more travel options in areas that are not served, or underserved by public transit and intercommunity bus,” states a press release from the MNDM. “The program will make it more convenient for seniors, students, persons living with disabilities and others to access essential services in their communities, connect with other transportation services and travel between cities and towns.”

Through the Community Transportation Grant Program up to $30 million over five years will be available to municipalities, as well, an additional $10 million will be available to Indigenous communities, Indigenous-led organizations and not-for-profit organizations starting in the summer of 2018.

Also as part of the initiative, the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) will increase bus service in the Northeast and will work in collaboration with existing private carriers to introduce service to communities in the Northwest. “The communities that will benefit from this collaboration include Hearst, Hornepayne, White River, Red Lake, Emo, Rainy River, Fort Frances, Atikokan, Red Rock and others,” continues the release from the MNDM. “Improved services will provide vital links between communities that will help people living in Northern Ontario travel to medical and personal appointments, attend school, visit with friends and family, and access other essential services.”

Mr. Dumas explained that through his employment with the MODC he encountered a number of clients who were struggling to get to appointments and jobs.

“Most of them (clients) don’t have driver’s licences or vehicles,” Mr. Dumas said. “They rely on others to drive them to appointments and around Manitoulin. This sparked the idea that this was a gap in service that needed to be addressed. I began speaking to other service groups and organizations which reaffirmed that this (transportation) is a problem on Manitoulin.”

With a background as a management consultant, Mr. Dumas decided to take the project on and approached MODC, asking if they would be the lead on funding applications, to which they agreed.

Mr. Dumas organized a meeting, inviting service providers, organizations and groups from across Manitoulin to attend and provide input on the transportation challenges experienced by their clients and look at a solution collaboratively.

“We discussed a lot of challenges around transportation and potential ideas, but we don’t want impose what we see as the solution, that is why the feasibility study is important,” said Mr. Dumas. “We need to see what the need is and what the people of Manitoulin want as a solution.”

United Manitoulin Transit is awaiting funding through the applications submitted by the MODC on the group’s behalf. If funding is obtained, the chosen consultant will undertake the feasibility study, which is to be carried out between January and June 2018.