By Jennifer Thurbide
Transportation and energy infrastructure, although expensive, is needed badly for the north to continue to see economic investment. That was the message last week as the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA) presented to decision makers.
Gathering for a remote session in Thunder Bay on April 3, the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs took meetings with those who had expressed interest in sharing their opinions on where money should be allocated in the upcoming provincial budget.
After the session NOMA President Ron Nelson said the presentation focused on investments needed to “realize the full potential” of mining in the region.
“The Northwest is in danger of seeing massive investment dry-up if the infrastructure deficit cannot be resolved in a timely fashion,” says NOMA President Ron Nelson. “We recognize that the construction of the necessary transportation and energy infrastructure will be an expensive proposition; however, the financial return to the Province through taxes will be in the billions of dollars. It is the Government’s job to make this happen – not the private sector.”
NOMA says in 2011 there were 250 active projects in the north worth over $500 million. This represented half of all mining expenditures in the province and the government needs to take a lead role in “planning, developing and owning infrastructure.”
NOMA Vice-President Iain Angus compared the investment needs to those that have historically been given to the auto industry. He also called on the government to increase payments in lieu of taxes relating to heads and beds payments and infrastructure funding support regardless of any new federal programs.
Over 20 interest groups and organizations made requests to meet with the committee during the one day session with hopes their message would be taken back to the government for consideration in advance of the 2013 budget expected to be released in early May.
Newly professed Progressive Conservative candidate for Kenora-Rainy River Randy Nickle was also in Thunder Bay last week discussing regional tourism with the committee.
The Thunder Bay District Injured Workers’ Support Group, Environment North, Confederation College, and Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs also made presentations.