Groups call for united voice in Northern Ont.

SaultStar.com – article
May 21, 2011.   By Elaine Della-Mattia, The Sault Star

Organizations that represent Northern Ontario communities are calling for municipal leaders and the Northern Policy institute to present a united voice in order to move forward the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario.

The Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM), the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA), and the Northern Ontario Service Deliverers Association (NOSDA) have jointly provided input into the development of the Northern Policy Institute.

The Northern Policy Institute’s mandate is to conduct independent forward-looking research on business, economic and social issues to improve the area’s standard of living and monitor and report on the implementation of the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario.

The groups want to ensure that the Northern Policy Institute’s work is credible, balanced and independent.

The groups also want to ensure the work is Northern Ontario based, proactive and able to bring attention to the vast geographical area.

The memo states “if this institute is neither independent, nor able to influence and shape government policy in a practical, down-to-earth way, a fantastic opportunity to guide self-determination and sufficiency will be lost to the peoples of Northern Ontario.”

Mayor Debbie Amaroso said “it is clear that decisions made for the North are best made by the North,” and that’s the message stakeholders had provided during countless meetings to develop the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario.

She said each community needs to be involved in the process that determines how to implement the Northern Growth Strategy by using its expertise to deliver results.

Presidents of Sudbury’s Laurentian University and Thunder Bay’s Lakehead University have been appointed to act as advisors to the minister and develop an implementation strategy for the provincial government’s regional development plan, prepared under the Places to Grow Act 2005.

Amaroso said FONOM, NOMA and NOSDA’s vision of input is an expression of what Northern communities have been saying since the plan was first released in March.

“It’s easier to move forward with a model and that process is being put in place,” she said.

To date, no tangibles have been completed from the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario, but Amaroso said she’s not worried about it at this point.

Sault MPP David Orazietti said he believes the umbrella organizations do have a role to play in the Northern Growth Plan and they have been involved since the beginning.

He said the Liberal government is committed to the growth plan and is hopeful to be able to follow it through following the October provincial election.

Ward 4 Coun. Lou Turco, also an executive on FONOM, said the letter was designed to make sure the university presidents know the groups still want to be part of the delivery of the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario.

“We want to make sure all sectors come out with the same message and that we continue to represent the entire north,” Turco said. “We want to make sure the all the associations are seen as one voice.”

The Growth Plan for Northern Ontario is an extensive plan that examines the north’s economy, people, communities, infrastructure, environment and Aboriginal peoples.

Each component lists a series of policies to achieve its vision.

The plan creates a framework to further develop Northern Ontario in the six specific areas jointly.

The Northern Policy Institute has been charged with implementing and monitoring the growth plan with members from each community.

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