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Nipigon backs increased infrastructure funding

A resolution from Georgian Bay drew support from Nipigon's mayor and council, highlighting the need for better access to and provision of infrastructure funding for small municipalities and townships across the province.
Nipigon's Mayor and council deliberate a motion to support Georgian Bay in a push for more infrastructure funding in smaller communities. Pictured here on May 28, 2024.

NIPIGON — Small towns and communities in Ontario need to stick together.

During its most recent council meeting, Nipigon’s town council voted to support a resolution from Georgian Bay to lobby the provincial and federal governments for better infrastructure funding in small/rural communities.

Mayor Suzanne Kukko spoke with Dougall Media about some of the challenges smaller communities face when it comes to funding infrastructure projects.

She said it’s an issue township officials and herself have brought forward as delegations at conferences such as the Northern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA) conference.

“The problem is that the infrastructure money has gone up slightly but the government claws back in other ways,” she said.

She referred to a provincial grant that used to provide funds to small municipalities to help subsidize the cost of emergency services, equipment, and training until the government discontinued the grant around 2013.

“When that gets cancelled but the infrastructure money goes up by $50,000 and you have to buy a $450,000 vehicle to replace your aging one, that doesn’t really help. On paper, yes, the infrastructure money was doubled but when other funds are clawed back and we’re responsible for more funds, paying for different things, then it doesn’t even out very well,” she said.

“Things are only getting more expensive and small municipalities can’t afford what we need to fix our infrastructure.”

Recently appointed Nipigon Coun. Greg Harper singled out roads as something he hopes to address during his time sitting on council, when Dougall Media attended their regular council meeting on May 28.

He went on to mention that roads are something he hears complaints about “all the time.”

Kukko praised Harper’s passion and said she looks forward to working with Harper (and fellow new appointee, Anne-Marie Cartwright) but cautioned everything is a process.

“Roads, infrastructure – that’s a challenge . . . there’s a budget that we have to work towards,” she said.

She added that lobbying the government and advocating for smaller communities like Nipigon is key in the push for more funding – especially when smaller communities band together.

“It’s important for small municipalities in the North to voice our advocacy together because we have less power. We are far away from Queen’s Park and we are small – our population is not as dense. We don’t have the voting power that southern and eastern Ontario have. We have to band together and make our voices louder and clearer so that the provincial government will listen when we ask them to rethink something,” she said.

She stressed the importance of NOMA and the Thunder Bay District Municipal League not only as platforms from which to address the challenges small municipalities face but also as a means for municipalities to network and share related experiences.

“They’re very important to help us bring our voices together to advocate for a number of issues that affect the North,” she said.

Austin Campbell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Austin Campbell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Austin Campbell is a local journal initiative reporter covering stories in the Superior North region.
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