02/25/2013

ROMA/OGRA Conference. February 25, 2013, Fairmont Royal York Hotel. Toronto, ON.
Check Against Delivery

Good morning, and welcome to the 2013 Annual ROMA/OGRA Conference. 

I’m proud that we are able to work together with OGRA once again. Through our co-operation, this annual forum allows for a gathering of rural municipal representatives from all over Ontario. 

We must thank the OGRA staff – they work hard to make this conference happen. Thanks to their work, we are able to take new knowledge and fresh ideas from the conference back to our communities and all over Ontario.

At ROMA, we continue to advocate for rural and northern municipalities. We know that in today’s economic environment, our communities need support. We face tough challenges. And they are not just economic challenges.

These challenges existed in rural and northern Ontario before the financial crisis. And as the economic situation begins to improve in this province and across the country, our voice must be heard. 

The Province needs to consider the unique issues that matter to rural and northern communities. We know that a “one-size fits all” approach doesn’t work. 

To help, ROMA developed the Northern and Rural Lens. It is a tool that can be used by the Province to have a better perspective on the impacts that provincial initiatives have on rural and northern communities and so they can make decisions accordingly. 

This tool will help in supporting our local places and people. It will help to grow a forward thinking rural and northern economy. And, it will help all governments to see how unique our communities are. 

Wind turbines and horse racing have been getting headlines, but our most basic need is infrastructure. We have to be able to build it and we have to be able to maintain what we have. It is essential to our prosperity. Roads and bridges are our economic lifelines and they provide potential for economic growth. 

For some communities the infrastructure challenge is building up and getting worse – for others, it is already a crisis. In order for Ontario’s rural and northern infrastructure to be sustainable – and to be safe – our communities need sources of predictable, stable and permanent financing.    

ROMA is working with OGRA, AMO and others such as FCM in that regard, and you will see that infrastructure is a major focus of this conference. We need to keep the conversation going with all orders of government. We must work towards finding a stable and permanent solution.

Ontario’s new Premier, Kathleen Wynne, is also Ontario’s new Minister of Agriculture, and she has made a commitment to better understand rural Ontario. ROMA looks forward to working with Premier Wynne. We hope that with the Premier’s commitment to rural Ontario, the rural voice will be heard and respected, and that we will be at the table consistently when policies are developed.

Through this conference we will see much of what makes our communities unique. And, no matter which part of Ontario you are from, this conference will also show all that we have in common. It is through the unique nature of our communities, and through all that we share - that we can work together create stronger communities and a stronger Ontario.

Thank you and I hope you enjoy the conference.