South Central Ontario Region Economic Development Corporation (SCOR EDC) Board has sent an open letter of questions for the Liberal Leadership Candidates regarding issues of importance to rural and small urban Ontario.
Below is a copy of the letter sent at the direction of SCOR EDC Chair, John Lessif, Mayor of Tillsonburg.
South Central Ontario Region Economic Development Corporation and the five Counties the corporation represents (Brant, Elgin, Middlesex, Norfolk & Oxford), is the voice of rural and small urban communities in the region.
We are writing to all of the candidates to pose questions that are important to the citizens and businesses we represent. As the potential Premier of Ontario, we want to know your position on these important issues and a response is requested.
Our Questions are:
1) This region has significant lingering effects from the recession; unemployment for workers under 35 years of age is about 17% across the region, while older workers are almost fully employed (unemployment rate is under 6% for workers over 45. How do you intend to support economic development in rural and small urban Ontario with special reference to the many small businesses and younger workers?
2) Rural Ontario faces high infrastructure costs due to the scale and nature of the communities we serve. We have more roads, bridges and other infrastructure per resident than more densely populated cities. What is your plan for ongoing support for rural and small urban infrastructure?
3) The Provincial Offenses Act holds municipalities responsible for the administration of the courts dealing with offenses under the Act, prosecution of certain offenses and the collection of fines determined by the courts. The number and dollar amount of outstanding, unpaid fines continue to grow. These dollars constitute needed revenue to support service delivery and infrastructure required in our communities. What is your plan for providing tools, or assistance to help communities recover whatever revenues may be possible from unpaid fines?
4) Small urban and rural communities face disproportionately high and escalating policing costs; especially costs related to the OPP. The Mayors’ Coalition has been negotiating possible solutions on our behalf. What solutions do you offer that would assure safety and security for all Ontario residents at an affordable, sustainable, and equitable cost?
5) Rural Ontario is served by many Conservation Authorities. Provincial support of the Conservation Authorities has decreased dramatically since the 1990s. Subsequently, local municipalities have had to pick up the operating and capital costs in order to maintain these much needed services. What is your plan to support these services and reverse the downloading of costs onto the municipal levy?
6) The Province provided significant funding to develop Source Water Protection Plans but now that plans are complete the funding has stopped. What is your plan to offer financial support and assistance to implement the Source Water Protection Plans, in rural and small urban Ontario?
7) Rural and Small Urban communities in SCOR are concerned with the loss of Hospital Services being directed through the LHINs. Many of our community Hospitals serve as regional hospital, serving neighbouring municipalities and in some cases cross over from LHIN East and West. Without comprehensive healthcare availability private enterprise will be reluctant to locate and invest in rural and small urban communities. How will you ensure these communities will continue to offer healthcare services to the residents in rural and small urban communities and not create specialized service hospitals which will have a negative impact on the citizens?
8) What is your position on refueling and refurbishing of the Lambton Shores and Nanticoke Power Generating station, keeping vital jobs in rural and small urban Ontario?
9) SCOR EDC has identified the necessity to repurpose the Delhi Research Station. This is a valuable asset that we feel is needed in the region. SCOR EDC and Erie Innovation and Commercialization have formed a committee along with a number of other interested stakeholders to determine possible options for the station. How would you support and assist groups in the repurposing of the station?
We appreciate that these are complex questions but as a future leader, you will be expected to have solutions to our issues if you are to represent our communities. We respectfully await your response to our questions.”