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Northern Ont. municipal leaders press province on key issues

It was a packed house inside the Stockey Centre in Parry Sound on Monday as northern Ontario leaders gathered for the annual Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities conference.

There's a lot to tackle on the FONOM agenda, but Monday the focus was hearing from Queen's Park.

There wasn't an empty seat in the house as many wanted to hear from ministers on various issues, including the minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.

Grayden Smith, who calls Parry-Sound Muskoka home, focused his comments on forestry.

"I want them to know how important the forestry sector is to Ontario, how important it is to me and how our plan in the coming years through the forest sector strategy and our bio-mass action plan is really going to grow the north,” Smith said.

The room also heard from the Minister of Municipal Affairs Steve Clark, who touched on the premier's pledge to build 1.5 million homes, and from Health Minister Sylvia Jones.

But it was maybe a commitment from Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney that many in Sudbury and surrounding areas were hoping to see, which didn't happen in her opening speech.

The minister spoke on how the Liberals were out of touch, she talked about new rest stops and restoring the Ontario Northlander but no talk of completing the twinning of Highway 69.

But Northern Development Minister Greg Rickford said completing the project was still a priority.

"I think we all understand that safety and moving from southern Ontario to northern Ontario has never been a more important priority from the perspective of how efficient we need to be moving forward," Rickford said.

Sudbury Mayor Paul Lefebvre said completing the project is a “top issue” for the city.

"I've already approached the Members of Provincial Parliament,” Lefebvre said.

“(We’re also) reaching out to our Indigenous partners along the Highway 69 corridor so to me, it's about creating those relationships and having those discussions on what are the missing pieces, how can we help and how we can move it forward."

Parry Sound Mayor Jamie McGarvey said housing is also a big issue.

"You know collectively, we do need support from the government, especially right now because to try and build affordable, I mean housing is a huge issue right now,” McGarvey said.

FONOM President Danny Whalen said the drug crisis is a major problem for municipalities.

"Now we have the added burden of the opioid crisis which is affecting every municipality in Ontario. It's not just a big city problem," Whalen said.

The FONOM conference continues until Wednesday. Top Stories

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