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Northern Ontario Large Urban Mayors meet in the Sault

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Immigration is spurring growth across the north and Monday’s meeting of Northern Ontario Large Urban Mayors (NOLUM) discussed some of the related benefits and challenges.

Four of the five Northern Ontario Large Urban Mayors and their chief administrative officers travelled in person to Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., on May 27, 2024 for the discussions ahead of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario’s annual conference in August. Timmins Mayor Michelle Boileau (left), Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Matthew Shoemaker, Greater Sudbury Mayor Paul Lefebvre and North Bay Mayor Peter Chirico (right) are pictured here. Thunder Bay Mayor Ken Boshcoff and his CAO attended the gathering virtually. (Cory Nordstrom/CTV News Northern Ontario)

May 27 marked the first meeting of the year for the group and comes just two-and-a-half months prior to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario’s annual conference.

The leaders across northern Ontario view this week’s summit in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. as an opportunity to get on the same page before those meetings with provincial ministers in Ottawa in August.

North Bay Mayor Peter Chirico told CTV News that it is important that the north speaks with a collective voice given the shared crisis municipalities are facing.

“Municipalities, we’re doing health care. Municipalities, we’re doing mental health. We're doing drug control,” he said.

“We're doing, you know, things that we never saw as municipalities, you know, five, 10 years ago.”

Greater Sudbury Mayor Paul Lefebvre echoed many of Chirico’s concerns – adding that municipal services are being over taxed.

“The fact that there's so much demand on our social services and yet we're doing more social services without the funding when it's really a provincial responsibility,” he said.

Four of the five NOLUM and their chief administrative officers travelled in person to the sault for the discussions.

According to the most recent census data, each community saw increases in population size that was largely due to immigration.

Officials with the municipalities said with concerns in fields like mental health and addictions, housing and healthcare, there’s a belief more government action is needed or newcomers may not want to settle in northern Ontario.

Host mayor Matthew Shoemaker said nothing that any northern municipality does individually is going to be big enough to address province-wide problems.

“(One thing) we want is for there to be more physicians across the north so that more of our residents have direct access to health care without having to travel to southern Ontario,” he said.

Timmins Mayor Michelle Boileau added that the cost to develop infrastructure in northern Ontario is something that is “quite unique to our region.”

“(It is) also about housing, you know, the lack of funding for affordable housing, different programs that for which our applications were unsuccessful,” she said.

“So talking about some of that (too.)”

Both the provincial and federal governments are now implementing programs to fund housing expansion and the five NOLUM hope to use Monday’s discussions and their joint influence to ensure the programs reflect the needs of northern Ontario.

The next NOLUM meeting is Nov. 2 in North Bay, Ont. 

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