Oxford County Delegates Attend ROMA Conference to Speak to Key Issues Affecting Rural Communities

This month Oxford County delegates attended the Rural Ontario Municipal Association’s annual conference at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel.

The main issues brought forward at the ROMA annual conference were internet, housing, transit and healthcare. Presenters included politicians, provincial ministers and various experts. A summary of the day’s agenda can be found here.

The conference proved a valuable and rare opportunity for municipal leaders to speak one on one with provincial ministers to discuss local issues. “We got to speak with ministers and relay some of our concerns and express the projects we have ongoing,” said Oxford County Warden Larry Martin.

Along with Martin, the Oxford County delegation of Zorra Township Mayor Marcus Ryan, South-West Oxford Township Mayor David Mayberry and Oxford CAO Peter Crockett met with representatives from several ministries and five provincial ministers.

You can meet your Oxford County council members here.

Access to High-Speed Internet

The province and its partners are committed to moving these issues forward and have announced the second phase of its SWIFT plan.

The Southwestern Integration Fibre Technology plan seeks to improve high-speed internet services in rural Ontario. The initial projects are set to go in Norfolk, Wellington and Lambton counties.

About additional provincial support for SWIFT, Martin said, “We’ll always push for money. You have to since if you don’t, you won’t get any.” The project is moving forward with phase 3 to be in the works after results come in from phase two of the project.

Transportation Plan

The province’s current transportation plan and Oxford County’s SouthwestLynx plan seem to be closer to each other than the previous provincial government’s plan for high-speed rail. That should be a welcome relief in our area where we understand the value of farmers needing to be able to do their jobs.

In a meeting with Ontario’s solicitor general, Sylvia Jones of the Oxford delegation sought to raise awareness of costs for court security and prisoner transportation which have increased by 38 percent in the past six years. The solicitor general promised that her ministry is looking into reducing costs to municipalities by allowing more electronic appearance instead of physical transport of prisoners to court.

Healthcare Update

Meeting with Christine Elliott, Minister of Health and Long-term Care, the Oxford delegation was able to garner some information on the move to Ontario Health Teams and asked that municipalities be included in future discussions. The delegates also shared the success of Oxford County’s Family Transition Program and advocated for adoption of such programs at a provincial level. The Family Transition Program provides assistance to people 18 years old or older who are waiting for permanent placement into long-term care.

Next Steps

Funding cuts to education, healthcare and environmental spending, that resulted in municipalities absorbing a larger share as the government downloaded costs, along with the regional governance review that could have led to the possibility of amalgamation made 2019 a rather tumultuous year for Ontario municipalities.

According to Martin, “You need a sense of where you’re going if you’re going to get there. There was a lot of uncertainty last year, but it’s settled and we can get an idea of where we’ll be heading.”

Oxford County should now be able to breathe a sigh of relief that uncertainty is lifted and the path forward is clear to fully concentrate on meeting the needs of its citizens.