Internet expansion remains No. 1 priority
By Chad Ingram
Published Aug. 30, 3018
A cell gap analysis and a mobile broadband internet expansion project being undertaken by the Eastern Ontario Regional Network remain the No. 1 priority of the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus.
Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin, past warden of Haliburton County, took part in a number of delegations by the EOWC to provincial cabinet ministers during the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference in Ottawa last week.
“We have a number of concerns, of which they have copies, but certainly the cell gap analysis and technology . . . we basically said this is No. 1 with a bullet,” Devolin told the paper.
The mobile broadband expansion project has an estimated price tag of $213 million and will entail the construction of several new telecommunications towers throughout eastern Ontario.
Of that total cost, $10 million is budgeted to come from the EOWC, along with the separated city governments within the area; $71 million from the federal government; $71 million from the provincial government; and $61 million from the mobile provider companies themselves.
While the Kathleen Wynne government had allotted money for the project in its 2018 budget, Devolin was asked if he was concerned that the Doug Ford government would not follow through on the funding.
“I didn’t feel that,” Devolin said, adding that the $71 million commitment was to be paid out over a four-year period. He said the EOWC, which owns EORN, also discussed the importance of the project with the NDP, Ontario’s new official Opposition.
“The leader of the Opposition, Andrea Horwath, said we could fully count on their support, and that if the present government were getting cold feet, that they’d be willing to engage . . . at whatever level of participation that would be required to push it forward,” Devolin said.
County representatives also made delegations requesting funding for reconstruction of the Hawk Lake Bridge and to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, addressing funding for small emergency rooms.
“Certainly, to increase what they pay by the hour in the smaller emergency rooms,” Devolin said, adding there was also a request for changes in capital funding. Currently, funding for capital upgrades at emergency rooms comes from a separate stream than that for long-term care homes. Both the Haliburton Highlands Health Services facilities in Minden and Haliburton include ERs that are adjoined to long-term care homes.
On the Minden Hills front, Devolin said councillors from the township requested that the Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park, which borders the township, become an operational park, with staff and facilities. Right now, the park is classified as non-operational. Devolin noted that the environmentally sensitive areas within the 89,000-acre park could be protected.
“Obviously, with a new government, it’s a change in philosophy with respect to governance,” Devolin said of the change in Ontario’s leadership. “Certain policies that have been favourite children of the one government may not be those of the next.”
Devolin said he was encouraged by the number of MPPs from rural ridings who are part of the Ford cabinet.
“I have expectation that they would be more reflective of the policies and budgets, of the realities that we have to deal with, as rural municipalities,” he said.