On Thursday of last week, NBDCC was fortunate to be invited to attend the Provincial Government Budget announcement at Queens Park. At the best of times, we always hope that for the business community, the budget will contain stimulus that will help Northern Ontario businesses survive and thrive. Unfortunately, it appears that Northern Ontario business, was not considered in this latest budget.
Spending announcements for transit, hospitals, colleges and universities along with infrastructure appear to be concentrated on high growth areas of the Province. In fairness, I do understand the logic, however it is disconcerting that Northern Ontario was not mentioned and the same old, same old will have to do.
Reductions in energy bills for families was mentioned, but not one word on energy costs for our manufacturing, mining related or production facilities that continue to bear the burden of uncompetitive electrical prices. Especially in Northern Ontario!
Minister Sousa outlined many areas of infrastructure investments in schools throughout the Province. New schools are to be built and re-investments, upgrades to existing schools, will also be on the receiving end where monies will also be spent. No doubt that trustees of the Near North District School Board are listening and are following these developments as well.
The Near North District School Board has been holding ARC meetings where citizens and taxpayers of the District have had the opportunity to voice their opinions on the closure of a couple of high schools and the creation of a “Super School”. May 8th will be the final opportunity to voice their opinions on the possible closure of West Ferris and Widdifield Secondary Schools, for a move to a central location and it is garnering a lot of attention.
From a business point of view, West Ferris has had enough. Changing demographics, shopping habits, traffic flows, etc. have all contributed to the loss of business locations in the West Ferris area. If WFSS closes for a move to a central model there will be a loss to that community that I am not sure they will recover from. The business community, continues to invest in that area to serve the residents and taxpayers of West Ferris.
Communities are fragile at best of times and I hope our trustees listen to the many who have spoken and will speak on May 8, that the loss of WFSS should not happen. Make your voices known!
Peter Chirico is the President & CEO of the North Bay and District Chamber of Commerce.