Committed to keeping OLG jobs in Sault Ste. Marie (6 photos)Friday, October 18, 2013 by: Darren Taylor
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne (pictured with Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site Curator Kathy Fisher and Sault Ste. Marie Historic Sites Board Chair Kathryn McAuley Yukich) is in Sault Ste. Marie today for a whirlwind series of announcements, speeches and tours of various local sites.
Wynne’s tour of the Historic Site came after the province committed $1 million earlier this year from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) toward the new, $4 million Heritage Discovery Centre currently under construction.
Wynne, accompanied by Sault Ste. Marie MPP and Minister of Natural Resources David Orazietti, repeated her government’s theme that the needs of Sault Ste. Marie and Northern Ontario, ranging from infrastructure to tourism, are a priority.
An ongoing source of concern raised by Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Debbie Amaroso, in conversations and meetings with Wynne, is the status of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) head office in Sault Ste. Marie.
It is hoped by the Mayor and the community as a whole, that not only will the current number of jobs at the Sault’s OLG office be retained as the corporation goes through its modernization process, but also that its “head office” status be reaffirmed with the relocation of senior management officials from OLG’s Toronto office.
SooToday.com asked Wynne if that is likely to happen anytime soon.
To that, Wynne would only say: “We have committed, and I reconfirm my commitment, to the significant presence of a head office in Sault Ste. Marie, (but) I’m not going to pre-empt the decisions that the new OLG Board Chair (Phillip Olsson) may make, but we have committed to a significant presence.”
“I’ve had a meeting with the Mayor (Amaroso), David (Orazietti) has met with the new incoming OLG chair, so we’re very committed to the OLG presence in Sault Ste. Marie.”
Mayor Amaroso, along with the Mayors of Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Timmins and North Bay, has also called for a “Northern Summit” between herself, the Mayors of those communities and elected officials and staff of provincial government ministries that deal with Northern issues.
The request for such a summit, to address Northern issues, was outlined in a document entitled Priorities: Linking Municipalities and the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario, and dated August 20, 2013.
The Northern Mayors urged such a summit be held within 90 days of that date.
While not committing to setting a date for a Northern Summit, Wynne told reporters Friday: “I am absolutely open to having a conversation with Northern Mayors. I believe that it’s really important for us to understand that our fates (in all regions of Ontario) are intertwined.”
Wynne made more specific statements regarding infrastructure.
The Premier referred to her government’s announcement, made earlier this month, that a new $100 million infrastructure fund for small, rural and Northern communities has been established.
Under that program, over $3.1 million in funding from the Ministry of Rural Affairs Municipal Infrastructure Investment Initiative (MIII) has been awarded to Sault Ste. Marie and Prince Township for the replacement of four aging single-lane bridges, which will be replaced by two-lane bridges to improve safety and traffic flow on the route from the community to the airport.
Wynne said: “We’re going to work to make it (the MIII fund) a permanent fund in next year’s budget because we know that those infrastructure costs will continue, so the $3.1 million that the Sault will be getting for its bridge remediation is part of that fund.”
After Friday morning’s appearance at the Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site, Wynne was scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario luncheon at the Delta Waterfront Hotel, make an announcement outlining a job creation plan for young people at the College Student Alliance Conference at Travelodge, and tour Sault College before returning to Toronto.