The Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus has high hopes for the new municipal term. Among its top priorities is addressing a housing shortage and a shortage of healthcare workers.
Renfrew County Warden Peter Emon was named chair of the Caucus at a recent meeting.
He says the Caucus, made up of leaders from 13 counties including Renfrew and Hastings, has a mission to get 7,000 new homes built within 7 years, to ease a housing crunch. To do that, it will lobby the province and feds for support and encourage creative ideas.
“We’re open to a number of approaches and some of it might be incentives,” Emon says. “Some of it might be municipalities and regional governments and the province finding surplus lands and that’s thrown into the pot as an investment. It’s difficult to say right now what the final formula looks like. But we’re pretty much open to interesting, innovative ideas that build houses.”
On health care, Emon says the Caucus is concerned about a lack of paramedics, personal support workers and nurses in the region. Adding to the problem is the fact that decisions on how health care dollars are spent have been taken away from municipalities lately and the province needs to give local experts more say, he says.
“What has happened is that the Ontario government has replaced what was known as the LHINs – the Local Health Integration Networks – with the Ontario Health team model,” he says.
“It’s too early to tell what the outcome is going to be. So communities have cobbled together and worked out arrangements to have Ontario Health Teams. And we think we should be sitting at the table, deciding how the money is spent in the future.”
Emon says the Wardens Caucus is an organization that shows there’s strength in numbers. He says it allows County leaders to talk about issues that affect all of their regions. And, together, they can provide one powerful voice to Queen’s Park or Parliament Hill.
Emon says the Caucus has a track record of getting big projects done. He says the Eastern Ontario Regional Network, a project over the past decade to bring Internet and close cell phone gaps, is an example of its past success.