Municipality of Sioux Lookout continues to advocate to help meet community challenges
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance said the Municipality of Sioux Lookout, throughout their busy schedule, has continued to take advantage of advocacy opportunities to help meet various challenges in the community.
Recently Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, was in Sioux Lookout. During his visit, Tibollo made some suggestions to the municipality in regards to mental health and addictions. Lawrance said the Municipality of Sioux Lookout is looking to bring him back to the community.
“He was here a few weeks ago and he made a couple of suggestions. He said to put together a round table on mental health and addictions in the community and he’ll attend. As part of our Community Safety and Wellbeing Plan, I think we’re going to try and coordinate it through that and bring him back here. He also suggested that Sioux Lookout should consider putting in an application for an Ontario Health Team, so we can only do that with the cooperation of some of the large agencies in town that service Sioux Lookout and the north. We’re going to try and get them on board for that,” said Lawrance.
As part of their ongoing advocacy efforts, the Municipality of Sioux Lookout can apply for delegations with ministers to discuss a variety of topics twice a year during the annual Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) Conference and the annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Conference.
While at this year’s AMO conference, which ran from Aug. 18 to 21 in Ottawa, Lawrance shared he had delegations with eight ministers, discussing policing costs, a detox facility in Sioux Lookout, safe houses for youth, and upgrades to highways around Sioux Lookout.
“Twice a year we have those formal delegations. Each time we go, we typically get an average of six to seven ministers that we’ve been able to make arrangements to meet. Mental health and addictions and policing costs, we’ve covered a fair bit of that because it’s a significant challenge in Sioux Lookout with lots of opportunities for improvement. We also focus on other areas whether we’re meeting with housing, meeting with health for long term care and more community home care, or we’re meeting on infrastructure and infrastructure programs. There’s a whole variety of topics that we advocate for at those formalized meetings,” said Lawrance.
“In between those conferences, there’s a lot of letter writing and there’s also opportunities where we invite ministers to come here. In the previous government, we had the premier come here and we had a six ministry task force come here. In this government, Minister Tibollo has been here, and we hope for more.
“We met with the Solicitor General at AMO in August, we’ve written her a couple letters since, and we spoke with some of her staff. We’re trying to organize an in-person meeting with her to deal specifically with our request for relief on policing costs. That’s a big push right now,” he added.
Lawrance said parts of the advocating process include data collection and making a business case.
“It’s hard to expect to go to Toronto and have people who live there to understand and know our area as well as we do, but we can make progress through the process of sharing information and education about our area and our concerns with them… We go down there positive about our community and I present as challenges and opportunities...We present evidence-based solutions. There’s great data, and the process involves data collection. When we do have a success, such as the 20-unit supportive housing project, you show them the data, and you show them what the data looks like when you do something that works,” he said.
“Also part of the process, depending on the nature of who you’re talking to, is the business case. This government is very focused on efficiencies and cost-efficiencies. When you house somebody with a mental health or addictions problem in a jail it costs 600 to 700 dollars a day. When you house them in supportive housing it’s a fraction of that,” he continued.
The Municipality of Sioux Lookout is preparing for potential advocacy opportunities during the upcoming ROMA Conference in January. Lawrance said they’re preparing their delegation requests.
“The Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) Conference is coming up in January. We just got the request for delegations from the province, so we’re putting together our request for delegations. You have to do that now, ahead of time, and we’ll find out quite a bit later whether we get a delegation. We have to prepare briefing notes to be prepared if we do get one,” he said.
“There’s opportunities for the provincial government to step up to the plate and fill in some of the gaps that they haven’t addressed for years and years, and their failure to do that has resulted in some of the challenges that we’re trying to meet…We’re doing positive things all the time, and we’re trying to present in a positive way to the powers that be,” he added.