From The Mayor's Desk:
Doug Lawrance, Mayor, Sioux Lookout
Legislative Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs
On April 9th the Municipality had the opportunity to present on several topics to the Provincial Legislative Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. Our MPP and a member of this Committee, Sol Mamakwa, was very helpful and supportive of our Municipal representation.
Our presentation covered three topics related to Provincial budget and commitments:
1. mental health and addictions challenges
2. support for the small businesses in our tourism sector, and
3. long term care.
On mental health and addictions challenges we related that Sioux Lookout is located in Treaty 3 on the traditional territory of the Lac Seul First Nation and that we are a service hub for 30 First Nations, many of which are fly-in access located in the Nishnawbe Aski Nation. The population in these northern communities, by almost any measure of social determinants to health, is the most marginalized population in Ontario. In repeated formal submissions and delegations to the Province of Ontario over the past six years we have provided the facts, the data, and the stories which support the desperate need for facilities and programs to respond to the mental health and addictions challenges facing the people in our region, our Municipality.
We told the Committee that over the past year we have worked with the Kenora District Services Board, the Sioux Lookout Friendship Accord, the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority, and the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre, to prepare a business case for detox, addictions treatment centre, and associated supported housing in Sioux Lookout. We informed the Committee that our business case was presented to Minister Tibollo earlier this year, in time for inclusion in the budget.
We also told the Committee that the current course of action, which is Provincial inaction, forces our Municipality to spend a burdensome share of our resources on policing costs. Essentially, we are trying to address the Provincial responsibilities of mental health and addictions through municipal policing, which leads to the judicial system, incarceration, release, and …… repeat and repeat again. This is not working and is rather like banging our head against a brick wall. But in this case, there is ample proof that this wall, the wall of addictions, will never come down using this methodology. We told the Committee that we need Provincial engagement and resources.
The second topic on which we addressed the Committee was the Provincial commitment to provide COVID related support to the small business sector. We informed them that to date the Provincial and Federal supports had generally missed the tourism sector in our area which is so dependent on the American market. To personalize this for the Committee we chose to read some of the comments we have received from a recent survey of 25 tourist outfitters operating in the Sioux Lookout region – all small businesses.
This sector and our Municipality need Provincial engagement and resources to support these small tourist outfitter businesses, some of which are in danger in failure and and all of which are deserving of a better response from the Province than what has been offered so far into the pandemic. These businesses have contributed to our Municipality for decades and are so important to the diversity of our local economy.
The third topic on which we addressed the Committee was the Provincial commitment to long term care. We chose to amplify a letter that the Meno Ya Win Health Centre sent in early April to Merilee Fullerton, Minister of Long Term Care. The succinct and direct letter was co-written by Sadie Maxwell, Chair of the Meno Ya Win Board and Heather Lee, Chief Executive Officer of the Meno Ya Win Health Centre. The letter clearly stated the continued failure of the Province to follow through on commitments made to provide the long term care beds so badly needed in Sioux Lookout is disappointing and that the lack of inclusion in the recent Provincial announcement is in fact offensive.
The Municipality continues to advocate on these and other matters. For this recent advocacy we are very appreciative of the support and assistance from our Provincial MPP, Sol Mamakwa.