By Chad Ingram
Published Jan. 12 2017
Improving cellular networks and broadband Internet services is the No. 1. priority of the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus for 2017.
The EOWC which represents about 750000 residents in 13 municipalities in Eastern Ontario held its annual general meeting in Kingston on Jan. 5 and 6.
“The EOWC remains concerned about the increasing costs of certain services in the region particularly when we think about our residents and businesses and their ability to pay” Prince Edward County Mayor Robert Quaiff who was elected EOWC chairman for 2017 during last week’s meeting said in a press release. “This includes everything from infrastructure to hydroelectricity and cellular network improvements to natural gas expansion and the EOWC will continue to work with its partners at the provincial and federal government levels for regulatory changes and cost relief across all sectors – as it has done successfully in the past.”
According to the release the EOWC’s top priority will be continuing to work with the Eastern Ontario Regional Network in an attempt to remedy a lack of broadband connectivity that continues to affect about 14 per cent of the area encompassed by the EOWC.
Between 2010 and 2015 EORN embarked on a $175-million project that aimed to connect 95 per cent of homes and businesses within its jurisdiction with broadband high-speed Internet. Rather than connecting 95 per cent the initial EORN project connected about 86 per cent of homes and businesses leaving a coverage gap that envelops about 14 per cent of the region.
A new project which EORN hopes will get underway in 2018 aims to connect an additional 72000 homes and businesses bringing area coverage up to 99 per cent. The project will cost more than $200 million requiring the construction of new transmission towers.
Other key priorities for the EOWC for 2017 include growing the regional economy by pushing for the expansion of natural gas infrastructure and a solution to high hydro rates as well as reducing operational expenses including policing costs.
“The EOWC will also continue working with its partners in the Eastern Ontario Mayors’ Caucus and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario to advocate for legislative solutions that will reduce operational costs for municipalities” said Minden Hills Reeve and Haliburton County Warden Brent Devolin. “By working to alleviate the financial burden on the municipal sector the EOWC aims to improve the conditions for growth and economic development”
Devolin has said the EOWC and AMO need to push the province to make changes to joint and several liability legislation which can see municipalities saddled with entire damages for lawsuits even if they are found to be only one per cent responsible in a case as well as its interest arbitration system.