From Jan. 25-26, 2021, I attended the virtual Rural Ontario Municipalities Association (ROMA) conference.
The annual conference remains an opportunity to connect with colleagues and the province and learn from experts on important and timely rural issues. More than 1,100 participants took part, virtually, in the first large gathering of municipal officials in Ontario since the pandemic entered its second wave.
The ROMA conference provided an opportunity to attend workshops, keynote sessions and directly engage with provincial ministers.
As part of the Halton Region delegation, I joined my fellow colleagues Halton Regional Chair Gary Carr, Milton Regional Councillor/Chair of the Regional Caucus at AMO, Colin Best (as well as Halton MPPs) in meeting with several ministries and ministers.
Today, I received a response from the Hon. Laurie Scott, Minister of Infrastructure after our delegation meeting at ROMA. I’ve included it below.
Her Worship Marianne Meed Ward
Mayor, City of Burlington
Dear Mayor Meed Ward:
On behalf of the Ministry of Infrastructure, I would like to thank you for attending the 2021 Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) Virtual Annual Conference. It was a pleasure to meet with you and your delegation.
I appreciated our discussion about the issues and hardships faced due to the lack of reliable broadband connectivity in your area. Too many people in our province lack reliable Internet or cellular access, or don’t have any connectivity at all.
Our government understands how important it is for people to have reliable access to broadband and cellular connectivity, and we’ve stepped up to the plate to deliver funding-based opportunities for unserved and underserved communities right across the province. In mid-2019, we launched Up to Speed: Ontario’s Broadband and Cellular Action Plan, our strategy to help close the digital divide. In the months since then, our government has taken action to improve connectivity in communities across the province.
That is why Ontario is making a historic investment of almost $1 billion to improve broadband and cellular services. That’s an additional $680 million new dollars on top of our previous commitment. This includes doubling our funding for the Improving Connectivity for Ontario (ICON) program to $300 million in order to leverage more than $900 million in total funding from the private sector and other levels of government. We will be able to fund more projects to connect people in even more communities. We expect the first projects through this program to be announced next spring. If you have further questions, please contact ICONprogram@ontario.ca.
We are encouraged by the federal government’s recently announced Universal Broadband Fund but will continue to call on the federal government to properly fund broadband as it is a federally-regulated sector.
Additionally, the Infrastructure Ontario (IO) Loan Program offers affordable long-term fixed-rate loans to eligible public sector clients and non-profit organizations, allowing them to build, modernize and renew their infrastructure. Projects range from the revitalization of roads, bridges, recreation complexes, and affordable housing projects to the purchase of assets such as fire trucks and energy efficient street lighting.
Since inception in 2003, the IO Loan Program has provided over $11 billion in loans to over 3,100 projects across the province. For more information please contact Jennifer Hutcheon, Vice President of Business Development, by email at Jennifer.email@example.com.
Thank you again for meeting with me. I look forward to continuing to work with you in the future.
The Honourable Laurie Scott
Minister of Infrastructure
c: Jane McKenna, MPP, Burlington
Effie Triantafilopoulos, MPP, Oakville North-Burlington