The President of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association is looking at the 2023 Ontario budget with cautious optimism.
Wendy Landry says she’s happy to see ongoing issues like highways, broadband, and other infrastructure see dollars devoted to them, but the downside is the province didn’t really elaborate on where those dollars will be spent.
“$5 billion is a lot of money but it doesn’t specifically say with our highways in Northwestern Ontario how much is coming here. Of course the twinning of the highway is going to continue so we’re happy to see that.”
Additionally $81 billion has been allocated to healthcare in the province but she notes the dollar amount dedicated to the Northwest remains shrouded in mystery.
“Where’s that money that money going to and what its going to be for? You know Northwestern Ontario we’re short nurses, we’re short doctors, but we have a different thing that’s happening here with our nurses. A lot of our nurses are leaving our hospitals to go work on the contract work in different places.”
Landry says in many of those cases, recruitment bonuses are being paid out to those nurses being lured away to other locations outside of the region or to the far north.
Thunder Bay – Atikokan MPP Kevin Holland calls the 2023 budget an “all Ontario budget” which will benefit the Northwest.
One item he is particularly glad to see is dedicated funding of more than $14.7 million to support veterinary training in the region, creating the first new spaces for training in 35 years.
“That’s huge, I’ve been hearing from the farmers and the agriculture community around here and even individual pet owners that have the lack of veterinarians in the area.”
On that Landry agrees with Holland, noting having vets helps securing the safety of the food supply with cattle, pigs, chickens and other domesticated food sources.
Another party involved in that funding is Lakehead University, which will see $4.5 million of the $14.7 million to build the physical infrastructure needed at the university.
LU President Moira McPherson says while that is a considerable amount of money to get the ball rolling, more will be needed.
“We’re going to be putting in some more funding applications and we also have our external relations team seeking philanthropic support. So we’re very confident we’re going to be able to create the necessary facility for this program.”
The new veterinary training program will not be 100% exclusive to Lakehead University, as the money is also going to a partner school, the University of Guelph.
McPherson says 20 positions for students will open up at LU, and those who enroll will get their first two years of education in Thunder Bay, before going to Guelph to wrap up, creating a class base of 40 students at the university.