County expected to converse with Yurek during online ROMA

Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks Jeff Yurek at Point Petre in September, 2020. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

The COVID-19 pandemic will force an annual gathering of rural municipal government officials to cyberspace next week as County representatives will connect virtually with provincial and municipal officials next week to explore ways of tackling the unique challenges faced by small municipalities.

A delegation led by County of Prince Edward Mayor Steve Ferguson will join hundreds of participants at the 2021 Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) Conference January 25-26. In addition to attending plenary sessions and workshops during the conference, County representatives will meet with the Hon. Jeff Yurek, the Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks.

Mayor of Prince Edward County Steve Ferguson. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

Typically, the conference takes place in Toronto with delegates meeting with various Ministers and provincial government officials while also taking part in educational seminars.

“Since meeting with Minister Yurek and his staff at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Conference back in the summer, significant progress has been made on the recommendations we put forward around improving provincial park operations. We look forward to following up next week with Minister Yurek and stressing the importance of clear and early communication with residents and visitors to implement positive change,” Mayor Ferguson said.

Mayor Ferguson will take part in a roundtable focused on red tape reduction hosted by the Hon. Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction.

“I will impress upon the minister the importance of giving small businesses and craft producers the flexibility to diversify their operations and pursue innovative ideas,” Mayor Ferguson says. “I will encourage the province to support workforce development programs, a key aspect of the COVID-19 economic recovery. I will also ask the minister to reduce barriers so that the municipality can move forward infrastructure projects in a timely manner, which will create good jobs in our community and spur economic recovery.”

For the first time ever, the conference will be held entirely online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program features plenary sessions and workshops touching on everything from the economic recovery to health care, broadband and environmental matters.

Key presenters include Ontario Premier Doug Ford, opposition leaders, and key provincial ministers. Other speakers include Maryam Monsef, Canada’s Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development, and AMO President Graydon Smith.

ROMA takes pride in promoting, supporting and enhancing strong and effective rural governments. About 270 of Ontario’s 444 municipalities have populations of less than 10,000, while scores more are rural in character.