MPP JOURNAL for the week of April 9 , 2001


David Tilson, MPP Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey


Premier Harris recently announced during a speech to the Ontario Community Newspaper Association the recommendations of the Task Force on Rural Economic Renewal. Harris outlined the government's plan to implement several recommendations in a recently released task force report on rural economic issues designed to help small-town economies grow.

Six Members of Provincial Parliament were appointed in March 2000 to consider ways to spur economic growth in small-town Ontario. Members of the task force included MPPs Doug Galt (chair), Toby Barrett, Marcel Beaubien, Garfield Dunlop, Julia Munro and Bill Murdoch.

As Premier Harris said in his speech, "We owe it to the hard-working people of small-town Ontario to move ahead with our plan for rural economic renewal," Harris said. "That means we must continue to work hard so that all the people of Ontario - from the largest to the smallest communities - have the opportunity to share in a prosperous future."

The task force's report contains a number of recommendations that will help rural communities stay competitive in a constantly changing global economy. The government is studying the report's findings and will be implementing some of those recommendations to augment existing rural economic renewal programs.
I would like to recap some of the major initiatives already in place for rural Ontario. They include a wide variety of public/private partnerships, water quality projects, community-based programs and business development initiatives.

Ontario Small Town and Rural Initiative

The government announced the $600 million last year to address rural economic development. Four hundred million was budgeted to ensure safe and reliable infrastructure systems in rural Ontario, including reliable water and sewer systems.

Provincial Water Protection Fund

The $200 million Provincial Water Protection Fund was announced in 1997 to help municipalities upgrade their water and sewage systems in response to specific health and environmental problems.

Rural Youth Jobs Strategy Fund

The four-year, $35 million Rural Youth Job Strategy Fund helps train rural youth and creates jobs in rural Ontario. It is estimated that over 17,300 jobs and work experiences for rural youth will be created province-wide as a result of these projects.

Access to Health Care

The Ontario government has been phasing in Telehealth across Ontario. The toll-free telephone service is free and confidential and people can call day or night to get health advice or information.

Callers can ask registered nurses questions about health concerns, or describe symptoms to help determine whether they should head immediately to an emergency room, whether their condition can wait for a visit to their health care professional the next day, or whether they can look after themselves at home.
The Ontario government is also working to increase the recruitment and retention of health professionals to help address the needs of smaller communities.

Community Access Program

Under this partnership with Industry Canada, the Ontario government has helped approximately 320 rural communities establish public Internet and computer training centres.

Self-Help Offices and Business Enterprise Centres

The Ontario government has expanded the network of Self-Help Offices and Business Enterprise Centres in rural Ontario. Last year, over 200,000 clients were served and over 5,000 new businesses were started by network clients. More facilities will open in the coming year.

Connect Ontario

Connect Ontario is an $82 million investment to develop a network of 50 "smart" communities across Ontario by 2005. Through innovative partnerships among community organizations, governments, local businesses and others, this initiative will create jobs, spur new investment, and help economic development.

David Tilson, MPP Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey


For further comment: David Tilson, MPP

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