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EOWC calls for federal collaboration on roads, bridges and cell networks for rural municipalities

A stable network of roads, bridges and cellular services throughout rural communities were highlights of the message Robert Quaiff delivered at Parliament Hill Monday morning.

The Prince Edward County mayor is this year’s chair of the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus, representing 13 counties and single-tier municipalities in the region.

Members met in Ottawa with MPs for the third annual breakfast meeting to discuss priorities and partnership opportunities that would directly benefit rural Eastern Ontario.

EOWC chair Robert Quaiff, Mayor of Prince Edward County, speaks about rural priorities at the third annual breakfast with MPs on Parliament Hill. Photo contributed

“It is our job, as leaders of our municipalities, to bring forward our most pressing issues to the upper levels of government,” said Quaiff. “The EOWC has a proven track record of working with its many partners, and specifically using research and data, to effectively explain why these should also be their priorities.”

The first priority discussed with the MPs was stable, predictable infrastructure funding for roads and bridges. The EOWC noted that in rural communities, the cost of improving one kilometre of road is shared by just five residences, while in urban areas it is shared by 25 homes.

“The federal 2017 budget recognized the critical importance of managing and improving infrastructure in rural communities across Eastern Ontario, and the EOWC was pleased to see the federal government’s $2-billion commitment to rural and northern municipal infrastructure and how that funding will be awarded in part, on the basis of need,” said Quaiff.

“The EOWC has the research and the data to support the fact that we have major investment challenges when it comes to our roads and bridge networks across the region,” said Bill Dobson, EOWC vice-chair and warden of Lanark County. “EOWC member municipalities own – and are responsible for – 73 per cent or 69,110 kilometers of all the roads in Eastern Ontario, including the City of Ottawa.”

“We also own 60 per cent of all the bridges. That equates to some 5,113 bridges and structures. Based on the needs for roads and bridges, we should be spending an
additional $500 million to $600 million a year to keep them to an acceptable standard.”

Also discussed was the business case prepared by the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) on closing the many cellular network gaps across rural Eastern Ontario.

This project is to improve cellular and mobile broadband services for the many residents and businesses without adequate service, while also improving the cellular network from a public-safety perspective for first responders.

“The EOWC is working very closely with EORN on this project, as well as our partners in the federal and provincial governments and the private sector – just as we all worked together in partnership when we collectively brought improved high-speed internet to rural Eastern Ontario,” said Quaiff. “Like with the broadband project, we hope to close these many cellular gaps on time and on budget, with the essential support and contribution of our partners – and today’s meeting was a great step forward in our mutual collaboration.”

Filed Under: Local News

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