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Devolving power a priority.

Timmins Mayor Vic Power is convinced that economic development in the North must begin with the federal government devolving power to Northern Ontario.

"For starters, I think the government should decentralize federal government departments that relate to Northern Ontario," the mayor says. "There is no reason that, with the technology that we have these days, some of these operations can't be run just as easily somewhere in Northern Ontario."

Power mentions government ministries like Natural Resources Canada that have departments relating to the energy and mining sector as agencies that can relocate offices in the region.

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The relocation of important government offices, he says, is one way to spur business growth in the area.

Having a government presence here will show the business community and especially new, outside investors that the government "believes in Northern Ontario."

Having come back from government-led meetings with other large urban mayors in Northern Ontario, Power says that he and his council must focus on development closer to home.

"Economic development is a big issue. I can't speak for all the other mayors, but we all share a shortage of long-term care beds and infrastructure problems."

He cites the new addition of 64 new long-term care beds at the Golden Manor, a Timmins-based home for the elderly, as examples of the efforts he and council are putting into the issue.

Like other mayors, Power would like to see northern communities cooperating, putting pressure on the new government to return newly devolved responsibilities downloaded by the previous government back to the province. Many of these responsibilities put too much pressure on municipal budgets and take money away from economic development.

"The province downloaded 88 kilometres of highway onto us. We'd like that returned to them," Power says. "Government has given us a lot of new responsibility without the money to do it."

On a local level, Power says that Timmins is well-situated for growth due to co-operation between the business community and the city, something he wants to increase during his tenure.

"We have brought about a new tone at city hall," Power says. "The city, the EDO and the chamber of commerce all have to work together if we want to make the city better."

By JOSEPH QUESNEL

Northern Ontario Business
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Author:Quesnel, Joseph
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Jul 1, 2004
Words:378
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