Sometimes, a little face time can go a long way.
That’s why more than 1,600 elected officials from more than 300 municipalities across the province are in Ottawa this week for the Association of Municipalities of Ontario’s annual conference.
The three-day conference will feature guest speakers like Premier Dalton McGuinty, Federal Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities John Baird, Senator Pamela Wallin, deputy premier and Ontario Minister of Energy and Infrastructure George Smitherman, Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Jim Watson, Ontario PC Party Leader Tim Hudak and Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
More than 15 federal and provincial ministers or their representatives will also attend.
Thunder Bay Mayor Lynn Peterson said one of the benefits of attending the conference is being able to speak face-to-face with several ministers in a short period of time rather than making multiple trips over several months.
“You get to see them all over the course of a couple days,” Peterson said. “It’s a direct pipeline and it has so much value for the community.”
For many mayors of smaller or more remote municipalities, a face-to-face meeting with federal and provincial ministers is costly and very time consuming.
Having the conference in Ottawa provides a big boost for the city, said Alta Vista Coun. Peter Hume, who is also AMO president.
This is the fourth consecutive year the AMO annual conference has been held in Ottawa and Hume said it injects an estimated $5 million into the economy while providing local councillors face time with provincial ministers.
“We’re certainly going to be talking about the economic situation we find ourselves in and how municipalities are faring with the infrastructure stimulus that we’ve been receiving,” he said.
While massive infrastructure investments have reaped benefits, Hume said it was time to turn the human costs of the recession.
Peterson said there is also opportunity to share best practices and attend panel discussions on the “important things that make communities,” like sewer infrastructure, recreation and health care.