Held in Ottawa from Aug. 19-22, Matichuk, seven members of city council and key staff members were able to directly lobby provincial cabinet ministers on Sudbury priorities. They met with Transportation Minister Bob Chiarelli over funding for Maley Drive; with MNR Minister Michael Gravelle over provincial downloading of responsibility for nuisance bears to local police services; and Matichuk met with Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Kathleen Wynne over the mayor’s call for legislation that would allow voters to recall politicians between elections.
“We’ve gotten feedback from all three ministers, so it’s been quite positive for us,” Matichuk said Aug. 21, on the phone from Ottawa.
While not receiving a specific funding commitment for the $129 million Maley Drive road expansion project, Matichuk said talks with Chiarelli were productive.
“I can tell you we had some very good, very positive meetings,” she said. “He was giving us suggestions and some possible solutions on how we can go about getting this funded.”
Councillors had city staff break the project down into three sections, as well as four other funding categories. Matichuk said Chiarelli offered insight into ways of getting funding for different aspects of Maley.
“We have some work to do when it comes to those solutions, and our staff has some work to do when it comes to getting more information to the minister,” she said.
“When it comes to funding, there’s different pockets. And when you want to go into different pockets, sometimes you have to provide value-added information.”
While she wouldn’t say whether they received any informal promises of support, Matichuk said she’s hopeful progress was made.
“We did get some positive feedback. But I can’t really say anything right now. I don’t want to put words in people’s mouths … I always look at it this way – we didn’t get a ‘no.’ So that’s positive, right?”
She was also encouraged with the Gravelle meeting over nuisance bears. While there’s not much hope of convincing the province to take back responsibility for answering bear calls after business hours, they did make some headway in getting the province to train Sudbury and other local police forces in how to handle the bears.
“We suggested a meeting between the Ministry of Natural Resources and our police department to talk about ways that we could be more successful, and that is something (Gravelle) is looking at,” she said. “I would like to see that the training is paid for, that it’s done in our municipality and our police officers are trained better to deal with bears.
“I’m not sure what level of training they have right now, but I think if they’re going to take on more responsibility, you would have to increase the level of training.”
As far as the mayor’s agenda of pushing for recall legislation – something she campaigned on -- Matichuk said the fact she’s a lone voice among Ontario municipal politicians doesn’t work in her favour.
“(Wynne) did compliment me for bringing it forward,” Matichuk said. “But because of the way the political process works, if a lot of people aren’t speaking about it, it’s not really an issue.”
Wynne told her that for the province to consider recall legislation, support from local governments would have to be loud and clear – something that is not the case at the moment.
“I have been talking to a few mayors, and have gotten a little bit of support,” she said. “But there would have to be a lot of mayors coming forward and saying that this is something that we really want.
“I’m going to float the idea out there -- that’s what I’m committed to, as far as rallying support. And we’ll see where that goes.”
If it does gain support, Matichuk said it wouldn’t be limited to the municipal level.
“One of the things she did say is that if they were to entertain something like this, they would do it at all levels of government … She said she couldn’t see them singling out municipal politicians.”
Sudbury was also part of a small group invited to a reception with Federal Cabinet Minister Tony Clement, who is in charge of FedNor. Getting federal support for Maley is key, since the project would be funded equally by the feds, the province and the municipality.
“It was a very small group, and we brought our list of priorities to him with ways of how they can help us to find solutions,” Matichuk said.
They also attended talks by Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty, NDP Opposition Leader Andrea Horvath and PC leader Tim Hudak.
“It was very successful couple of days,” she said. “And we’re still finding people who have been able to help us. And I think that’s one of the big things for these types of conferences.
“The whole purpose of being here is to try to get the projects we have in the hopper and, at the end of the day, to be successful when it comes to getting them expedited.”
AMO is an annual event attended by almost all of Ontario’s 444 municipalities, with 1,700 delegates expected this year. In addition to Matichuk, city councillors Fabio Belli, Claude Berthiaume, Frances Caldarelli, Ron Dupuis, Evelyn Dutrisac, Terry Kett and Andre Rivest also attended the conference.