A Transportation Task Force has been created by the Ontario government to address transportation needs and opportunities in Northern Ontario.

Kenora-Rainy River MPP, Greg Rickford said this task force will be looking at ways into improving highway maintenance, and conditions throughout the north.

“We decided to move to a task force because there are a couple of things on the table. They include a higher frequency of accidents with transport trucks. Certain strategies they’ve been testing out, shutting a highway down to clear it better rather than doing it when traffic is flowing,” Rickford said.

Extremely cold temperatures along with heavy snow have caused Highway 17 to be shut numerous times over the winter, which has called highway maintenance into question by motorists.

“Northwestern Ontario has some of the best state-of-the-art road maintenance equipment there is out there. We monitor this very closely and our investments have increased,” Rickford concluded.

The task force is made up of community-based leaders from across the northern region to work together to examine efficiency for people and goods to travel while increasing economic growth.

Kenora Mayor, Dan Reynard has been called upon to be a part of the task force as a member.

“I’m very proud to have been asked to participate. It’s a proud moment to be asked. I take it as Kenora is an important part of it, and as Mayor of Kenora, I’m representing not only our views by also everybody from the North. I’m very excited about the opportunity,” Reynard said.

Establishing a task force was one of more than 60 actions set out in Connecting the North: A Draft Transportation Plan for Northern Ontario.

Though the task force is still very new to Reynard, he does have ideas he wants to bring to the table for discussion.

“With the number of highway shutdowns heading east, I think that is a priority item as we move forward is to how do we extend the twinning from Kenora to Thunder Bay. A lot of people have to travel to Thunder Bay for healthcare. The supply chain is interrupted. That’s certainly a priority in my mind that I would like to see addressed,” Reynard added.

Reynard concluded by saying the task force is expected to meet this week to start discussions on how to improve transportation in the north.

The task force members are:

Danny Whalen (Co-Chair): President, Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM) and Councillor, City of Temiskaming Shores

Wendy Landry (Co-Chair): President, Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA) and Mayor, Municipality of Shuniah

Mayor Brian Bigger: Mayor of Greater Sudbury

Mayor Daniel Reynard: Mayor of Kenora

Mayor Dave Plourde: Mayor of Kapuskasing

Mayor Doug Lawrance: Mayor of Sioux Lookout

Mayor Johanne Baril: Mayor of the Municipality of Val Rita-Harty and President of NorthEastern Ontario Municipal Association

Grand Chief Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh: Grand Council Treaty #3

Chief Melvin Hardy: Northern Superior Regional Deputy Grand Council Chief, Anishinabek Nation

Kevin Eshkawkogan: CEO of Indigenous Tourism Ontario

Alan Spacek: Chair of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission

Charles Cirtwill: President and CEO of the Northern Policy Institute

Ron Bumstead: Owner, Bumstead Trucking

Additional members may be added at a later date.