The city is hosting municipal officials from across the country for one of its most significant meetings of the year.
More than 100 board members from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities will converge in Thunder Bay this week for the annual spring meetings. While the organization does not have any legal authority, the federation does serve as an influential lobby group.
Coun. Linda Rydholm, who also serves as a board member for the federation, and its vice-chair of the women's’ committee, said the organization has been able to achieve significant victories in the past, including with the recent international trade agreement with the European Union.
“We did get 25 per cent Canadian content with the Canadian and European Union trade agreement so that 25 per cent should greatly help the Bombardier plant in Thunder Bay,” Rydholm said.
The group has also been successful through lobbying for direct funding to municipalities and she listed accessing the federal Gas Tax Fund, federal portion of the GST rebate along with receiving increased infrastructure funding as ways the organization has benefitted the city.
One of the topics expected to be addressed during the meetings is how different municipalities can access the federal government’s Building Canada Fund.
That fund has major implications for Thunder Bay, as mayor Keith Hobbs admits the construction of the new event centre is likely reliant upon that money.
“The Building Canada Fund is huge for major infrastructure projects, like the events centre. Those are the kinds of funds we would have to rely on to see that project going forward,” he said.
“The (upcoming federal) election is a big issue because will the Building Canada Fund still be there if another party gets in.”
Rydholm said she expects the board members to also discuss other national issues such as a housing strategy and rail safety.
Hobbs said the meeting is an opportunity for representatives from municipalities from across the country to compare notes and adopt practices that have proven effective.
That includes one significant municipal duty where Thunder Bay has jumped ahead of the curve, according to Hobbs.
“Infrastructure is crumbling in a lot of communities and Thunder Bay has been identified as a leader in our infrastructure enhancement in the province and recognized Canada wide as well,” he said.
“We’re going to be putting $40 million into our infrastructure which is historic levels for our municipality. Other municipalities are looking at us for enhanced infrastructure programs.”
In addition to the meetings visiting board members will participate in a variety of activities across the city, including a book drive at the Mary J.L. Black Public Library on Friday and a Women in Politics forum on Saturday.