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Province Returning To Traditional Definition Of Northern Ontario

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Province Returning To Traditional Definition Of Northern Ontario

District Of Muskoka Will Continue To Benefit From Numerous Provincial Programs

TORONTO -- The Ontario government is proposing to change the way northern Ontario is defined for the purpose of government funding and programs, Northern Development and Mines Minister Rick Bartolucci announced today.

"Muskoka residents can be confident that province-wide programs and services will continue to be provided," Bartolucci said. "At the same time, our government must provide a clear focus and concentrated effort to overcome the special challenges facing Northern Ontario."

Legislation introduced today by the Minister of Finance would, if passed, remove mention of the District of Muskoka from both the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation Act and the Northern Services Board Act. Other northern-focused government programs, previously altered in September 2000 to include Muskoka, will be amended through regulation to remove the district.

While program and service commitments for recipients currently underway will continue to be honoured, the proposed changes would mean that Muskoka would be ineligible for new assistance under most current northern-focused provincial programs and services after December 31, 2004.

"Because of the fiscal challenges left by the previous government, our government had to make some difficult decisions," Bartolucci said. "We need to ensure resources earmarked for northern communities are in fact directed accordingly, rather than areas outside of what is traditionally known to be Northern Ontario."

The ministries of Northern Development and Mines and Municipal Affairs and Housing will work together with other ministries and stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition with little disruption for Muskoka residents.

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