Meeting held January 17, 2023
Food Bank thanks town
Don Clendenning and Leo Malette of the West Nipissing Food Bank spoke on the staggering increase in food bank usage from 2019 to 2022, thanking the municipality for their support and taking the opportunity to publicize a fundraising event scheduled for February. Clendenning offered statistics: “Over the years the increase was an average of 10% a year of people who come through the door – 960 in 2019… to 2602 in 2022… In 2019 there were 80 households… in 2022 there were 108.” He attributed the increase to a large jump in food pricing, “Some items have gone up 100%”, untenable housing costs and inflation of 5 to 7%. “Nothing is going down… I don’t think anyone got a wage increase near there.” The food bank relies on donations, and Clendenning thanked everyone who supports the organization. “Past councils have continually supported us… This year we’re trying to help ourselves [with] a fundraiser,” an evening of entertainment February 11. He thanked council for allowing the food bank to use the recreation complex at no cost. “It’s a very big benefit to us.”
Mayor Kathleen Thorne-Rochon commented of Food Bank activities, “How important it is cannot be overstated… Without the work you do there would be a big hole in their cupboards… We’re happy to support an organization that supports the community so well.”
Au Chateau presentation
Jacques Dupuis, Administrator of Au Château, provided the new council with a concentrated overview of the corporate structure and many operations of Au Château, which not only covers the long-term care home itself, but Life Lease units in the municipality, Community Support Services that include all of West Nipissing from River Valley, Field, Verner, Cache Bay, Temagami, to Sturgeon Falls, and managing the West Nipissing Non-Profit Housing, with a total budget of $19.9 million. “Services range from social housing to support services to long term care.” Dupuis noted that the facilities employ 200 full-time and part-time employees, making it a huge economic asset in West Nipissing, with annual salaries and benefits amounting to $13M.
Serving the most vulnerable population, the frail and elderly, he said, comes with complex care requirements; with longer life spans, 6 of 10 residents suffer from some form of dementia and 46% exhibit aggressive behaviours. “More staff is needed for better quality care and to manage these behaviours.” He noted that in the most recent years the pandemic has added to the challenges. “If a staff person gets COVID they have to stay home for 10 days – that affects everyone.” He also has difficulty hiring bilingual staff, even with training incentives, recruitment campaigns and educational supports from the province and Collège Boréal. “The provincial government plays a role as well – they have to step up, attract and create programs to attract PSWs.”
Au Château is old and faces mandatory upgrades. Dupuis provided council with a truncated display of the proposed facility, originally mandated for 2025 but, due to COVID and other considerations, now delayed. The costs have risen from an estimate 10 years ago of $40M to $120M, and construction has been put on hold. Dupuis also repeatedly told council that Au Château remains a model home in the province, with its hub-like structural connections to the hospital and other facilities, which will continue with the new model. “When you look at the whole area – what West Nipissing has is the envy of many in the province – local hospital, ambulance, health centre, independent living, …in one big square we have all the health services anyone would require.”
Coun. Kris Rivard wanted to know what would happen to the old home when the new home is built. Dupuis answered it would be converted to an affordable housing assisted-living model, converting 2 rooms to independent units, and maintaining a central dining room. Mayor Thorne-Rochon requested clarification on whether the Life Lease units managed by Au Château provide a revenue stream, to which Dupuis responded that it is not a money generator, the Au Château plays a sponsorship and management role. He agreed with the mayor that the Life Lease units are in high demand.
More Homes Built Faster
Council was briefed by Clerk Mélanie Ducharme on the municipal opposition to provincial Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act which, while meant to create an atmosphere where affordable housing could be built quicker by eliminating impediments, seriously undercuts municipal revenue streams and ability to manage planning. Ducharme noted that municipalities have to plan for increased loads on water and sewer and other infrastructure, and while the Bill would alleviate issues for developers, it creates potential cost increases for municipalities in coping with increased density – costs that would be borne by taxpayers ultimately.
The bill allows for three dwelling units on any urban property, which means any home owner can “put an apartment in the basement, an apartment above the garage, a stand alone structure” and the municipality has no recourse with the additional infrastructure burden. “It sounds like a good idea at the outset, [but] when you drill down the municipality has to bear the cost at taxpayer level.” The Act constrains protection of natural heritage features, protected areas, and the ability to make sure a property is developed in a certain way. “That has been removed… so we won’t be able to impose site plan control… Where we have areas that are sensitive, we won’t have the right to say ‘15 feet back from a feature’ and so on.” Additionally, the right to public meetings for input on development has been removed, rights to 3rd party appeals are rescinded, and the planning process becomes less open and transparent, according to Clerk Ducharme’s analysis. She also provided letters from a host of Ontario municipalities protesting not only the contents of Bill 23, but also the way it was rushed through without adequate consultation.
Coun. Rivard expressed grave concern about the lack of public consultation and the downloading of costs. Mayor Thorne-Rochon asked whether the plan was directed primarily at fully serviced lots, and where those would be in West Nipissing. Clark Ducharme responded, “That would be the body of Cache Bay, Field, Verner, and Sturgeon Falls,” areas with fully and partially serviced lots. Mayor Thorne-Rochon pointed out, “I saw that they are only asking one parking space for one residential unit – would those parking issues create other issues? Streets become parking lots [so that the municipality is] providing parking spaces for houses through infrastructure dollars”? She asked if there was value in adding a West Nipissing voice to the objections. Ducharme suggested the more voices the province hears, it “would cause some sober second thinking”. Council agreed. Ducharme was directed to draft a letter to the province expressing concerns with Bill 23.
Snow plowing in WN
Closure of William Street section
Snow removal request denied
Council holds strategic planning retreat