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  • mmantha-co

June 7, 2024

Let's give credit to whom credit is due



I have to say that we politicians are truly a puzzling lot to understand. It is with great confidence that I say there is no standard 'type" or particular character trait that we all share. Some might maintain that we all love the limelight or like to hear ourselves talk. Some might say politicians thrive on the feeling of perceived power over the masses. And, of course, there is an overwhelming assumption that politicians enjoy a special kind of exhilaration that can come from battling wits and jousting with barbs and jibes between the government and opposition. If you ask me if it's true that politicians are all cut from the same cloth, I'd answer, 'Of course it is - to some degree.' But to be sure, there are also infinite variations.

However, I think governments are like a quilt formed of hundreds of patches that come together, creating security and strength. I firmly believe much is gained by debating issues in the legislature. I know from experience that great things can happen when committees comprising government, opposition and independent members shun partisanship, instead maintaining dialogue to make legislation work for the people it is intended to govern.

Public perception is that governing and change happen on the legislature's floor. That may be how it looks on news clips, but it is not reality. All the leg work and preliminary discussion is done behind the scenes before the Ministers and MPPs get their hands on it. We are involved in the process all along the way, but we are not the creators or builders of the legislation.

I raise the issue of, for lack of a better term, political grunt work for a reason in this week's column.

Recently, a government minister visited the riding to announce, with great fanfare, numerous grants and program launches in several communities across Algoma-Manitoulin. I was thrilled to learn of the ministry's generous support for several community groups. However, as I listened to the speech, I couldn't help but feel a niggle of annoyance on the back of my neck. If the lives of the people of Algoma-Manitoulin will benefit, how could I feel nettled at such good news?

I was perturbed because the minister did not give credit where credit was due.

Yes, funding is doled out by various ministries and agencies. However, long before the applications are submitted for consideration, much groundwork must be put in place by organization volunteers, municipal administrators, and so on by the community recipients. And that work doesn't start just weeks before the applications are submitted. It doesn't even begin months before. In some cases, the project is conceived and developed over time, sometimes years before final plans are actually submitted for consideration. Getting major projects off the ground takes foresight, planning, and gruntwork. It also takes persistence, submitting applications year after year.

I was so disappointed that the minister who recently came to the riding to make announcements did not have the courtesy to invite those who did the actual groundwork to join him in delivering the good news. Even worse, the minister did not give even a hint of credit to thank the people who laid the groundwork. Most ministers also invite the local MPP to participate as we often know the trench workers and want to congratulate and thank them on behalf of the citizens. As is the style of too many politicians, some politicians just can't summon the will to shun the limelight and give credit to those who made things happen.

To be clear, the standard I hold other politicians to also applies to me first and foremost. I always receive calls, emails, letters, and handshakes from constituents who thank me for helping resolve personal or community issues or successfully applying for funding. Admittedly, sometimes, I am the one who makes the calls or bends the ears of the appropriate people to get the job done. However, the fact of the matter is that one person can't do all the things that my office gets done. As much as I am proud to accept acknowledgement for my work, I take even greater pride in telling people that my team's efforts in Queen's Park and the constituency office made things happen. Given the number of cases and issues that are handled through my office, a good deal of the time, my team often does all the leg work and networking to get things done.

And when I say team, that is precisely what they are and how they work. When a sports team scores a goal or a home run, everyone involved shares in the success and joy: players, coaches, trainers and others all celebrate. The success of one team member is a success for all of us. It is the same for when the volunteers and workers of an organization, group or municipal administrators work toward completing a project or launching a program. And if you think that submitting funding or program applications is an easy task, think again. Heaven knows no one can 'mudify' or complicate a simple question or statement like a bureaucratic or government office.

It is also important for people to know that there are literally hundreds of opportunities to apply for programs and funding to make life better for their community. One of the most common funding sources is the Ontario Trillium Foundation. OTF grants help an extensive range of organizations and communities to deliver programs and services that directly benefit the people in the region. They offer community investment in the form of seed, Capital and growth grants. And they have many funding opportunities to support youth initiatives and funding to help local organizations come together and build resilient communities.

OTF has been very generous in supporting the people of Algoma-Manitoulin. From January 2023 through this date, OTF conducted four granting rounds: 1 Capital funding and 3 Resilient Communities Fund rounds. During this time, the people of this riding have benefitted from 15 grants, totalling $1,293,100.

Another huge funding source for Northerners is the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC). It was established in 1988 with a mandate to promote and stimulate economic development initiatives in Northern Ontario by providing financial assistance to projects that stabilize, diversify and foster economic growth in the region. NOHFC concentrates on six key funding programs aimed at promoting job creation, technology research and development, infrastructure and community development, youth entrepreneurship, youth internship and cooperation and the generation and conservation of renewable forms of energy. During the 2023 calendar year, NOHFC invested more than $14.3 million in 85 projects across Algoma-Manitoulin. This strong support helped to leverage more than $30.7 million additional dollars in investment, creating or sustaining 73 jobs. So far, in 2024, NOHFC has invested more than $5.7 million to date in 33 projects in the Algoma-Manitoulin riding, which has leveraged an additional $6.1 million in investment and creating or sustaining 33 jobs.

Last year, the Municipality of Wawa received funding from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs under the Rural Economic Development Program to support the development of a new Downtown Wawa Community Improvement Plan. Wawa also received over $553,000 in funding for three infrastructure projects. $$246,000 for the municipal airport, almost $109,000 for the Michipicoten Golf Club and nearly $200,000 has been set aside to develop new business/cultural space for Michipicoten First Nation. This funding did not fall out of the sky. It was the result of much hard work behind the scenes.

As I said, to get programs and funding doesn't just take work. It also requires time and lots of patience. Residents of Blind River and the area have been working very hard and patiently trying to arrange funding for a badly needed new school. The existing school is over 85 years old and has more than done its duty. I enjoyed the privilege of joining the Algoma District School Board and Conseil scolaire du Grand Nord as they announced that the Ministry of Education was investing $50.5 million in a jointly operated JK-12 school just months ago. It will accommodate 381 students, 72 elementary French-language places, 64 childcare spaces in four rooms and two rooms for EarlyOn Child and Family Centre. This success story required five years of discussions, planning, hard work and patience. But in the end, their determination was rewarded.

These are just some of the success stories that have happened in Algoma-Manitoulin. My office receives regular notifications from many Ministries. The Ontario Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility supports the Seniors Active Living Centres programs, which offer a range of social, cultural, learning and recreational programs for seniors. Senior groups and centres in Algoma-Manitoulin have received generous financial support and access to programs through the Ontario Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility - Seniors Active Living Centre Program. This program helps seniors engage in activities that promote physical and mental wellness, social engagement, and education.

Like many Northerners, I sometimes feel we are forgotten in the Northern regions. But, despite all the negative news that the media bombard us with, there really are good things happening – and they are happening here in Algoma-Manitoulin. They are happening because of the hard-working volunteers and community workers who see a need, formulate a plan to address the issues, and then work hard to make the improvements a reality. So, the next time you learn of a grant announcement or attend your community organization or club meeting at which funding and program announcements are made, I hope you will take the time to give credit to the people who did the boots-on-the-ground leg work to make the funding possible. They are the ones who make things happen, not the politicians who deliver the good news.

As always, I invite you to contact my office about these issues or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at mmantha-co@ola.org or call Toll-free 1-800-831-1899.


Michael Mantha, MPP

Algoma-Manitoulin 

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