Mayor Dennis Fenske took just under 15 minutes of last night’s regular meeting of Thompson City Council to respond to a letter from Deputy Minister Dyson as well as remarks made by Minister Pedersen.
Dave Dyson, who serves as the Deputy Minister of Growth, Enterprise and Trade, sent Mayor and Council a letter which said that Thompson would not be receiving any money from the Mining Community Reserve Fund (MCRF) as the fund is below the threshold that is needed to allocate money.
The Mining Tax Act, which governs the MCRF, does have a clause saying that money cannot be allocated if the fund is under the $10M minimum balance, though that only applies to exploration and prospecting.
Councillor Kathy Valentino spoke after Mayor Fenske read the letter during the meeting, saying that even though it’s disappointing that Thompson won’t be getting money, it’s a good sign that “we’re making enough noise that they’re starting to listen” and that Council needs to continue pressuring the government.
Fenske’s statement did not address the letter from Dyson, but instead responded to what Minister Blaine Pedersen (Growth, Enterprise and Trade) said and didn’t say to both himself and Arctic Radio News.
In an interview that aired yesterday, Minister Pedersen said that the City of Thompson hadn’t submitted a long-term plan and said that the Pallister Government wanted to see a concrete plan longer than four years. Pedersen also said that the current situation facing Thompson due to the closure of the Vale smelter and refinery isn’t “anything new” and that “the work that we’re doing now should have been done years ago”.
Mayor Fenske said in no uncertain terms that he takes exception to almost everything the Minister said. He pointed out that the City has in fact been doing work to prepare for the Vale transition since 2010.
Fenske said that there have been plans and projects in the works to make Thompson a better place, such as an overhaul of the homeless shelter and construction of low-income housing. The Mayor said that there was a plan in place eight years ago when he was a councillor to model the Thompson homeless shelter after the Main Street Program in Winnipeg. He said that it would not only provide supports, but also reduce the crime severity index as it would allow people to stay there rather than in RCMP cells. Fenske said that the City has not had any support from the province on that plan.
The Mayor also added that the previous NDP government had given support to a project to build a housing project on the property beside Fas Gas, but it was put on hold once the current PC government took office.
Fenske went on to address the lack of acknowledgement that Thompson gets from mainstream media outlets, and said that the north is important to the province. He said that if it wasn’t for northern Manitoba, the Province would be left with little more than agriculture for economic development.
Mayor Fenske's full statement can be heard by clicking here.