Waiting for federal approval on EORN cell gap project
By Chad Ingram
Published May 7, 2019
A mobile broadband expansion project planned by the Eastern Ontario Regional Network, which is owned by the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus, just needs approval of the federal funding portion of the project to get underway, says Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin.
Devolin, who was recently appointed to the EORN board, was at a meeting between members of EORN, the EOWC, chief administrative officers and MPs from throughout eastern Ontario on April 18.
A public-private partnership, the project, designed to fill in cellular connectivity gaps throughout the region, has an estimated price tag of $213 million. Of that total cost, $10 million is budgeted to come from the EOWC, along with the separated city governments within its area; $71 million from the federal government; $71 million from the provincial government; and $61 million from the mobile provider companies themselves.
Haliburton County will spend up to $565,000 on the project.
The Wynne government committed to the provincial $71 million, and that funding was approved by the Ford government in its recent budget.
“The project was forwarded to the federal government, as we go through the province to be sponsored, then go on to the feds,” said Devolin. “So that has happened.”
All the rest of the project’s funding is in place.
“This has been a two-year journey,” Devolin said. “Every piece but one is done, and that’s for the feds to approve it.”
Devolin said there were both Liberal and Conservative MPs in attendance at the meeting, where normally a number of issues would be discussed.
“There was only one,” he said. “This was the only one. They were kindly told by a few people, including myself, to put their partisan things away, that this is the only thing that we wanted, with a bullet, and after that, the silence was deafening. The MPs commented that they clearly understood what we were saying to them.”
With a federal election coming up in October, rules go into place, similar to lame duck rules for municipal council in an election year, placing spending restrictions on the government. Devolin said it’s critical that the federal funding be approved before a date in June.
“If it does not, it probably will delay the whole thing 18 months,” he said.
There are still large swaths of Haliburton County without access to reliable, mobile internet. The project will include the construction of a number of new communications towers.