'Come to the table,' Mayors ask Ottawa, Queen's Park

    SIMCOE, ON, March 30 /CNW/ - Mayors and Wardens of municipalities from
tobacco-growing communities in Southwestern Ontario have called upon
decision-makers from the federal and provincial governments to meet with them
about a tobacco exit and community transition strategy.
    Hosted by Norfolk County Mayor Dennis Travale, municipal leaders reviewed
the economic impact of the demise of tobacco production in Ontario at
15,582 jobs lost or at risk and $770 million in economic impact lost or at
    "We simply ask the federal and provincial government to signal an intent
to negotiate, and then to actually negotiate, and we want to be there," Mayor
Travale said. "We support a tobacco exit strategy and an economic transition
strategy. There is unanimity there. This is not simply a farmer issue. The
dimension is way beyond just the farmer, and that story is not getting out
    "We have identified an acute and identifiable impact," said Stephen
Molnar, Mayor of Tillsonburg. "We are sending a unified message. While the sun
is shining outside today, the seeds of hope no longer exist. Talk is difficult
because we are in a time when action is needed. The infrastructure of a region
is being significantly damaged."
    "I am disappointed at the federal level that there were no tax increases
for tobacco products, because that five cents a pack could have funded the
dignified exit strategy and economic development," said Bob Habkirk, Mayor of
Aylmer. "The economic devastation that we face may not be evident today, but
it will be in one year, three years or five years."
    Mayor Habkirk signalled his support to the call for funding for an
Agri-Food Innovation Centre, adding that "if we are to go to alternative
crops, such centres as that are going to be required."
    "Those tobacco fields educated a lot of people, who became doctors and
lawyers and trades people who are needed in our province," said Don Doan,
Mayor of Norwich Township, who also supported the Agri-Food Innovation Centre.
    "Our March 1 deadline was not met by the federal and provincial
government, and that has thrown the tobacco industry into a quandary," said
Lynn Acre, Mayor of Bayham Township and Warden of Elgin County. "If they
didn't like that exit strategy and plan, then let's sit down and come up with
one that works."
    "I am disappointed that we continue on our downward spin of instability,"
said Graham Warwick, Mayor of West Elgin, who was unable to attend but sent
his comments to the round table. "Municipalities lose a vital value-added crop
and bleed equity in skills and capital as assessment continues to ratchet
down. At the same time illegal sales are at an all-time high, supporting crime
in our areas."
    "The illegal trade is going to increase, and that will have a devastating
impact on our economy and a direct impact on Haldimand County, and that is a
major concern to us," added Haldimand County Councillor Buck Sloat.
    Paul Holbrough, Warden of Oxford County, and John Wilson, Mayor of the
Township of Malahide, also support the resolution.
    Other individuals and organizations have called upon the federal and
provincial government to fund a solution, including the Most Reverend Ronald
P. Fabro, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese in London, as well as the
Tillsonburg District Chamber of Commerce, Simcoe District Chamber of Commerce,
and Port Dover Board of Trade.
    Background documents prepared by the Mayors and Wardens can be reviewed
by visiting www.norfolkbusiness.ca.

For further information:

For further information: Media Contact: Dennis Travale, Mayor, Norfolk
County, Phone: (519) 426-5870, ext. 1220; Clark Hoskin, Manager, Tourism &
Economic Development, Norfolk County, Phone: (519) 426-5870, ext 1238

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