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Vaccines, internet and passenger rail discussed at ROMA conference

It doesn’t look like the north is being forgotten about in the province’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Danny Whalen, president of the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM), says he voiced his concern to Ontario cabinet ministers during this week’s Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference about northern vaccine distribution. 

The same day of the conference, northern health units received their first shipments of the Moderna vaccine. 

“We’re very pleased with the fact we’re receiving the vaccines on the same schedule of southern Ontario,” Whalen said. “So far, we’re on par.”

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The virtual ROMA conference also discussed high-speed internet connectivity in the north, which has been picking up steam with the potential of Elon Musk’s StarLink satellite internet being of use. 

Whalen says roughly 400 Canadians are involved in a beta test of the program, and so far, have reported “incredible speeds.”

“Ultimately, fibre internet is the gold standard, but with the topography and vast geography in the north, satellite (internet) is going to play a big role,” Whalen noted. 

The ROMA conference also discussed the potential return of passenger rail to northern Ontario. North Bay city council voted on Tuesday to push the provincial government to commit to its return before 2022.

Whalen says municipalities across northern Ontario are approving similar motions, with the idea to get the provincial and federal governments to help pay for the passenger rail service that was discontinued in 2012.

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