The Western Ontario Wardens' Caucus Inc. (WOWC) is a not-for-profit organization representing 15 upper and single tier municipalities in southwestern Ontario with more than three million residents. Its purpose is to enhance the prosperity and overall wellbeing of rural and small urban communities across the region. Caucus members work collectively to influence federal, provincial and municipal legislative, regulatory and program initiatives through advocacy, research and analysis and education.
Collectively, the municipalities represent approximately 300 communities, and almost half a million square kilometres of territory, more than 90% of it rural. A rough count indicates that these municipalities administer approximately 25,000 kilometres of roads, more than 3,000 bridges, and about 24,000 culverts.
WOWC Concerns Include:
- Economic Development: seeking funding and partnership opportunities to expand the prosperity base of the region. This includes funding the build of the SWIFT network, a ubiquitous, affordable and accessible regional ultra-high speed (fibre-based) broadband network regardless of population density.
- Advocacy with the Provincial and Federal governments on issues such as the local impacts of labour contract arbitration.
- Stable Municipal Funding: seeking sustainable and more predictable funding from other orders of government, particularly for critical infrastructure (roads, bridges, rail and bus transportation, social housing and high speed Intranet).
- Income disparity between rural and urban citizens is growing.
- Thousands of well-paying industrial jobs have been lost in recent years as multinationals move manufacturing off-shore or south of the border.
- Many communities are one-industry towns, which are particularly vulnerable when plants close, e.g., 740 jobs were lost in a community of only 7,515 households when the Heinz plant closed in Leamington.
- Manufacturers struggle to retool their businesses in the face of competitive global economic forces.
- Youth out-migrate to larger urban centres in search of jobs.
- Small businesses and farm business are disadvantaged by their physical remoteness from supply-chains, marketplaces, financial capital, and government services, and by inadequate technological infrastructure.
- As tax assessment base shrinks, funds for infrastructure dry up.
- Communities across the region are caught in a vicious cycle of economic decline and they struggle to reverse the negative momentum.
- Supporting critical industries – agriculture and agri-foods; culture, tourism and recreation; advanced manufacturing; green technologies; transportation and logistics; small business.
- Levelling the playing field between Southwestern Ontario and the rest of Ontario.
- Working to retain youth, and attract immigrants and skilled workers.
- Pressing upper levels of government to intervene and provide resources.