November 13, 2015 - On Saturday, November 8, 2015, O’Connor Mayor, Ron Nelson, passed away, leaving fellow colleagues, municipal and regional leaders, and everyone at Northern Policy Institute to mourn the loss of a true champion for Northern Ontario.
Nelson was first elected as a councillor in the O’Connor Township in 1991 and in 1994 was elected reeve. By 2015, he was serving his seventh term as Mayor of O’Connor. But Nelson’s ambitions for Northern Ontario went well beyond his township. He served on the board of directors of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association and eventually went on to serve as president for two terms. He also served as president of the Thunder Bay District Municipal League.
Throughout his service to his community and region, Nelson was instrumental in moving the region forward through advancements in education and research. With characteristic persistence, Nelson led the charge in successfully bringing the Northern Ontario School of Medicine to Thunder Bay.
Nelson’s sudden departure is being felt across the region. Current president of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association and mayor of Kenora, Dave Canfield, said in the Chronicle-Journal, “Ron was one of the greatest leaders Northwest Ontario has ever had. He will leave a void almost impossible to fill.”
During his time as president of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association, Nelson was also a key figure in the creation of Northern Policy Institute, which launched in August, 2012.
Ron Nelson (far left) following the announcement of the newly created Northern Policy Institute in 2012
“The concept of the Northern Policy Institute is a simple one – Northern policies created in the North, by Northerners,” Nelson said in a NOMA media release. “Over the past decades, NOMA has consistently told governments of all stripes that one size fits all solutions from Toronto do not fit the unique needs of Northwestern Ontario communities.”
Nelson never shied away from championing northern issues and he believed that Northern Policy Institute would lend northerners the voice that they deserved.
“The work of Northern Policy Institute will serve to level the planning field by bringing attention to this large geographic area with a small population,” Nelson said. “This is an exciting day for Northerners!”
“Northern Policy Institute would not be here today if people like Ron Nelson were not pulling so tirelessly to move the region forward toward a brighter and stronger future,” Northern Policy Institute president, Charles Cirtwill, said. “We would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to Ron for all that he has done for the region and pass along our deepest sympathies to Ron’s family and friends.”
By Northern Policy Institute