QUEEN’S PARK – The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund was the topic at Queen’s Park during an exchange between Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle and Thunder Bay Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro.
Changes have been announced to the fund, and the breadth of what it covers.
Northern Ontario Heritage Fund
Mr. Bill Mauro: My question is for the Minister of Northern Development and Mines and has to do with the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund. Minister, one of the chronic, constant complaints we hear, as northerners, from our political opponents is that northern Ontario doesn’t have a voice and that their voice is not heard. Obviously, as a northerner, I emphatically reject that premise.
Our investments through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund and our increases in funding—it’s important to note that taking that fund from $60 million to $100 million annually is just one very clear indication that in fact the north is being heard and that northern members continue to deliver for their ridings.
I know that very recently, Minister, you made an announcement on a bit of a renew, relook and refresh of the programming within the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund. I’m wondering, Minister, if you could share with the House exactly what this programming is going to do to continue that wonderful trend in northern Ontario.
Hon. Michael Gravelle: Thank you so much to the member from Thunder Bay–Atikokan. We’re so very proud of the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. in terms of the jobs that it has created: 22,000 jobs created or retained over the last 10 years, and thousands abroad; $890 million in investment.
Two weeks ago, we decided we needed to look and say, “Can we make the program even stronger?” We had the opportunity to announce five new programs to basically enhance how the heritage fund works. What we recognize is that we want to tie it into the priorities that were identified in the northern Ontario growth plan—existing and emerging sectors in the economy, the ones that are the real priorities for the north.
What we’ve done is, with the new programs, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. has aligned programs with those sectors that will maximize benefits for northerners and even work better than it has in the past. We’ve been working with northern municipalities, aboriginal communities, certainly industries and the private sector to get a stronger, more diverse and sustainable northern economy. I’ll look forward in my supplementary to perhaps providing—
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. I’m going to ask the minister: Next time, wait for me to acknowledge you before you start; your microphone won’t be on.
Carry on. Supplementary.
Mr. Bill Mauro: Minister, thank you for that response. As mentioned, since October 2003—over $860 million towards more than 5,800 projects, leveraging over $3 billion in investment. I can tell you that in my riding alone, there has been tens of millions of dollars of investment through hundreds of projects, creating or maintaining close to 1,700 jobs.
Here are a few examples in my riding of Thunder Bay–Atikokan. Nu-Tech Metals: $300,000 to expand a fabrication shop for a high-definition plasma table, allowing them to bid on jobs they previously couldn’t and to hire more people. Rubin Business Park in Murillo and Olive Paipoonge: over $500,000 for an expansion of their industrial park with serviced lots. Thunder Bay International Airport Authority, the third-busiest airport in all of Ontario: $1 million to continue the great trend that we see there on the business expansion of Thunder Bay International Airport.
Minister, can you please share with the House the new programming—specifically how we’re going to see that continue what has been a great trend through NOHFC all across northern Ontario?
Hon. Michael Gravelle: Thank you so much again. This is why aligning the programs with the growth plan is so important, because the growth plan calls on us to strengthen the north’s competitive advantage. Our program changes are focusing investment on existing and emerging sectors that have strong potential for significant growth across the north.
As part of our government’s plan to strengthen the economy and support a dynamic and innovative business climate that attracts investment and helps create jobs, the NOHFC wants to continue to partner with northerners. The five new programs at the heritage fund are building the themes of private sector job creation, supporting northern community infrastructure, enhancing economic development capacity, stimulating commercialization, innovation and productivity, and, of course, attracting and retaining talent.
We look forward to continuing to work with all of our northern organizations to keep building jobs, creating jobs, in northern Ontario.