THUNDER BAY – This time of year it’s important to pause for reflection. When I look back over the last year, I’m proud of what the Ontario government has accomplished on behalf of Northern Ontario.
A year ago, our government released a refreshed Mineral Development Strategy which is guiding us as we navigate towards our goal of Ontario being the global leader in mining. And, we’re well on our way.
We held a Mining Innovation Summit in Sudbury, gathering thought leaders from industry, Indigenous communities, academia and government to discuss new ways of mining – cementing our place as a global innovation leader. And, we provided more than $5 million in funding to attract exploration to the North through our Junior Exploration Assistance Program, supporting 55 projects across Ontario. This fall, we introduced new legislation which, if passed, will make Ontario a more attractive place for mineral development by offering online mining claim registration instead of paper-based and ground staking processes.
Our government continues to make highways in Northern Ontario safer for travellers with an annual investment of $550 million toward the Northern Highways Program. This funding has gone a long way to rehabilitate roads and bridges across the North and continue the four-laning of the Trans-Canada Highway between Thunder Bay and Nipigon and Highway 69 around Sudbury.
Through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC), Ontario is making strategic investments to help expand economic opportunity across the North. With an annual budget of $100 million, the province’s NOHFC approved funding for projects in 2016. These investments leveraged more than $91 million in additional direct economic activity that is helping create and retain jobs in Northern Ontario.
Resource based industries, including mining and forestry, are the foundation of our Northern economy and they remain core to our prosperity and identity. However, our government recognizes the value in a diversified economy. Our priority is to create jobs and grow the economy for everyone including Northerners. Our government has strategically identified new and emerging sectors for business growth and, with support from NOHFC, these sectors are taking off. From film and television production, craft-brewing, farming and food processing; businesses we are supporting through the NOHFC are each playing a role in rounding-out the economy here in the North.
Movies and television produced and filmed in Sudbury, Thunder Bay and throughout the North are being broadcast and screened around the world; including Northern Ontario films screening at international film festivals such as the Toronto International Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival. Ontario Craft-brewers in the North are winning Canadian Brewing awards and expanding their operations. Furthermore, farmers are clearing thousands of acres of land for new crops and installing tile drainage systems that will strengthen the agriculture sector in the North.
It’s been a terrific year in Ontario’s North and I look forward to what 2017 has in store. Warm holiday wishes and Happy New Year.