KENORA – Two weeks ago, I wrote a weekly column looking back at what we’d accomplished in 2016. Now that we’re into the New Year, it’s time to look ahead to some of the important issues we’ll be facing in 2017.
Just last month, the government announced the launch of Connect to Innovate<https://www.canada.ca/en/innovation-science-economic-development/programs/computer-internet-access/connect-to-innovate.html>, a program that will invest up to $500 million by 2021, to help ensure that rural and remote communities are connected in this digital age. This announcement was followed by the CRTC declaration that broadband internet is now considered a basic telecommunications service for all Canadians.
This is a very exciting announcement for Northwestern Ontario, and I will be following the progress of our local internet service providers closely. If we are to boost our economy, we need greater access to resources, including reliable high-speed internet connection.
Healthcare will also be a main priority in 2017. Progress was made last year with the creation of the working committee for a brand new, all-nations hospital in Kenora. With an aging population, we must also review the delivery of home care services, and how they work for families who use them. Healthcare is an extremely important issue in the north, and it will continue to be a primary focus for me as we head into 2017.
Infrastructure is also high on my agenda as I actively work to move forward with the twinning of the Trans-Canada Highway. There are far too many unnecessary accidents as a result of the single lane highway in an area of such high volume. It is a critical route not only for Northerners but all Canadians as it connects our country. I will continue to meet with the Ontario Minister of Transportation and his officials as well the Chiefs and councils of the First Nations impacted by the project. Twinning the highway will bring added safety and increase the usability of this crucial passageway, it needs to be done.
Our economy is always a priority for Northerners. It’s crucial that we find ways to diversify our economy while stabilizing our existing resources sector. I have and will continue to work with the various regional economic corporations, as well as municipalities, to create more jobs and opportunities in the north. It’s also vital that we support our businesses in the north to help them grow. A key component to growing our economy is connecting northern First Nations via road and the electrical grid. This will open up the north and create opportunities that otherwise would not be possible. I look forward to working with everyone in the coming year and your ideas are always welcome.
Bob Nault MP