By Bob Nault MP
KENORA – The potential for economic growth in Northwestern Ontario is unlimited. We live in a unique part of Canada and face unique challenges. That being said, we are also afforded unique opportunities. There is no better way to identify those challenges and opportunities than by talking to those directly affected.
FedNor, the Government of Canada’s economic development organization for Northern Ontario, has done just that. In April 2017, FedNor was tasked with developing an economic development strategy to address the specific needs and issues important to the residents, communities, and businesses in Northern Ontario. To help prepare the strategy, FedNor undertook a series of roundtables, meetings and online engagement that was aimed at reaching stakeholders from every corner of the region. The consultations took place from June to November 2017.
A comprehensive overview of the feedback FedNor received during its engagement has now been put into a report. The report, called What We Heard, is now available online and will serve as an invaluable tool to guide future public and private sector investments and activities in the region.
In the report, participants identified similar needs and issues that are common in many communities throughout the riding. As I have said in the past, we need to focus on modernizing our infrastructure if we want to compete in today’s global economy. High-speed broadband Internet is a must in the 21st Century. We also need safe, reliable roads and airports to transport our goods and fully connect the North.
One of the unique challenges for us in the North is that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to regional economic development clearly will not work. This is a key consideration being taken in the development of the strategy for Northern Ontario. It is important that the individual characteristics and challenges of the various communities throughout the riding are taken into account.
Through the consultation process, 12 key common areas of action emerged that will be the driving force behind the Prosperity and Growth Strategy for Northern Ontario (PGSNO).These areas are infrastructure, diversification and self-sufficiency, Northern image, rural and remote communities, timely and effective support, shortage of human resources, Indigenous participation, building on regional strengths, Indigenous enterprises, technology adoption, and access to support for innovation.
Just last week, I was happy to announce close to $1 million in funding from FedNor to support the operations of Patricia Area Community Endeavours Inc. (PACE) located in Dryden. This federally funded, not-for-profit organization is dedicated to small business growth and community economic development, which is just one example of how the federal government can help to grow and diversify the economy in Northwestern Ontario.
I was pleased that Northerners stepped up to have their voices heard, and that FedNor is listening. By making the right investments and engaging in a collaborative effort between government, businesses, and stakeholders, I’m confident a prosperous and diversified economy will succeed in Northwestern Ontario.
Bob Nault MP