Building on strengths

Through my work in Rainy River, Atikokan, Morson, Emo, Fort Frances, Thunder Bay, and everywhere in between, I’m continually reminded of the unrealized potential of Northwestern Ontario’s 35 or so communities—a “sleeping giant” of sorts.
Most of you have partaken, in some form, in some of the various fishing tournaments across our region. The increasing popularity of these tournaments has elevated their communities to “destinations,” meaning people not only visit, but they stay.
And when they stay, they spend money supporting local businesses.
In considering these tournaments and extensive fishing infrastructure available through the numerous tourist outfitters in our region, I believe a strategic, co-ordinated effort could help us multiply our number of “destination travellers” several times.
This largely would be an exercise in branding our initiatives so our events promote the region in a unified fashion.
People travel to find happy experiences, so to make the region’s festivals and attractions synonymous with a guarantee of good times as the “Outdoors Capital of Canada,” we could be well on our way to increasing our traffic numbers in the face of the variability some operators have expressed concerns to me about.
Taking in numerous community events and meeting with constituents, I’m certain that by leveraging the talent of our various promoters, experts, and volunteers, we can regain our American tourist numbers.
The renewed interest in organizing outdoor activities for young people, such as youth fishing days, and the influence of the region’s representation in organizations like the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters also is encouraging of new developments.
Northwestern Ontario has much to celebrate, and as part of my commitment to helping facilitate economic development in the area, it is with great excitement that I look forward to sharing all four seasons of our heritage, culture, and recreation with our neighbours.
Our legacy in sport, as seen in our regional Sports Hall of Fame, our rich aboriginal culture, and our picturesque countryside each present special opportunities for the area to build itself as an all-season sports training centre, a living interpretive centre of our history, or a 360-degree recreation zone.
Clearly, integrating our efforts to promote our communities and their attractions will benefit everyone by enhancing economic opportunities, broadening cultural activities, and increasing our regional solidarity.
Any broad-based proposal to increase the visibility of our region’s offerings should reach receptive ears in government, and I’ll be looking forward to hearing your ideas over the rest of the summer.

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