Clearly reaching a breaking point

It’s been a very busy couple of weeks here, and I would like to let you know a bit about how the forestry town halls went and about the upcoming application deadline for the federal government’s Community Adjustment Fund.
If you attended the forestry town halls in Fort Frances and/or Thunder Bay, or watched them online at www.netnewsledger.com, then thank you. There were some excellent discussions about what sort of problems we are facing and what I should be doing to help moving forward.
In Fort Frances, we heard from small business owners like Rob, who are on the verge of losing everything, and Russell, who thinks the shorting of suppliers amounts to theft by the large bankrupt enterprises in our riding.
Clearly, we are reaching a breaking point for our small business owners and operators.
Loan guarantees, worker pension and benefits, and ending the “black liquor” subsidy in the U.S. all were mentioned, as well, and I will continue to raise these issues in public, in the House of Commons, and behind closed doors with any government official I can.
In Thunder Bay, we heard from Marvin Pupeza from the CEP, who pointed out his union alone has lost 30,000 jobs in the last two years.
He also told us how the $4-billion “black liquor” subsidy in the U.S. is directly threatening tens of thousands more jobs across in rural communities across Canada.
Jack P. added that if Canadian mills were subsidized to the same level as their U.S. counterparts, then Terrace Bay and Marathon likely still would be operating.
Leona also pointed out that when a $250,000 logging truck is idled, then it’s basically worthless and there is no assistance package for truckers and loggers who must take on more and more debt until demand picks up again.
I was happy that federal New Democrat leader Jack Layton and Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath were able to join the meetings via teleconference. They heard first-hand what our communities are going through, and assured me afterwards that they are committed to helping get our issues on the agenda in both Ottawa and Toronto.
It will take my staff some time to drill down into the ideas expressed in the meeting and develop solutions, but I will continue our constant push—not just for immediate assistance for the large bankrupt forestry companies, but also for pensioners, small businesses, and suppliers that have not received money that is owed to them, and our communities that are seeing an increase in demand for social services of all kinds.
Thank you to all who attended. and I will keep you informed about how my staff and I move forward to address your concerns in Ottawa.
One other point I wanted to touch on this week is the upcoming deadline for applications to the federal government’s Community Adjustment Fund.
It was introduced in the last federal budget, and makes $1 billion available to small towns in order to “help mitigate the effects of short-term impacts of restructuring in communities associated with the economic downturn, by creating employment opportunities.”
The deadline for applications to this program is Friday, June 12 at 4 p.m. (EDT).
The “Northern Ontario” portion of the fund is $15.7 million, and is to be split among the federal electoral districts of Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, Kenora, Nickel Belt, Nipissing-Timiskaming, Parry Sound-Muskoka, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay-Rainy River, Thunder Bay-Superior North, and Timmins-James Bay.
I don’t want to make this week’s column a partisan rant about how little money is available to help Northern Ontario, but you should know that I think this amount of money is a glaring case of far too little, far too late.
In order to ensure our riding gets access to this money, I encourage you to push your local government and other elected representatives, First Nations’ leaders, and not-for-profit groups to submit their applications as soon as possible.
Also, please encourage them to customize their applications to reflect the evaluation criteria that will be used in the selection process.
If you are responsible for submitting an application, then please be sure to send copies of your application to one of my constituency offices so my staff can track your application and monitor the program’s results.
More information on the Community Adjustment Fund can be found at www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/713.nsf/eng/home
Thanks again for participating in or watching our town hall meetings, and please be sure to get those applications in as soon as possible.
Have a great week.

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