Building opportunity in Northwestern Ontario

During visits to three Northwestern Ontario communities in mid-June, I was reminded of the saying that if opportunity doesn’t knock, you should build a door.
During my visits to Kenora, Dryden, and Sioux Lookout back on June 12, it was clear these communities are engaged in the business of creating opportunities to strengthen their economies.
The north has a strong tradition of independent entrepreneurship, which the McGuinty government is actively promoting, especially in young people.
I am proud of our government’s work—in partnership with municipalities, the private sector, and the federal government—to encourage and build prosperity in Northern Ontario.
During the course of my visit to Northwestern Ontario that day, the investments I announced totalled $3,009,936, and are indicative of our government’s commitment to the people of this region.
Take, for example, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp.’s Youth Internship and Co-op Program. In the past year alone, the McGuinty government has invested roughly $1.7 million in 117 job placements in the northwest. In Kenora, I was pleased to announce from that total an investment of $480,000 to help employers in Northwestern Ontario offer 40 internships and work placements that provide on-the-job training and experience for young people seeking to begin and build careers in the north.
Students and graduates in fields such a nursing, accounting, forestry, information technology, and computer programming are gaining valuable work experience that certainly will benefit northern communities.
The theme of keeping young people working in the north continued during my visit to Dryden, where I announced NOHFC funding of $371,800 for Confederation College to buy equipment for its trades training centre.
Located on site at the Weyerhaeuser pulp and paper mill, the centre is an innovative collaboration among the college, the company, and its union (the Communications. Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada).
The initial commitment, which runs until 2012, is to train Weyerhaeuser maintenance department employees so they can acquire certification in at least two additional trades. Moreover, the facility also is being used by college students from throughout the region.
Since training began in September, 2004, some 160 employees and students have received training as welders, millwrights, machinists, steam fitters/pipe fitters, industrial electricians, and instrumentation technicians.
Benefits from the program include increases in productivity, job security, teaching positions, and access to training for area residents who no longer have to leave the region to attend the college’s Thunder Bay campus.
The McGuinty government is pleased to support the proactive approach taken by the partners in this training centre to help address a skills shortage, and help keep jobs and young people in the north.
Creating and keeping jobs also was front and centre during my visit to Sioux Lookout, where I announced NOHFC funding for two municipal infrastructure projects.
First, the municipality will use $1 million towards upgrading and extending the sewer collection and water distribution systems to a commercial development corridor along Highway 72.
A second NOHFC contribution of $209,815 will help upgrade the water treatment plants in Sioux Lookout and Hudson.
In both cases, improving the infrastructure will allow planned developments to proceed, such as rebuilding and expanding the provincial government’s Fire Management Headquarters on Abram Lake, which employs nine permanent staff and 60-80 seasonal staff.
It also will open up possibilities for future development, such as creating serviced land for new homes.
My final announcement of the day was an important one for the six remote communities served by the Asheweig Winter Road Corp. (AWRC).
Imagine the costs of bringing home a winter’s worth of food, fuel, building material, and all other goods by air. This is the reality for residents of First Nations who live in Ontario’s Far North.
First Nations in the Far North are working to improve transportation into their communities. The AWRC, for example, has undertaken a major realignment of its seasonal roads network to improve access and conditions for its member communities.
Through the NOHFC, our government is contributing $958,649 to the AWRC to finish moving part of the winter road to higher ground and around large water crossings.
It’s expected the changes will extend significantly the season on these winter roads to let residents travel, and move goods and supplies into their communities more safely and economically.
The improvements also will increase economic opportunities.
I’m pleased to report that, together, northern communities, private sector partners, and the Ontario government are creating the conditions for opportunity to come knocking.