FORT FRANCES—Returning to Fort Frances for the first time since his days at Queen’s Park, federal Industry minister Tony Clement was in town Tuesday for both a funding announcement and luncheon, where he vowed Thunder-Bay Rainy River will go Tory blue in the next election.
“It’s wonderful to be back here in Thunder Bay-Rainy River,” said Clement, who has been on a tour of Northern Ontario joined by Kenora MP Greg Rickford and Northumberland-Quinte West MP Rick Norlock.
Also introduced at the luncheon at La Place Rendez-Vous was Maureen Comuzzi-Stehmann, who recently was chosen to be the local Conservative candidate in the next federal election.
“We’re looking forward to your presence in Ottawa,” said Clement, throwing his support behind Comuzzi-Stehmann and expressing optimism that come next election, she will be joining both him and Rickford as Conservative MPs from Northern Ontario.
Clement also took aim at current Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP John Rafferty and the New Democrats over issues that have been before Parliament—and will be before Parliament once it resumes sitting later this month.
“To me it’s all about courage and focus,” Clement remarked. “Courage to confront the issues and represent the values and principles of our communities, and focus on the issues that are important to Canada and to Canadians.”
The first major vote once Parliament resumes will be that to disband the long gun registry—the “one-billion-dollar plus boondoggle” which the Conservative caucus will be voting in favour of, noted Clement.
While Rafferty repeatedly has stated he is in favour of repealing the long gun registry, Clement slammed him for his party’s view on the issue.
“The fact of the matter is his leader, his party, do not believe that position,” Clement charged. “He’ll actually be defying his party and his leadership [if he votes for the bill].
“You don’t have to worry about that in the Conservative Party of Canada because we, in our leadership, in our party, in our rank-and-file, we feel the same way about that issue, and we’re bound and determined to vote on our values and vote on our principles,” he stressed.
Clement also criticized Rafferty for his decision to vote against the federal budget, which included $30 million specifically earmarked for Northern Ontario through the Community Adjustment Funds for communities, forestry, and mining sectors in the face of the recession.
When it comes to “crime and justice, getting tough on the criminals, making sure our streets are safe,” Clement said the NDP and Rafferty have “habitually and regularly vote against those bills, too.”
“And when it comes to making sure that our troops have the equipment that they need to do their job in very difficult circumstances in Afghanistan and around the world, the NDP and your local MP vote against that, too,” Clement added.
Following the luncheon, Clement visited the new Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre to make a FedNor funding announcement of $967,00 for Northwestern Ontario.
This included $500,000 for the Township of Red Rock for building a waterfront centre at its marina and $225,000 for Thunder Bay Ventures.
Another $50,000 was announced for Lac Des Mille Lacs First Nation to develop a five-year community and economic development strategic plan.
As well, $192,500 in funding also was earmarked for FedNor’s Youth Internship Program to be disbursed to Lakehead University, the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation, the Municipality of Oliver-Paipoonge, Whitesand First Nation, Thunder Bay Ventures, and the City of Thunder Bay.
“We all know that here in Northwestern Ontario, throughout Northern Ontario, one of the challenges we face is with youth out-migration,” Clement said, pointing to how children and grandchildren are moving away—not necessarily because they want to, but because there are no economic opportunities for them in the north.
Clement touted FedNor’s Youth Internship Program, which has hired 1,300 grads from Northern Ontario in Northern Ontario since its inception—and with this funding will hire seven more.
Fort Frances Mayor Roy Avis took the time to thank Clement for his visit and the FedNor funding which made possible local projects, including the new library and heritage project (which saw the refurbishment of the museum and waterfront landmarks).
“Mr. Clement, it’s an honour to have you and your colleagues in Fort Frances,” he noted.
“In all your busy schedule, you have to be right across Canada, it’s a big country, but to have this minister in Fort Frances is a real plus,” the mayor added, pointing out that Clement is the first federal minister to have visited the new library.
“I’d like to thank your ministry. I’d like to thank the people who are working for your ministry, they do a tremendous job for us,” Mayor Avis continued.
“And I know that I get a lot of positive comments from our administrative staff in town, so thank you and we wish you all the best.”
When later asked why the funding announcement did not include anything for projects within Rainy River District, Clement pointed out the district “did pretty well in previous announcements,” including funding for the library.
“I do a summer Northern Ontario tour, just as I do a winter Northern Ontario tour,” he noted.
“Usually the suggestions [of my organizers] come back, visit Thunder Bay, visit Sudbury, visit North Bay, visit Sault Ste. Marie,” he added, explaining this time around he wanted to visit other areas, including Red Lake and Fort Frances, hence why he was here at the time of the funding announcement.
(Fort Frances Times)