Taking on an exciting challenge

It is a great privilege to write this first column in my new role as minister of Northern Development and Mines.
I was honoured to be asked to take on this challenge by Premier McGuinty.
In the last few days, I have reflected wistfully about how proud my father would be of my appointment, and how he would now urge me to work harder than I ever had before to make sure I live up to the expectations of those who have placed their trust in me.
While it will always be a top priority to serve the people of Thunder Bay-Superior North to the fullest extent possible, as minister I now have a much larger responsibility.
I believe I bring to my portfolio a unique perspective, having represented a region of Northern Ontario that has been seriously shaken by economic challenges, particularly in the forestry sector.
In naming a new cabinet, Premier McGuinty recently said we must continue to make relentless progress on behalf of Ontarians. Indeed, while we have made substantial investments to strengthen Northern Ontario communities, and while the mining industry experiences unprecedented growth, there is still much to do.
I know I have large shoes to fill, and look forward to building on the significant achievements that have been driven over the last four years by my predecessor, Rick Bartolucci, and by the rest of the northern caucus.
The Growth Plan for Northern Ontario represents a tremendous opportunity for strategic development in northern communities. I am encouraged by the work already done by northern residents and municipalities who have studied the challenges and opportunities that exist in the north.
Together, we can build a plan that focuses on achieving a more sustained pattern of growth, recognizing unique challenges like stemming youth out-migration, creating sustainable regions, and improving infrastructure networks.
In communities across the north, we can see the positive outcomes of many investments made through the refocused programs of the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. (NOHFC).
Our commitment to increase the annual investment in the NOHFC to $100 million will help us create more jobs and respond to the future needs of northern communities.
While the mining industry is the strongest it has been in more than 25 years, we cannot take this for granted. Ontario must continue to make efforts to maintain our competitiveness and encourage investment in the province over the long-term.
I look forward to building on the foundations that were laid through the establishment of Ontario’s first-ever Mineral Development Strategy.
This means continuing our dialogue and consultation with all our economic development and community partners—and in particular Ontario’s First Nations—to effectively and equitably address concerns around mineral development in Ontario.
I also look forward to the opening next year of the De Beers’ Victor Diamond Mine, which represents an exciting opportunity to establish Ontario as a diamond mining leader, and underscores the importance of supporting innovation and capitalizing on new discoveries to secure our future competitiveness.
Representing the interests of Northern Ontario residents and mineral sector stakeholders in cabinet is a responsibility I do not take lightly. It presents challenges that cannot be met head on without the full participation of all stakeholders.
Many partners from across the north and from the mineral exploration community already have humbled me with their kind words of congratulations, encouragement, and confidence.
I want all our partners to know that I am prepared to roll up my sleeves and do my part with passion and commitment.
But I need your support, your ideas, your energy, and your commitment to work alongside me, as well as my parliamentary assistant, Sault Ste. Marie MPP David Orazietti, and everyone at the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, to make our region and the provincial mineral sector stronger and more prosperous.

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