Year-end message

Year-end message By Michael Gravelle
Minister, Northern Development and Mines

At this time of year, many of us send cards to friends who live out of town, highlighting the main events of our year and reminding them that they’re in our thoughts.
In a way, this annual summing up helps us focus on who and what are important to our lives.
In the life of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, of which I was honoured to be appointed minister after the October election, ongoing and new initiatives continued to be undertaken aimed at strengthening the north’s economy and the provincial minerals sector.
Through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp., for example, our government continued to invest in the hard work of northern businesses and individuals to bring their good economic development ideas to life.
With a total commitment of more than $321 million to northern community and private-sector job creation projects to the end of this year, the NOHFC will have leveraged close to $1 billion in additional forecast investments from local partners.
Since 2003, NOHFC investments in more than 1,460 projects have been approved. These investments will help create or sustain upwards of 9,400 jobs.
They also have provided work experience for more than 600 co-op students and some 125 interns.
I am delighted our government soon will be making more funding available for economic development initiatives across the north by increasing the annual investment in the NOHFC to $100 million.
Good ideas can lead to new or better products, which need to get to market. In Northern Ontario, commerce is especially dependent upon a safe and efficient highway system.
As such, our government has allocated an unprecedented $468 million in fiscal 2007-08 to continue to improve and expand northern highways.
Just as highways are economic lifelines across Northern Ontario, high-quality geoscience information produced by the Ontario government is essential for a vigorous minerals sector.
Driven by high demand and high commodity prices, mining exploration and development in the province operated at unprecedented levels this year.
For example, even with impressive increases in some other provinces, Ontario still led the country in exploration expenditures, with a projected $519 million in exploration expenditures—up from $346 million in 2006.
In support of the minerals industry, which is a key economic driver in our province and especially in the north, our government will continue to implement Ontario’s Mineral Development Strategy to ensure the sector is sustainable and competitive well into the future.
This year saw our government begin important new initiatives with regard to ensuring that exploration and mining activities in the province serve the needs of all Ontarians.
For instance, our government is committed to the ongoing work with First Nations to meet our duty to consult with aboriginal communities on activities related to the minerals sector.
This important work will continue throughout the new year and beyond.
Our government also will be reviewing the legislative framework related to mineral exploration and development, which is the foundation for a competitive mineral development business climate in Ontario.
We need to ensure Ontario remains an attractive investment destination in a highly-globalized and competitive marketplace.
This review will build on both our aboriginal engagement initiative, and steps to date to address issues regarding surface and mining rights.
While global circumstances worked in the favour of the province’s minerals industry again this year, the opposite was the case for Ontario’s forestry industry. Communities across the north that depend on forestry continue to struggle.
While the need for economic diversity in the north is long-standing, the critical situation in the forest industry has caused an urgent resolve among northern stakeholders to plan and work together to achieve it.
I believe two initiatives in particular that our government initiated this year will be instrumental in this work.
A Growth Plan for Northern Ontario, to be developed under the Places to Grow Act, will be a major initiative to tackle regional challenges and promote northern prosperity. As well, the appointment of Dr. Robert Rosehart as Northwestern Ontario economic facilitator also will help re-focus the region’s economic potential.
I look forward to receiving Dr. Rosehart’s report and recommendations in the new year.
Since becoming minister of Northern Development and Mines, I have been fortunate to be able to visit a number of northern communities, and to reaffirm that the health and prosperity of northern communities are of utmost importance to me—and the McGuinty government.
I very much look forward to continued travel and dialogue, leading to solid results for the north, in 2008.

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