Enhancing the Economy of Northwestern Ontario
ENHANCING THE ECONOMY OF NWO
Northwestern Ontario is at a cross-road! It can continue to rely on the Provincial and Federal Governments to respond to legitimate requests from the region and hope that the answer is both timely and appropriate to the expressed needs. Or, it can chart its own course by taking on those challenges and developing its own solution.
Northwestern Ontario is also a region that is unique in the Province of Ontario. It is as distinct from the other parts of Northern Ontario as it is from Southern or Eastern Ontario. The Northwest of Ontario constitutes a distinct geographic, economic and social space within Canada. The challenges it faces are as different as are its strengths. The complex decisions affecting the Northwest are best understood and made by those who live here. The strongest voice for this vast and magnificent region comes through the strength of a consensual union of common interests. Area Aboriginals, both as individuals and through their Treaty Organizations, are taking a much greater role in the economy of the region. Significant numbers of individuals and families are relocating to the urban centres of Kenora, Sioux Lookout and Thunder Bay as they seek further education and employment opportunities. Their participation is crucial to any forward thinking approach to the economy and health of the region.
With the above in mind, the RRP Committee developed a common approach to taking the economy of the region forward. Key to this is the creation of a Northwestern Ontario Regional Development Authority (NWORDA) as outlined later in this document. The role of the NWORDA will be to ensure that, to the best of its ability, and through cooperation with all of its partners, the people of the Northwest become more advantaged than they are today. NWORDA’s role will be to identify, promote and develop economic opportunities in and for Northwestern Ontario. NWORDA will
have to enter into a dialogue with all residents and interest groups of the region to determine those projects that should be undertaken as a priority.
However, the RRP Committee identified a number of key areas where work is urgently needed to move the economy of the region forward. In some cases
detailed action plans have been developed and will be referred to NOMA, NOACC or other Stakeholders to pursue in the immediate term, while in others
the creation of a task force or committee with a specific mandate under NWORDA is recommended. The following are the proposed areas of focus:
a new Regional Enhancement Committee to provide region wide leadership for community and labour adjustment. [Preliminary work to be
done by the Training and Adjustment Boards.] $ a Task Force on Energy with the role of examining the viability of
developing a regional energy authority. [NOMA in conjunction with NOACC will take the initial lead utilizing an expanded NOMA Energy
Committee as the vehicle for implementation of the recomendations.] $ a Regional Health and Education Task Force that will move the
Northwest forward into the knowledge economy.
a Northwestern Ontario Transportation Task Force which will focus on access needed for a growing economy.
a Regional Tourism Council which will develop and foster a Northwestern Ontario tourism strategy which will address key issues,
including planning, policy, and product development. [The Destination Marketing Organizations such as Sunset Country and North of Superior
Tourism will be invited to take a lead role in the formation of the Council.]
a Northwestern Ontario Research, Investment and Development Corporation which would provide a coordinated entry point into the knowledge economy by marketing the region as a locus for partnerships and immigration.
a Northwestern Ontario Policy Research Institute which would serve as an arm’s length source of policy advice to regional leaders and a repository of knowledge and data on the region. In addition to the broad based recommendations outlined above, the RRP Committee also is bringing forward a number of specific recommendations for a wide range of issues that affect the North. Some of the preliminary recommendations that do not form part of this report have been forwarded to NOMA and NOACC as they are timely issues that require immediate action. Subject areas include a number of initiatives relevant to Economic Development as well as a number of initiatives under the heading of Infrastructure and Resources,
Finally, in order to move the recommendations of the RRP Committee forward, NOMA has agreed that the RRP be reconstituted as a Working Group to develop an implementation strategy for the creation of NWORDA should its creation be broadly supported by key stakeholders across the Northwest.
From Media Release January 19, 2007
“Northwestern Ontario is at a cross-road! It can continue to rely on the Provincial and Federal Governments to respond to legitimate requests from
the region and hope that the answer is both timely and appropriate to the expressed needs. Or, it can chart its own course by taking on those
challenges and developing its own solution” is the opening statement in a report issued by the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association on Friday.
The Report, Enhancing the Economy of Northwestern Ontario is the culmination of eight months of work by a broad cross section of the leadership from Northwestern Ontario. This leadership included municipal, Chamber of Commerce, training board, labour, Aboriginal, multi-cultural and education representatives.
“This report has two streams – changes to public policy to enable the Northwest to move forward under its own steam, and actions that the Northwest itself should take as a means of asserting control over its own future” observed Michael Power, President of NOMA (Mayor, Greenstone).
“The key philosophical change that this report represents is that the Northwest is no longer going to go cap in hand to the Provincial or Federal Governments asking for handouts. We will take matters into our own hands so that it is the residents of the Northwest not politicians or bureaucrats from Toronto or Ottawa who are controlling our futures.” According to NOMA’s Regional Recovery Committee Chair, Iain Angus (Councillor, City of Thunder Bay) one of the key action steps being proposed is the creation of a Northwestern Ontario Regional Development Authority (NWORDA).
The role of NWORDA will be to ensure that, to the best of its ability, and through the co-operation with all of its partners, the people of the Northwest become more advantaged than they are today. NWORDA’s role will be to identify, promote and develop economic opportunities in and for Northwestern Ontario.”
“This new partnership will be built on the credibility of NOMA and NOACC in the way they have represented the unique needs of the Northwest over many years. As with NOMA and NOACC, this new organization must be focused, must work to ensure that the Northwest speaks with a united voice and must make as its priority the economic health of the region” said Angus.
In the spring of 2006, NOMA, at its AGM in Thunder Bay, decided to embark on a path that was designed to assist the region in recovering from a declining population combined with a major reduction in forest industry employment. This path focused on the creation of a Regional Recovery Program Committee with a mandate to find solutions to the economic crisis we faced. Initially, it was crafted as a way to find solutions that would be implemented by the other orders of Government – Federal and Provincial. “However, one of the key outcomes of this process is recognition that the Northwest will have better success if we find and implement our own solutions” said Power.
The NOMA President also pointed out that this is a Northwestern Ontario not a Northern Ontario solution. “Northwestern Ontario is a region that is unique in the Province of Ontario. It is as distinct from the other parts of Northern Ontario as it is from Southern or Eastern Ontario. The Northwest of Ontario constitutes a distinct geographic, economic and social space within Canada. The challenges it faces are as different as are its strengths.
The complex decisions affecting the Northwest are best understood and made by those who live here. The strongest voice for this vast and magnificent region comes through the strength of a consensual union of common interests.”
The Report has been distributed to the various stakeholders throughout the region with a request that they endorse it. Formal presentations will be made to the three district municipal leagues starting with the Rainy River on January 27 and Kenora’s on Feb 3. NOMA’s Annual General Meeting will
be in Dryden on April 25 to 28 and the report will provide the key focus of discussions.