On Thursday, Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services and Minister responsible for FedNor and Sault Ste. Marie MP Terry Sheehan, announced new FedNor spending of $500,000 for the Town of Blind River to revitalize its dock and marine infrastructure and $90,000 for Glassy Bay Outfitters.
The Town of Blind River is receiving a non-repayable FedNor contribution of $500,000 to replace existing infrastructure and create a fully accessible dock area with electrical and potable water access at each of its 24 transient boat slips.
In addition, the project will establish an emergency docking area to provide boats in distress a safe harbour and create an area for private-sector businesses to work on boats that are too large to be trailered to a land-based workshop.
This project builds upon a recently completed FedNor investment to construct a new boardwalk with accessible features, erect a pavilion, and market the community as an accessible tourism destination. Once complete, the project will connect visitors to the community’s downtown area and public beach.
With a non-repayable FedNor contribution FedNor contribution of $90,000, Glassy Bay Outfitters located north of Elliot Lake, will upgrade its cabins, dock and hanger to enhance the visitor experience for domestic and international tourists.
The TRF funding will be used to screen in porches, expand docks to facilitate the loading and unloading of aircraft, and add insulation and heating systems to winterize the camps, as well as the lounge and office of the sea base.
This project is part of a strategy designed to expand Glassy Bay Outfitters’ operating season by 20 percent through enhanced winter tourism. Once the upgrades are complete, this project is expected to create six new full-time positions.
Hajdu and Sheehan expressed their enthusiasm over FedNor being a standalone agency.
News of that development came in August 2021.
FedNor previously operated as an initiative within Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.
“We really felt that because of that we often had executives that were working in Ottawa that were not necessarily as integrated with northern Ontario and didn’t really understand the needs and the challenges and the opportunities in northern Ontario,” Hajdu told reporters.
“As an agency, we’re able to respond much more quickly and with a lot more agility around what the needs of northern Ontario really are.”
“We need rapid decisions. Decisions on projects just took too long. People would apply, things would sit on desks, there would be a number of different layers of approval and often the state of business is fast, fast, fast. I think one of the best outcomes of an independent FedNor is that now we have that capacity with its own separate Minister to be able to make quick decisions,” Hajdu said.
A standalone FedNor means applicants for funding won’t have to wait as long for approval and funding for their organizations, businesses and projects, Hajdu said.
“Some applicants who have worked with FedNor before can expect a response within 30 days because they know the ropes. We’re seeing decreased complaints from people around the time it takes to get a response from FedNor and also an increased appreciation for the staff at FedNor who don’t turn anyone away and say ‘here’s where you’re at and here’s how we can help you shape this a bit further.’ It depends on the applicant but in general, it’s 30 days, 50 days. It’s much, much shorter than what it used to be.”
“Our vision for the future is to have a better granting and loaning capacity so we’re obviously always looking for additional funds from the finance minister to be able to grow and operate in northern Ontario, and also the ability to find applicants and ensure that applicants all across the region know that FedNor could possibly be a really good partner and finally to make sure that we really have a strong footprint here in northern Ontario for the future. We want to make sure that any future government doesn’t undermine the work of an independent FedNor,” Hajdu said.
“The big difference for me is that we have a minister from northern Ontario who is responsible for FedNor. Before that it used to belong to another minister from northern Ontario,” Sault MP Sheehan said.
Among the list of previous Ministers responsible for FedNor is Mélanie Joly, a Quebec MP now serving as Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.
“Minister Hajdu is from Thunder Bay. She gets it. She knows it. Combining Indigenous Services with FedNor is so important. We’ve seen the opportunities with Indigenous communities in the Sault and area and across northern Ontario. Having a minister from northern Ontario for FedNor is really important for us in northern Ontario,” Sheehan said.
With files from SooToday's Darren Taylor