MPP Michael Gravelle (Lib., Thunder Bay -- Superior North).
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Global Sticks offered the world ice cream and corn dog sticks, tongue depressors and paint paddles.
The company’s offer came with an opportunity for the region – local jobs for a sector that’s been beaten down by the economy for more than a decade.
But with financial and wood supply challenges, so far the company has not been able to deliver the jobs to this region. With a $1.32 million investment from the Northern Ontario Heritage Corporation Fund, $2.9 million form the Forest Sector Loan Guarantee Program and a $787,000 grant from the Forest Sector Prosperity Fund, that failure to provide jobs has left many with bitter taste in their mouth.
After 80 layoffs and a bankruptcy protection filing this summer, many tax payers have begun to question the legitimacy of the government programs that provided the company with millions of dollars in investments.
But even with this story of failure hanging over the region, programs like the NOHFC are praised by the government, provincial opposition members and industry leaders alike for its ability to generate opportunity and jobs.
MPP Michael Gravelle (Lib., Thunder Bay – Superior North) says the Global Sticks story is not common and that the majority of NOHFC recipients have been successful.
“There’s no question that there have been more successes than failures,” Gravelle says. “Some of the challenges that we have had with some of the projects that have been unsuccessful at this stage have tended to be in the private sector.
“Some of those projects have been more difficult and there’s a tendency to pay more attention to them. Around 90 to 95 per cent of the projects have been successful in creating jobs. That’s why I’m glad to talk about the good news stories because they tend to get lost in the shuffle.”
On average, the NOHC fund receives around 100 applications every month. Of those applicants, around 60 per cent are approved.
Gravelle says the NOHC has probably the biggest influence in terms of job creation in Northern Ontario.
Since the Liberals formed government back in 2003, Gravelle says they have been able to create or retain Northern Ontario investments and creating 17,000 jobs.
The three most arguably well-known projects in the community that received NOHC funding include the REACH building at Confederation College, the Thunder Bay Port Authority and Prince Arthur’s Landing.
Gravelle says it just shows how versatile the funding is.
“A fund that began at $30 million and has risen to $60 million and our government through our northern members has managed to persuade government and our premier to increase that fund to $100 million,” he says,
“The next stage will be moving on to $110 million.”
MPP Michael Mantha (NDP, Algoma – Manitoulin) critic of Northern Development and Mines says the criteria for taking in applicants is too narrow, but overall has little to say against the NOHFC program.
“It’s working to my understanding quite well,” Mantha says. “Can we improve it? Of course we can. There’s some particular projects that would really be beneficial to the North if they came under the umbrella of the ONHF in regards to forestry and mining. Those particular applications are excluded from NOHC funding.”
Michel Lavoie, spokesman for the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, says applicants have to go through a strict process when they receive funding.
The review process can take several months depending on the complexity of the project but there are no set time frames.
“There’s a follow up done usually by the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines staff,” Lavoie says. “They do site visits, we have financial officers who follow up with the legal agreements and if it is a loan, then they look into the loan repayments. There is follow up and site visits.”
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