Matt Vis, tbnewswatch.com
MPP Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment, addresses the audience at the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce's Leaders Luncheon at the Da Vinci Centre on Tuesday afternoon.
Ontario remains committed to the Ring of Fire, says the province's economic development minister.
Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Trade Eric Hoskins met with city business leaders Tuesday and during his address he reaffirmed that the current government remains committed to the Ring of Fire project, calling its potential “unprecedented.”
Hoskins added that he is aware the mining industry presents the opportunity to be a significant economic driver for the region.
But he added that there's still opportunity for the Northwest beyond any single sector.
“Here in the North we have mining, forestry but there’s a lot of other activity that takes place here. We’re seeing research and innovation, entrepreneurship and high tech so there’s tremendous opportunity to continue to invest in those sectors.”
Building partnerships between the government with business leaders, labour and academic institutions is vital to ensure those industries will thrive, he added.
One provider of well-paying and sustainable jobs is the local Bombardier plant, which Hoskins toured in the morning as part of his stop in the city.
The visit comes two days before a private member’s bill introduced last month by MPP Bill Mauro (Lib., Thunder Bay-Atikokan) has its second reading at Queen’s Park.
The bill would require municipalities to spend 60 per cent of the cost of transit purchases to be made in Ontario with all final assembly being done in the province.
While he said he is supportive of the principle behind Mauro’s bill, the Buy in Canada for Mass Transit Vehicles Act, Hoskins cautioned the implications of trade agreements such as the one the federal government is working on with the European Union would have to be taken into consideration.
“It has obvious economic benefit to the province but we need to balance that effort against existing international obligations but we want to create an environment we’re as competitive as possible,” Hoskins said.
The visiting minister also found himself entered into what has been a raging debate throughout the city.
During a brief question and answer session with attendees, Coun. Joe Virdiramo inquired about funding for the proposed event centre through a specific infrastructure grant.
Hoskins described himself as a supporter of the project and said he expected there would be funding of some form, noting the province put up their share of the third phase of the feasibility study.
He said he commended local political and business leaders for their efforts and said it is a project that has the ability to bring people to Thunder Bay from across the province as well as the rest of the world.