Minister Gravelle makes important stop in North BayMonday, August 26, 2013 by: Mark Pare
Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle speaks to the crowd gathered at the Jack Garland Airport Monday afternoon. Photo by Mark Pare.
The Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle had a busy Monday in North Bay. The morning was filled with a meeting on the ONTC divestiture, while he spent the afternoon at the Jack Garland Airport to announce a $1.4 million contribution from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund.
That money will be split among three economic development projects in North Bay, Callander and Englehart.
The biggest sum will go to the airport, to the amount of $800,000. Airport manager Jack Santerre says the money will help on a number of fronts.
“It improves our waiting area, our departure area, which will give more space for the charter flights that operate in the winter,” he said, “It also allows us to continue working on attracting additional carriers and additional service for the North Bay Jack Garland Airport and the communities surrounding it.”
“Clearly that would make a huge difference in terms of the opportunities that people will see here,” Gravelle added, “This to me is a great example of how the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, in it’s 25th year, is still supporting communities such as North Bay.”
Santerre says they’ve already started planning phase to expand the waiting room. It will include two departure gates, washrooms and full accommodations. Security equipment will also be moved from the front to the side of the building.
The airport has had “un-ordinary” long lines and in the cases of longer wait periods with larger flights or diversions to charter flights in the winter time, the project will add more room to hold more travellers.
Callander will use the $575,200 received to go towards their Downtown Waterfront Revitalization Strategy. Gravelle says it’s great news for the municipality in terms of developing the marina and waterfront area.
Callander Mayor Hec Lavigne says it means a lot to their tourism industry to get this money for the wharf and marina facilities. He says he’s been working on it since the year 2000, when it was donated to them by the federal government and that it will be a destination for people on the lake and an attraction to the downtown core.
“We’re also going to be building a splash pad, along with some sporting stuff down at our Centennial Park for families to enjoy so we are growing,” said Lavigne, “It’s a beautiful town and we’re certainly proud to be partners with the provincial government in this project.”
The other $22,545 worth of funding will go to Englehart and their partners, to help complete the Central Timiskaming District Strategic Plan. Members in the partnership include the Townships of Chamberlain and Evanturel, as well as the Municipality of Charlton and Dack.
Mayor of Englehart Nina Wallace was on hand as well, and says we all know the NOHFC is integral to the north. She says although they’ve obtained larger funds from other sources in the past for this project, the money announced today is just as important to them.
“With this,” she says, “We hope to develop a plan that will take Central Timiskaming into the future.”
Gravelle says overall, this is the kind of work that the hard working members of the Heritage Fund are focused on and it’s great to be able to support economic development opportunities.
As for his meeting on the ONTC divestiture, he says it was a “very frank” discussion with members of the Advisory Committee, where they looked at all the options involved.
He did say though, that it was one of the most useful meetings they’ve had. He says the bottom line has consistently been how they can transform or move the ONTC forward and see it continue to be a sustainable and efficient organization, one that can continue to have the option and potential to grow.
“We’re very conscious that certainly work needs to happen going forward,” the minister said, “Certainly that does include the discussions that have begun in early fashion with the labour unions and that process will continue and it’s an important one.”
Mayor Al McDonald says Monday’s morning meeting is one that probably moved them forward the most.
“Everyone was engaged, including the minister,” he said, “There was a lot of information shared. We’ve agreed to meet again, although the date hasn’t been set but I will (also) characterize it as a very frank, very good meeting for the issue that were dealing with but no decisions have been made.”
Gravelle says they recognize the status quo just isn’t an option.
“It’s important to sort of begin with that starting point so there needs to be some changes in order for the transformation to be successful, success meaning continuing to be of economic value,” he said, “There’s no question that discussions with labour are going to be an important part of that process moving forward and that will run parallel to the work that we’re doing right now.”
Both Gravelle and McDonald agreed that there won’t be an exact time frame attached to the issue.
“It is a lot of work, it’s very time consuming,” McDonald said, “There’s a lot of information that we need to divest and look at. It is hugely important for Northeastern Ontario, it’s important for the City of North Bay. As the minister said, we have to get it right. We’re at the table for a reason and we want to give the best advice.”
“That’s why we have to make sure it’s done right and that’s what were going to continue to do.”