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Do not underestimate the value of FedNor

Understanding the value of federal economic development
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By LEN GILLIS
EDITOR
Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal
 
The value of FedNor is hugely significant to the various facets of Northern Ontario’s mining industry. This is not to throw bouquets at any particular federal party. FedNor has been around for many years as an economic development agency for the North and, in general, has been doing a bang up job, regardless of the party in power.
There is a concern that cuts to federal spending would target economic development programs.
FedNor is one of six regional development agencies funded by the Government of Canada that contributes millions of dollars to a variety of economic initiatives. One of the key recipients in Northern Ontario is the mining supply and service industry, specifically firms that create new jobs and increase sales and exports.
What makes FedNor different from the others is that it is described as “an initiative” that falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. The other organizations are standalone agencies that have their own budgets.
As Canada’s newest federal government settles back in to the task of running the country for the next four years, it is our hope that FedNor survives any attempt at budget cuts or financial restructuring.
When government is faced with profound financial challenges from every part of the country, it is too easy to cut back on economic development spending.
This is not to say FedNor will be publicly targeted, because it does not have a clearly defined budget. The concern is that FedNor spending plans could be pushed into the shadows where it might not be able to spend as much as it could to prop up Northern businesses and entrepreneurs.
A related concern is that we are in a time of change where all industries are being challenged to do things differently and to find better ways to be more environmentally aware. This is definitely more political than practical. Some reports will tell you that Canadians – per capita – produce more greenhouse gases than those in other G20 countries. This means nothing. Per capita metrics are not equal from country to country.
In real terms, Canada’s contribution to the global greenhouse gas problem is actually less than two per cent, when compared to the rest of the planet. Less than two per cent. These are Environment Canada numbers that show global emissions from 2005 (Canada-1.8 per cent) to 2014 (Canada-1.6 per cent).
China has consistently been the worst polluter and was rated at 26 per cent, meaning it alone produces more than one quarter of all the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Regardless, the pressure is on the mining industry and its suppliers and service providers to do a better job environmentally. No argument there. But the carbon tax idea, which takes money from industry, is a public policy failure.
It does nothing to reduce carbon emissions. It hurts competition. If the feds are going to be honest about this they should be willing to lend more financial support to the mining industry to find environmental solutions. Just another reason to protect FedNor.



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