It was an admittedly bittersweet occasion for Darryl Lake when FedNor Minister Tony Clement visited Sudbury's Northern Centre for Advanced Technology (NORCAT) March 30.
Lake was pleased to guide Clement, a long-time friend and supporter, on a tour of the innovation centre, but it was also Lake's last day at the helm of the organization, which he played an essential role in shaping. And the poignancy of the day wasn't lost on Clement.
“There's no way you can capture an understanding of NORCAT without feeling the passion and the commitment of Darryl Lake over the years,” he said in an address. “Really, it's such a moment for this organization, but I just want to say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for everything you've put into this. You've put your body and soul into this organization.”
Clement, president of the federal treasury board, assured Lake and others that FedNor's support of NORCAT—which, since 2008, has totalled $3.4 million—would be bolstered through Budget 2012 and the federal government's Economic Action Plan.
Released a day earlier, the document, which Clement called a “transformation budget,” outlines financial and administrative measures to support research and development, business, innovation and commercialization across the country.
Included in that package are $1.1 billion going towards research and development and $500 million for a venture capital fund.
“This means that so much of the valuable R&D that occurs in institutions and facilities across Canada, like NORCAT, will be commercialized easier to help create jobs and spur economic growth,” Clement said.
The government is additionally providing $37 million for Canada's grand councils, putting $10 million more into the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and allotting $500 million more for the Canada Foundation for Innovation, he added.
There was something for small business in the budget as well, he noted. Hiring credits will be extended to encourage job creation, and $110 million per year will go to the National Research Council for the Industrial Research Assistance Program, which supports small and medium-sized business innovation.
A portion of money has been set aside for communities, and FedNor will receive some of the $150 million, to be allocated over two years. Clement said the exact amounts should be announced soon.
Perhaps most significantly, the budget calls for a reduction in wait times for the approval of major resource development and mineral extraction projects, such as the Northern Gateway pipeline and the Ring of Fire, noting that Sudbury is poised to become a “major hub” for mining activity.
“Our government will no longer allow responsible project development to be hijacked by processes that cripple job creation,” Clement said. “We can't spend 10 years reviewing big projects in mining and pipelines and other areas and expect our economy to grow.”
Canadian and U.S. markets would continue to be targetted for the country's resources, but new export markets should also be explored, Clement said.
Shying away from making any financial commitments to the Ring of Fire development, Clement emphasized the federal government's role pertains to the environmental assessment process and the duty to consult First Nation peoples.
But he did say the feds want to “clear away all the red tape,” and urged the provincial government to do the same.
“We encourage the McGuinty government to play a positive role,” he said, addressing the media following his speech. “I think they could do some positive things when it comes to power and some other things to do with transportation costs and so on—that's their responsibility—but we'll do all we can to keep this project going.”