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For the North by the North: FedNor finally a standalone agency

More autonomy to better respond to needs of businesses, organizations and communities
FedNor politicians
Celebrating the announcement that FedNor is now a standalone agency is, from left, Sudbury MP Paul Lefebvre, Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Marcus Powlowski, Sault Ste. Marie MP Terry Sheehan, who is also parliamentary secretary to the minister responsible for FedNor, Nickel Belt MP Marc Serré, and Nipissing-Timiskaming MP Anthony Rota. (

The Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario — FedNor — is now a standalone agency for economic development in Northern Ontario.

FedNor, established in 1987, has invested more than $1.4 billion to support more than 7,500 projects that created and maintained more than 87,500 jobs in municipalities and First Nations across Northern Ontario. 

Sault Ste. Marie MP Terry Sheehan, parliamentary secretary to the minister responsible for FedNor, said now that FedNor is a standalone agency, it has more autonomy, and will be better able to respond to the needs of Northern Ontario’s small- and medium-sized businesses.

“Don’t let the weather fool you, today’s announcement is going to make it shine all over Northern Ontario,” Sheehan said Aug. 10 on the grounds of Science North as rain poured down over the event. 

“The government of Canada understands that the economic success of Northern Ontario is closely linked to the success of its small- and medium-sized businesses, its municipalities, Indigenous communities and key organizations and very strong industrial sectors.”

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Sheehan said he was “beyond ecstatic” to make the announcement, and that it will put a Northern Ontario lens on responding to the needs of the region.

He said the federal government has committed to building back better in the wake of the pandemic, and having FedNor as a standalone agency will be a “mega tool in the tool box to help us do that.”

“FedNor’s track record is undeniable and it has proven itself a true partner for Northern Ontario,” he said. “We have said all along we wanted to be equal partners with the other RDAs (regional development agencies) and now we are.”

FedNor now has more autonomy over its administration and activities, and being a standalone agency will empower the team at FedNor to better respond to needs of businesses, organizations and communities, he said. 

“We heard you loud and clear, and now we’re looking forward to working more closely with you through the new and improved FedNor,” Sheehan said.

Nipissing-Timiskaming MP Anthony Rota, who is also the current Speaker of the House, said now that FedNor is a standalone agency, he can happily retire, as it was one of the changes he wanted to make while in office. 

He said the idea to have FedNor as a standalone agency started with former MPs Ray Bonin and the late Diane Marleau trying to get FedNor on the same level as other agencies across the country.

“FedNor was always a program, and that bugged the hell out of me,” Rota said. “It ate away at me that we were second-class citizens in Northern Ontario because we had a program instead of an agency that is so responsive to what we need.”

As a program, FedNor didn’t have the same status as the six other regional development agencies in Canada, “but today, I think Northern Ontario is getting a new status, we are now first-class citizens when it comes to economic development in Canada.”

He said having FedNor become a standalone agency has been akin to redirecting a river one pebble at a time.

“Today, the river is flowing in a different direction, we made it, and it’s thanks to a lot of people,” he said. “Today, we celebrate where we are and where we come from.”

Nickel Belt MP Marc Serré said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is the fifth prime minister since FedNor was established to have the opportunity to sign off on FedNor’s independence, and he’s the first one to do so.

“We put the puck in the net,” Serré said. “We have increased FedNor’s funding in a massive way following 10 years of cuts. The mayors of Northern Ontario, the presidents of colleges and universities in Northern Ontario, all got together to advocate for more money, and FedNor is now able to directly respond to the needs of Northern Ontario,” he said.

“We do not have to rely on Ottawa to tell us this is how we’re going to do it,” he said. “Sure, we have guidelines, just like the other regional development agencies across the country, but we can make those decisions that reflect our needs.”