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Business leaders call for provincial natural resource strategy

Power prices, skills training, restoring competitiveness among industry needs
EACOM 9 cropped

Business and industry leaders want the next government at Queen’s Park to come up with an action-oriented natural resource strategy.

The Timmins Chamber of Commerce held a roundtable discussion on May 28 to talk politics and the resource sector.

"A strong natural resources sector in Ontario provides skilled jobs for Northern communities, including Aboriginal communities, and helps to ensure a prosperous economy,” said Rocco Rossi, Ontario Chamber of Commerce president-CEO, in a news release.

“At a time when Ontario is facing a skills mismatch, our next government must take bold action, working with the natural resource and Northern communities, to address current challenges and provide a pathway forward for industry leadership in the global marketplace."

Joining Rossi in the fray were Timmins Mayor Steve Black, Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business development and strategy director Paul-Emile McNab, Ontario Prospectors Association vice-president of operations Bill MacRae, Tahoe Resources director of corporate responsibility Tom Laughren, Forest Products Association of Canada president Derek Nighbor, and EACOM Timber president Kevin Edgson.

The participants concluded that the cumulative regulatory and financial burden on the natural resource sector is threatening its competitiveness.

By developing a strategy, they said government would ensure coordination of efforts across ministries, stakeholders and communities.

The group concluded the next government must consider the following as part of a broader strategy:

• reduce energy costs

• address regulatory and administrative burden

• improve skills training and talent availability

• build capacity in Aboriginal communities

• support Northern Ontario infrastructure

In a news release, Nighbor said 52 percent of exports come from Canada’s energy, mining, forestry, and agriculture sectors.

“All our industries are transforming in their own ways to keep pace in this rapidly changing global economy. We need government to work closely with our communities so that our people and businesses in northern and rural Canada can sustain themselves and grow in the face of this disruption."

EACOM’s Edgson said his company’s long-term investments in Northern Ontario indicate they are “keen to grow the business."

"Working forests are part of Ontario's future."

Timmins chamber president Jamie Clark said the natural resources industry is integral to the local economy and they’ll continue to press for the removal of barriers that negatively impact industry competitiveness.

“We're extremely pleased to be able to work alongside these important partners from throughout the province to address these issues collaboratively, and we look forward to advancing these priorities with the next provincial government."

Timmins Mayor Steve Black said it’s the resource sector that brings prosperity to Northern Ontario by providing “good family-supporting jobs.”

“Municipalities and Indigenous communities want to participate and benefit from a strong resource sector. We will look to the incoming government to work with us on a strategy that unlocks barriers and supports growth in the industries.”