Local MP promoted to Junior Minister to take FedNor into Ring Of Fire
By Jon Thompson
After serving five years in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, Kenora MP Greg Rickford is moving to the front benches.
In a July 15 cabinet shuffle, Rickford was named Minister of State for Science and Technology under Minister of Industry James Moore as well as the Minister responsible for Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario, (FedNor).
“I feel honoured and I feel humbled,” Rickford said as he headed into the first cabinet meeting of his political career. “I have a great team, we’ve put ourselves out there through the region that certainly has the most remote communities in any riding in Canada. That remains my top priority. (Harper) made it clear that our riding remains our priority but he felt we were at the point where we were prepared to take on additional responsibilities.”
The appointment is a slight shift in direction for the local member, who had been the Deputy Minister responsible for FedNor as well as the Deputy Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.
He said his experience with the $2-billion Canada Action Plan’s Knowledge Infrastructure Program has developed some inroads with academic institutions and that will form a foothold for his Science and Technology portfolio.
Since the Conservative Party was first elected in 2006, FedNor has supported more than 1,500 projects throughout Northern Ontario, representing $358-million in investment.
Rickford’s task will be combining the education and training with the investments the federal government will make through FedNor in the chromite deposit 550-kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay known as the Ring Of Fire.
Some skills in the Ring of Fire will be administered through the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and Human Resources Skills Development Canada but Rickford’s new office will play a “key role” in coordinating skills development and capacity.
“It’s the biggest (development) of its kind for us in Northwestern Ontario,” Rickford said. “It covers a couple of different districts in the region but it’s principally in the Kenora riding and it’s appropriate to be creating the right relationships, the right way with stakeholders to make it the best it can be.”
He will be taking the FedNor torch from Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Tony Clement, whom he has served under with a “great working relationship.” The two will be as tight as ever over the transition as Rickford assumes the position Clement has held for the past seven years.
Clement issued a statement of support for Rickford upon the Kenora MP’s promotion.
“FedNor will continue to support the economy and businesses of Northern Ontario under the same hard work and leadership demonstrated by Minister Rickford since 2011 as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development,” Clement said in a release.
Ontario’s Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Michael Gravelle also leapt to congratulate Rickford, citing the synergetic potential between FedNor and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC), which are both economic stimulant injectors. Gravelle invited Rickford to meet “in the near future” to discuss common approaches to development.
“Mr. Rickford and I have worked closely on many issues in the past and I am excited about the opportunities we will now have to work together on issues of great importance to all Northerners, particularly as they relate to economic development in the North,” Gravelle said in a release.