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Federal minister urges the province to match $7.5-million allocation to the tourism industry.

Federal minister urges the province to match $7.5-million allocation to the tourism industry

Tourism can play a larger role in the diversification of Northern Ontario's economy according to Tom Hockin, the federal Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism.

However, the way tourism is viewed by Northern Ontario must change, Hockin stated in an address during the 31st-annual conference of the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities last month in Sudbury.

Hockin, the minister responsible for FedNor (the Federal Economic Development Initiative in Northern Ontario), advised that tourism must be seen as more than a peripheral industry or a nice business to enter at semi-retirement.

Noting that the federal government has now positioned tourism as a "strategic industry," Hockin said FedNor has allocated $7.5 million to tourism this year.

Of that money, Hockin said at least $1.5 million will be used for marketing the tourism opportunities in Northern Ontario. He urged the province to match the amount and to join FedNor in a joint marketing program involving Northern Ontario's six travel associations.

"This sector (tourism) can help achieve the economic diversification many communities are now seeking," he said.

However, Hockin insisted that innovation and sound marketing are required for tourism to be successful as an economic development tool.

Hockin made a lengthy plea to the politicians attending the conference for their support of his bid to extend the FedNor economic development initiative. An assessment of the initiative is currently under way to determine if FedNor will continue.

"FedNor sunsets in March 1992 unless we can build a case for continuing the program," he said.

Hockin said FedNor, now in its fifth and final year, has pumped about $32 million into more than 600 projects in Northern Ontario, resulting in the retention or creation of 2,700 jobs in more than 100 communities.

The minister said FedNor has funded companies which produce such products as potato chips, dental instruments, jams and jellies, caskets and water slides; it has supported the development of tourism facilities and has attracted investment in high-tec industries from the Pacific Rim and the U.S.

Hockin emphasized the need for FedNor's support of small- and medium-sized businesses by quoting from a Quetico Centre newsletter which stated that Canada's economy is in a period of major restructuring as well as a recession.

"And Northern Ontario is at the heart of that restructuring," he said, adding that the region's resource industries are "fading into the background."

Hockin said FedNor must adapt to this reality of change and suggested that the program can be more flexible, more responsive and more willing to support additional sectors of the economy. He also admitted that the program must become more visible through promotion so that entrepreneurs who could use the assistance will know where to apply for it.

"I hope you won't forget mining and prospecting," responded one municipal politician from Elk Lake who received a round of applause for urging the federal government to include mining and exploration incentives in its fiscal policies.

Hockin countered that the federal government has put funding for mining and exploration on the table "despite the deficit" and will come forward with a series of proposals to the province.
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Title Annotation:Tom Hockin, Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism
Author:Sandford, Mark
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Jun 1, 1991
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