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Fact-finding teams to gather information for a new economic development strategy.

Representatives from government, industry, labor, Native groups and environmental organizations will be travelling throughout Northern Ontario in the new year as part of a provincial effort to develop a new economic strategy for the region.

These task forces will be given a six-month mandate to hold consultations and gather information under SCAN (Strategic Consultation and Action Now) North, a program announced last month by Northern Development and Mines Minister Shelley Martel.

SCAN North replaces the defunct Northern Development Councils established by the former Liberal government. While the new program has received praise from several business and labor representatives, some question whether it will produce results.

Greg Miller, the president of the Northeastern Ontario Chambers of Commerce and a task force member, believes SCAN North will be more successful than the NDCs because it has specific tasks and time-frames.

"We're going into the small communities to gather as much information as possible and then get to the government so it can make a decision as quickly as possible," Miller said.

However, Miller admits that the program will not likely uncover much new information, particularly in the areas of mining and forestry.

"A lot of information has already been tapped," he said.

Martel acknowledges this possibility. However, she stresses that SCAN North will encourage input from a broader cross-section of Northern Ontario's communities than did the NDCs.

"Many community-based advisory groups have come and gone under different governments. We tried to develop a process which takes into account the strengths and weaknesses of previous efforts in order to come up with a structure that will be on the leading edge of change," Martel stated.

"I'm not convinced everyone was at the table before," she added in reference to the wide-ranging membership of the current program.

During the next four to six months the SCAN North task forces will hold one-day round-table meetings in communities throughout Northern Ontario and will make presentations to economic development officials and chambers of commerce. The individual teams will examine one of five areas:

* opportunities for value-added products in the forestry industry

* opportunities for value-added products and potential secondary industries in the mining industry

* waste management and recycling markets and manufacturing opportunities

* support for small businesses and Native entrepreneurs

* Native economic development and its relationship to the non-native private sector.

Miller expects that the consultations concerning Native economic development will yield the greatest amount of new information.

The Native-related initiatives will include information-gathering sessions and presentations by Native economic development leaders.

I.D. Bird, the president of the Ontario Forest Industries Association, supports the ministry's efforts to "get the industry and other players involved," and he calls SCAN North's time-frame "results-oriented."

However, Bird warns that the task force members may discover that it is impractical to locate some secondary forestry industries in Northern Ontario.

"Virtually all companies in the forestry industry have looked at value-added products in the context of the marketplace," he said in an interview from his Toronto office.

Bird said he hoped SCAN North will help give the general public a better understanding of the forestry industry.

"The industry's role in this could be to get the groups out to visit the mills," he said. "There are groups who do a lot of sitting around and making decisions. It would give them a better understanding of the industry if they could see a mill running."

Market conditions will also play a large role in the work of the task force examining the opportunities for waste recycling and spin-off manufacturing.

For example, prices for the glass and newsprint collected by blue box programs have plummeted since the program's inception two years ago.

In that period of time the price for newsprint has dropped to between $10 and $20 per ton from $60 per ton. The price for aluminum has dropped by about 20 per cent to $825 per ton.

Consumers Glass, the major purchaser of recyclable glass, recently announced that it will be paying about 30-per-cent less for glass in the new year.

Martel said an expansion of the province's blue box program to communities such as Elliot Lake is a potential recommendation which could arise from the team's work.

The minister made it clear, however, that Notre Development's proposal to develop a waste-recycling facility at the Adams Mine site near Kirkland Lake will not be considered.

"I believe the minister's (Ruth Grier's) announcement would rule that out," Martel said in reference to the introduction of legislation to keep Toronto's solid waste in the Toronto area.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
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Author:Krejlgaard, Chris
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Dec 1, 1991
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