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Harris says NDP has no strategy.

The provincial government has no clear economic strategy for Northern Ontario, charges Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Mike Harris.

"If the government did nothing, it would still be better than what they are doing now," he says.

For example, Harris questions the government's decision to approve a $5-million non-profit housing project in Elliot Lake.

"People from that area are telling me, 'With that $5 million, you are doing nothing to help us,'" he says.

Harris calls the NDP's actions stop gap. Instead of providing grants to private businesses, he would like to see government fund infrastructure, marketing and education.

For example, he describes Science North as a good project geared to providing a tourism infrastructure for Sudbury.

"If you wrapped up a lot of the money being spent in the north and cut gas taxes, you would help the economy. The problem is everyone wants a quick fix," he argues.

However, Northern Development and Mines Minister Shelley Martel argues that her government is following a specific strategy for the region.

"It's been a mix of a couple of things. There was a change during the recession. It was a request for help with capital to keep the industries going," the minister recalls.

Martel says her government is committed to creating new industries as well as helping existing ones.

For example, she says the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund worked with the ministries of Natural Resources and Industry, Trade and Technology (MITT) to help the lumber industry test export markets overseas.

"MITT has become a lot more aggressive," she says. "The ministry has put aside money for targeting efforts in science and technology, and research and development."

However, Harris charges that there is something fundamentally wrong with an economic strategy that uses government grants to "bribe" companies to move to Northern Ontario.

"Instead, let's look at the things we are good at. We seem to be ignoring the industries that have made us a lot of wealth. I don't think we are putting back into those industries," he says.

"Governments should examine what the barriers to investment are, and remove them."

For example, he points out that the province has failed to act on the cancellation of the federal flow-through share program which encouraged investment in mining.

"Following cancellation of the federal government's flow-through shares program, Quebec created their own program, while Ontario sat around and pointed the finger at Ottawa," he criticizes.

Harris says there is a need to identify companies operating in areas of economic potential, such as information services and computer technology, and move fast to encourage these industries to locate or remain in Ontario.

"Frank McKenna (the premier of New Brunswick) is here snagging some of those jobs for his province," says Harris. "It doesn't cost any money to make sure that they (companies) understand what is happening in the province. The government relocation program has been very successful, but we haven't done that with the private sector."

Harris says he would like to see federal and provincial politicians in the province work together on economic development in Ontario. He also advocates greater co-operation between Northern Ontario's MPPs.

"It's time to put aside some of that partisanship," encourages Harris.

Martel says her ministry is not only interested in working other provincial ministries but also in having the board of its Northern Ontario Heritage Fund work in conjunction with FedNor, its federal counterpart.

"Our Heritage board has been asking for a meeting with FedNor for September," Martel reports.

Harris says FedNor and the heritage fund already work well together at the administrative levels.

"They do work a lot closer than we give them credit for, and it is happening at the civil servant level," he says.
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Title Annotation:Mike Harris; Canada's National Democratic Party
Author:Brown, Stewart
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Jun 1, 1992
Previous Article:Recycling venture receives funds.
Next Article:Exporting helps Northern firms survive the slow domestic market.

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