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Province reviewing working group's proposed initiatives.

Province reviewing working group's proposed initiatives

Response from the province is expected this month on a comprehensive package of proposed initiatives submitted by the Elliot Lake and Area Working Group.

"Ontario Hydro is currently negotiating the price of future uranium shipments with Rio Algom. When these discussions are complete, the government will be in a position to act on the obligations it and Ontario Hydro have to the area," explained Natural Resources Minister Bud Wildman.

The working group, established on April 2 at the request of the province and composed of elected officials from Elliot Lake, Blind River, Sheddon, North Shore and the Serpent River First Nation as well as representatives from labor, business and education, presented its package of initiatives to provincial officials on May 13.

The working group's proposal contains an ambitious program that deals with immediate, short-and long-term initiatives concerning the needs of the unemployed workers, job development, the fiscal capacity of local support agencies, business stabilization and attraction and environmental concerns.

In response, Northern Development Minister Shelley Martel said the province will consider spending $9 million to create 1,000 temporary jobs in Elliot Lake. She asked the working group to draft a job plan for her review on May 31.

Martel said Elliot Lake is a special case among single-industry towns in Northern Ontario because it was built on the promise that Ontario Hydro would buy its uranium.

Working group chairman Aime Dimatteo explained that there is an immediate concern for the plight of almost 2,000 workers who were laid off last year and are soon to run out of unemployment insurance.

"Consequently, the province has acted on one recommendation immediately, and the ministers present (at the meeting) have advised the work group to put together detailed proposals for job creation immediately."

The creation of 1,000 temporary jobs is one of 13 immediate measures contained in the working group's package of proposed initiatives. Others include the elimination of school board and municipal debt, enriched funding to meet social demands, funding for essential municipal services, expanded credit counselling, entrepreneurial training and funds for a credit pool for existing businesses.

The working group identified the maintenance of 1,600 mining jobs for five years and the securing of a buyer for the uranium they mine as essential measures for the transition period in Elliot Lake.

Nine measures are listed in the economic diversification phase of the working group's proposal. These include:

* establishing a business attraction fund

* securing 500 Ontario Hydro jobs

* providing funds for the establishment of a northern campus of the Ontario College of Art

* establishing a regional tourism generator (facility)

* accelerating Ontario Hydro capital projects

* establishing a northern energy education and development centre

The working group is also recommending funds be provided for the establishment of a French-language community college and a seniors campus, for additional youth counselling and crisis intervention and for waterfront development.

It wants to establish an equity loss program to assist migrating homeowners and a labor adjustment pilot program. The working group is calling for Ontario Hydro to spend 10 per cent of its research and development money in the Elliot Lake area.

Elliot Lake officials are confident that in five years they will have a healthy local economy based on retirement living, public administration, health care and tourism.

Mining, however, will be almost non-existent.

According to the working group 3,450 mining jobs have been lost to date, resulting in the additional loss of 2,760 jobs in the service and mining support sectors and $280 million in economic activity.

Officials admit that the five-year period of economic transition promises to be a difficult one as many local residents either leave or enter retraining to fit into life in the new Elliot Lake.

PHOTO : Negotiations are now under way between Rio Algom Ltd. and Ontario Hydro to determine the fate of Rio Algom's Stanleigh Mine. The Elliot Lake and Area Working Group hopes that the mine will remain in operation for at least five more years.
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Title Annotation:Northern Ontario; Elliot Lake and Area Working Group's economic proposals
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Jun 1, 1991
Previous Article:Company benefits from article published in our April edition.
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