IT HAS BEEN A GREAT FOUR YEARS FOR SAULT STE. MARIE

LOCAL ENGINEERING STUDENTS ARE 'HOME TO STAY'

In September 2020, Sault College partnered with Humber College to offer a Bachelor of Engineering – Mechatronics program right here at Sault College. The Humber College Bachelor of Engineering – Mechatronics is one of the best in the country and in the world. 

This partnership, to co-deliver an engineering degree right here in Sault Ste. Marie, is truly historic for our community, providing local youth with the opportunity to pursue fulfilling careers while addressing our need for skilled workers in the engineering sector. Our government is committed to supporting our northern communities by fostering an environment where our young people can learn and attain high-demand careers all while living closer to home.

By developing Sault College’s advanced learning environment, this program will empower younger generations to succeed right here in Sault Ste. Marie while creating more skilled and trained workers to fulfill the demands of our local economy. This is providing students the opportunity to receive the education they need while staying close to home, and allows these future engineers to help address a significant need in our community.

Employers in our city, like Algoma Steel and Tenaris and others, requiring highly skilled civil, mechanical, electrical/electronic or computer engineers, will now be able to secure the talented workforce they need, while ensuring that the youth in our City can obtain the skills they need for great jobs and remain ‘Home to Stay’. 

While the program has been operational since the fall, we have never stopped working to secure funding to build a dedicated facility that we could all be proud of. 

On April 14th, 2022, I was thrilled to announce that Sault College has received $2 million through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund which is leveraging $5.2 million to renovate an existing 8,000 square foot building on campus. Once completed, this building will be a state of the art facility that will serve thousands of future students who will take this program in the years ahead. 

Through these funds and other capital funding already provided through the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, we are ensuring that Sault Ste. Marie’s first ever School of Engineering will be one of the best in the world for our future workforce to learn in.

BUILDING LONGTERM CARE IN SAULT STE MARIE

Four years ago, Sault Ste. Marie had approximately 700 people on a waiting list to access long-term care. These 700 people joined approximately 30,000 people across all of Ontario. I made a commitment to our community to do all that we could do to reduce that waiting list. Our loved ones need to be cared for in a place that provides them the comfort and dignity they deserve. That is why it is so important to that we advocate for every bed we can possibly secure. 

We have been fortunate to have successfully advocated for and announced 376 new and 160 upgraded long-term care beds that are either in development, under construction or completed in Sault Ste. Marie. 

Specifically, we have now secured: 

  • 20 new and 100 upgraded beds at Extendicare SSM
  • 68 new and 60 upgraded at Mauno Kaihla Koti redevelopment 
  • 96 new beds at Batchewana First Nation Long Term Care Home. 
  • 192 new beds at Missanabie Cree-Maskwa Elder’s Care Home

The new Missanabie Cree-Maskwa Elder’s Care Home located on Third Line will be under construction almost immediately with 192-bed Long Term Care beds. This $55 million project will ensure residents in our community can receive the quality of care and quality of life they need and deserve both now and in the future. This marks a huge step forward for long term care in Sault Ste Marie with a focus on those who need it most.

Another amazing announcement is The Mauno Kaihla Koti long-term care home will receive funding for the development of 68 new long-term care beds and the redevelopment of 60 existing beds in Sault Ste. Marie. These beds will help take pressure off hospitals, and allow doctors and nurses to work more efficiently and provide better, faster health care for patients and their families in Sault Ste. Marie and across Northern Ontario.

Extendicare Retrofit SSM is another recipient of funding with 20 new and 100 upgraded beds. The plan is built on three pillars: staffing and care; accountability, enforcement, and transparency; and building modern, safe, comfortable homes for seniors. 

With these investments, our government is continuing to work with our partners in the long-term care sector to ensure the system is responsive to the needs of Ontarians. Increasing access and reducing waitlists, while also maintaining patient safety and ensuring high standards of care remains our top

WORKING TO BRING A MEDICAL SCHOOL TO SAULT STE MARIE

We have a doctor shortage in Sault Ste. Marie and I have long believed that we ought to have a regional campus for the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) in our City. Securing a medical school is no simple task. Our local and regional postsecondary institutions needed to have full accreditation as Universities before pursuing a medical school campus in Sault Ste. Marie.

I was so proud to announce that Algoma University, my alma-mater, officially received full independent university status on December 8, 2020, as a result of the passage of the Better for People, Smarter for Business Act This was very exciting news which now allows Algoma the autonomy to be able to offer doctorate, science, and other specialty degrees. 

I was also extremely proud to announce that through the Supporting Recovery and Competitiveness Act which received Royal Assent June 3, 2021, NOSM has now become a fully independent university, NOSM U – the first stand-alone medical university in Canada. This is a historic occasion for all of Northern Ontario. 

As a standalone, degree-granting institution, NOSM U now has independent governance and administration, providing flexibility for them to expand and explore, offering more programs and more partnerships in communities across northern Ontario. 

Our work was not done there. An increase in medical school spaces is also necessary in order to achieve the vision of a regional medical school campus in Sault Ste. Marie. That led to an announcement on March 15, 2022, that NOSM U has received an increase of 30 new medical school spaces as well as 42 additional residency spaces for their campuses across Northern Ontario. 

“We at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine University are so proud to officially have become a university on April 1, 2022. We are also very excited about an increase in our medical school spaces”, said Dr. Sarita Verma, President of NOSM U. “This has made it possible to work collaboratively with our colleagues in Sault Ste. Marie to build a significant regional presence of NOSM U with Algoma University and Sault College. We already have executed a Memorandum of Understanding and are very excited for the future of medicine in the north.” 

This has the opportunity to provide a direct talent pipeline of future doctors and healthcare providers from Sault Ste. Marie the chance to be ‘Home to Stay’ and will help our community attract other hopeful physicians and healthcare providers not from Sault Ste. Marie the chance to ‘Study and Stay’ in Sault Ste. Marie. This partnership will improve access to quality health care and will provide relief to the urgent crisis in our physician workforce. 

The future for Sault Ste. Marie is bright!

BUILDING OUR OWN 'SOUND CITY' IN SAULT STE MARIE

The arts, culture and entertainment industry is a crucial pillar of any community.  Here in Sault Ste. Marie, we are so fortunate to have a thriving, vibrant arts sector that enhances our lives, attracts tourism, boosts economic growth, and deepens our cultural fabric. 

On March 25, 2022, it was my pleasure to announce $500,000 through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund to support the Algoma Conservatory of Music and The Loft. The space is located in the building that formerly held the offices of the paper mill. The third floor has been completely rejuvenated from cold storage, into a warm, beautiful, inviting performance space in a national historic site.

This investment helped with the creation of The Loft performance space, and the development of a state-of-the-art recording studio with some of the best equipment available in the world, and connected to the live performance space in The Loft at the Conservatory as well as the Machine Shop venue. The arrangement allows for innovative capturing of live performances with the absolute best sound and video capabilities.

The unique possibilities that a space like this brings to performers is unparalleled.  I’m SOO excited to see what opportunities the team at The Loft can bring to the arts in Sault Ste. Marie.

WE'RE MAKING MOVIES!

I am always eager for investment opportunities in our community. The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation is one of the largest sources of funding for communities in northern Ontario and funding covers so many different types of projects. 

In Sault Ste. Marie, we have been fortunate to see a total investment of $5.3 million into 13 different film projects that were produced in Sault Ste. Marie over the past few years. This money is particularly noteworthy since NOHFC has expanded its criteria to include arts and culture, and particularly the growing film and tourism industry. This funding has created jobs, attracted talent and boosted economic growth to our city and region.

Some of the projects include but are not limited to: $500,000 for 180 Sisterhood Productions to produce the feature film A Christmas Letter; $500,000 for Film Farm Inc. to produce the feature film The Middle Man; $269,792 for 2818746 Ontario Inc. to produce the feature film The Day Lacey Called; and $500,000 for TNK Productions Inc. to produce the feature film The Miller’s Son. 

Announcements like these are tremendous for the arts and culture community in Sault Ste. Marie and imperative in cultivating creativity and talent from Northern Ontario. This funding has been pivotal in establishing and keeping film companies in Sault Ste. Marie and giving artists the opportunities to tell our stories. 

Productions such as these support everything from local accommodations, to food, PPE and equipment, and all the essentials in making movie magic. Funding like this will help solidify the north’s reputation as a first-rate production center in Canada and the world.

PROTECTING THE FUTURE OF ALGOMA STEEL FOR YEARS TO COME

Like so many other people in Sault Ste. Marie, my father, uncles, and grandfather worked at Algoma Steel in the 1970s. The plant employed nearly 12 thousand people at that time. Things were very good for Algoma Steel and for Sault Ste. Marie too. Like so many other Northern Ontario Communities, the health of your local economy is directly related to the health of your largest employer. Northern Ontario’s economy was booming across multiple sectors including natural resource development, mining, forestry, and steel manufacturing. 

However, things changed and by the time I started my first year of high school. Algoma Steel was going through its first bankruptcy/restructuring proceeding. That would be the first of three such proceedings in as many decades. Things in the Sault, and across all of Northern Ontario, had taken a serious decline. 

Times were tough for so many families, and they were speaking about those tough times at their dinner tables. Over the next three decades, Sault Ste. Marie saw a tremendous outmigration of our young people, who did not think there were any opportunities left for them. 

As the health of our local economy deteriorated, so too did the health of our community. 1993 was a very significant year for me. I believed in my heart, that one day, I would find a way to be a part of a solution. Nearly 25 years later, Algoma Steel was three years into its third bankruptcy protection proceeding under the Company’s Creditors Arrangements Act, or CCAA, as we all came to refer to it. 

The pension plans of nearly 9000 retired steel workers had been left insolvent and were in serious jeopardy. Those retirees deserved so much more. So did the nearly 3000 active steel workers and their families who feared they may lose their jobs. Our entire community was once again reeling under the black cloud of CCAA. Families were again afraid. Youth were again having tough conversations at their dinner tables. 

That is why I decided to run to be your MPP.  Less than one year later, the Premier joined me at Algoma Steel to announce that our government was standing up for our steel workers, retirees, and their families by protecting their pensions and their jobs. We brought an end to the black cloud of CCAA that, for three prior years, no one else could resolve.

But our work was not done yet. We needed to ensure that we protected the future of Algoma Steel. We needed to make sure that those tough dinner conversations about Algoma Steel were a thing of the past. 

On April 8, 2022, I was so proud to host the Premier again at Algoma Steel to announce the new Northern Energy Advantage Program (NEAP). Algoma Steel is the first company to benefit from this program for the North which saw an increased investment of $120 million per year to over $176 million which created the energy cost certainty that was necessary to allow Algoma Steel to invest $700 million to build an electric arc furnace in Sault Ste. Marie. 

Without this program, this $700 million investment, which will create over 500 jobs in our city, and will position Algoma as a world leader in the production of green, low-emission steel and guarantee the future of Algoma Steel for several generations to come, would never have been possible. 

With the conversion to green, low-emission steel production, we can rest assured knowing that our next generation of youth growing up in Sault Ste. Marie will never again have to hear those difficult conversations at their dinner tables. Algoma Steel’s future is now as safe and secure as it was in those booming days of the 1970s.

Algoma Steel is officially Home to Stay!!!

KEEPING OUR YOUTH "HOME TO STAY"

My main priority for entering into politics was to find a way to keep our youth from leaving Sault Ste. Marie. How do you make sure our young people know what employment opportunities exist in the Sault? It is very simple. You show them. 

We worked together with our local school boards and high schools to create a first-of-its-kind committee of 12 students and brought them to a number of our local businesses. Through these visits, the students developed a mantra, which became a team cheer of, “HOME TO STAY.”

On May 30, 2019, our provincial student committee succeeded in ways we could never have imagined. They hosted the largest job fair in the history of Sault Ste. Marie. In all, 63 businesses attended and they had an audience of over 6000 students in Sault Ste. Marie who came to see the opportunities our city has to offer.

As straightforward as it sounds, “Home to Stay” aims to keep young adults in the Sault and encourages them to come back if they choose to pursue post-secondary education elsewhere. In only a few years, the youth of today will be entering the workforce of tomorrow. Hopefully, they will make a life in the Sault, and choose to raise a family here too. It is up to us to ensure they know that dream can be a reality. 

We have had our fair share of struggles in Sault Ste. Marie, but our resiliency is our greatest asset. We are resilient because we are proud and we ought to demonstrate that pride every chance we get. I believe we live in the best City in the world. I believe that our home is a beautiful place, and I believe that this is a wonderful place to raise a family. It is imperative for us all to ensure that when we talk about our City with our youth, that we are actively trying to sell the benefits of living here, working here, raising a family here and playing here. 


Let’s all talk about why we love Sault Ste. Marie and why we all want to be “HOME TO STAY!”

AFFORDABLE HOME OWNERSHIP PROGRAM

In December 2019, I was joined by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, at Sault College to announce an investment of $900,000.00 for the Affordable Home Ownership program. 

With this funding, our District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Services Administrative Board (DSSMSSAB) was able to purchase homes in our community that were in a state of disrepair. They were able to hire licenced contractors and purchase the material to complete a full renovation of these homes. The program also relied on work being done by Ontario Works clients enrolled in a training program at Sault College which aims to teach these students building and maintenance skills, all while renovating the home and increasing its value. The completed property becomes a renewed, welcoming, and safe space for a local family to establish a permanent home. 

I’m proud of the ingenuity of Sault Ste. Marie Social Services for putting together this unique plan that will make a real difference in the lives of so many people. It has so many benefits. It refreshes properties that were becoming derelict, helps refresh older neighbourhoods, and raises property values. It helps Ontario Works clients build valuable skills and workforce experience, and ultimately, it makes home ownership possible for young families. 


In July 2021, a ceremony was held to present the LeBrun family with the keys to their new home as the first family to realize the benefits of this awesome program. 


Watching this proceed from concept to completion over the past few years is a great example of what can happen when our community comes together to support one another. Through the collaboration of the Ontario Government, the City of Sault Ste. Marie, the DSSMSSAB, and many local partners, this success story is a great example of how we work better when we work together.

INVESTING IN PEOPLE & THEIR POTENTIAL

The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund (NOHFC) is arguably the greatest competitive advantage we have in northern Ontario to help us spur economic development in the region. 

Here in Sault Ste. Marie, the NOHFC is utilized to promote and stimulate numerous economic development initiatives. The financial assistance available through this fund has provided the incentive for so many critical projects in our community to proceed. In some cases, the fund has helped stabilize an industry, in others the fund was used to diversify industries. In others, the fund has been used to encourage and spark new economic growth and employment in our community. 

I believe that the youth internship program, now known as the People and Talent Program, within the NOHFC is one of the greatest tools we have to support the retention of our youth in Sault Ste. Marie. This program not only helps keep young professionals “Home to Stay,” but it also addresses the problem of jobs without people that we hear so much about these days. 

Since 2018, our government has invested nearly $5 million ($4,986.460) to fund 176 Internship positions at various local not-for-profits as well as public and private sector business in Sault Ste. Marie.

I encourage anyone looking for help in developing their local workforce to contact our local NOHFC office or my constituency office for more information. You can also visit https://nohfc.ca/en/pages/programs/people-talent-program to learn more or apply for funding for your business.

SUPPORTING SAULT COLLEGE & ALGOMA UNIVERSITY

When COVID-19 first closed our colleges and universities in March of 2020, I saw an immediate need to protect our post-secondary institutions. Over 600,000 students across all of Ontario and approximately 4,000 in Sault Ste. Marie alone were only six weeks away from final exams when the first wave struck. 

Within days, on March 31, 2020, our government announced the first COVID-19 relief funding, allocated to assist with emergency supports for students, bolstering of online learning platforms and to enable online exams to be hosted and graded. Sault College received $492,608 to help meet these initial challenges of the pandemic. 

As struggles in the sector continued, it became evident that more relief was necessary. In March 2021, our government announced another round of support for those institutions most affected by the pandemic. As part of this announcement, Algoma University received $4.8 million and Sault College received an additional $1.5 million in funding.

Along  with these targeted COVID-19 supports, so much other work had been initiated at the outset of the pandemic to strengthen the virtual learning infrastructure at our local institutions that were in significant need of help. 


Algoma University in particular required our support in a big way and our government was there for them through this very trying time. I was so proud to be a part of an emotional announcement of funding through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation of $3 million to build a new virtual campus at Algoma University. 


With this funding, Algoma University became one of the most advanced virtual learning insittutions in the entire province and one of the first postsecondary institutions in Ontario to market full online degrees. This e-learning platform will attract students from across Ontario to study here while also creating more than 70 new jobs over the next five years.


Both Sault College and Algoma University have shown a determination to not only survive, but grow and expand through this global pandemic. I will continue to be a strong advocate for post-secondary education here in Sault Ste. Marie and can’t wait to discuss more in our next edition.

A ROADMAP TO WELLNESS

Mental Health and Addictions has claimed the lives of so many people in our community. Every one of us, to one degree or another, has felt the impact of this crisis.

It was important that our government invest in a community based Residential Withdrawal Management Services (Detoxification and Treatment) site for Sault Ste. Marie. When a vulnerable person’s struggle with opioids causes them to receive life saving emergency medical intervention, the best chance they will have to truly get well starts with “in patient” residential withdrawal management services. But unfortunately, for some people, they never get the chance. 

That is why our government continues to make investments in preventative and proactive support and services. The “Roadmap to Wellness” plan ensures that a person in need can receive both the traditional “in-patient/in-hospital” withdrawal management services, as well as out-patient, or, out-of-hospital withdrawal management services. We are also investing in wrap-around community-based prevention strategies for children and at risk groups. Our goal is to prevent a vulnerable person from ever reaching a level of crisis that requires life-saving emergency medical intervention. 

IN-PATIENT (HOSPITAL BASED) SERVICES

Leading up to 2018, addictions/opioid-related residential withdrawal management services were provided at the 12-bed Sault Area Hospital (SAH) Detoxification Centre on Queen Street. These “in-patient” services were transferred to the hospital in 2020. They increased to a 16-bed service and also provided an additional four acute care beds for those with other acute care needs. 

The advocacy to secure a stand-alone site has been tremendous and a stand-alone site is necessary. That led to us welcoming our Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and the Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, by video conference to Sault Ste. Marie on May 27, 2021, to announce that after nearly a decade of hard work, we had received the necessary approvals to fund a stand alone 20-bed Residential Withdrawal Management Services site (‘RWMS site’) in Sault Ste. Marie with four additional acute care beds remaining at SAH.

The initial funding that has been announced represents an increase of $343,000 in year-over-year operating costs for rent, food plans, laundry and other related operating costs for the new RWMS site, given it is considerable larger than the previous location.

The RWMS site will be located at the former Sault Star building on Old Garden River Road. The project has been tendered for construction and an announcement of the capital funding will be made once a successful tender has been approved. 

It is anticipated that the building will open in the summer of 2022. I look forward to discussing more in our next edition.

OUT-PATIENT (COMMUNITY BASED) WITHDRAWAL MANAGEMENT SERVICES

Out-patient services are designed to ensure that our most vulnerable people can access the help they need, when and where they need it most. Prior to 2018, it was very difficult for people to obtain these services, but today they have a number of different options to help them avoid a crisis situation. 

We now have the Rapid Access Addictions Management Clinic 123 East Street. This is a place where a person in need can walk in, from Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm, if they need, and are willing, to seek out help with addictions-related withdrawal management supports or services. 

For people willing and able to call ‘in’ for services, I was very happy to announce that we were able to secure an additional $120,000 in year-over-year operational funding for SAH to provide in-home nursing services. If you or a friend or loved one are in need of withdrawal management service at home, call 705-989-8102 and a mobile nurse will come to you. They can also connect you with other local community-based services. 

Some people need timely access to assistance. This requires us to be proactive to seek out those in need. In April 2021, SAH along with our local DSSMDSSAB and other community members rolled out the Community Wellness Bus. Our government provided SAH with an additional $155,000 in year-over-year operational funding so they can offer traditional ‘in-patient’ withdrawal management supports and services to people in a mobile setting. The bus now travels to the places where our most vulnerable people are known to be present to give them timely and immediate access to withdrawal management services and to connect them with any other health care services they may require.

WRAP-AROUND COMMUNITY BASED SUPPORTS

ALGOMA FAMILY SERVICES
Algoma Family Services (AFS) is committed to caring for our community’s most vulnerable children and youth. Supporting young people and their families through difficult times is an important form of preventative care. 

Our government invested an additional $80,800 in year-over-year operational funding for AFS to increase mental health counselling and therapy services for young offenders as well as young people and their families considered at a higher risk due to substance abuse and/or violence within the home. 

In addition, we recognize the threat of Human Trafficking in our community and that early intervention and increased protection for child and youth victims of sexual exploitation is needed. Through the Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy, continued advocacy has allowed us to secure $1.27 million in additional funding over the next five years for AFS to help young victims and survivors of human trafficking within our community. 

ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOLS
The province provides targeting funding to all our school boards in Sault Ste. Marie which is designed to prioritize the mental health needs of our youth. 

In September 2020, I was proud to announce an increase of $435,240 in year-over-year funding for mental health supports and services in all our local school boards. 

I believe it is imperative that we make these investments into the mental health and well-being of our young people today so that they have the tools and the skills that they will need to address the challenges of tomorrow. 

POST-SECONDARY INSTITUATIONS
Our government continues to increase yearly funding to Algoma University and Sault College for Mental Health Services. This annual support allows our local schools the ability to develop and deliver additional programs and services and to hire additional front-line workers to increase mental health services on campuses. 

In December 2021, I announced an increase in year-over-year funding for Algoma University of $146,823 and Sault College of $149,252.

FIRST NATIONS AND INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION

I was very pleased to join the Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and the Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, in person at The Indian Friendship Centre on February 15, 2020, to announce that our government was investing $1.2 million in additional funding to expand community-based mental health and addictions services provided by First Nations and Indigenous organizations with culturally appropriate services offered closer to home. 

With this funding Batchewana First Nation was able to expand its existing mental health and wellness programs to offer a combination of clinical care and traditional healing and operate a new mental health and addiction aftercare program for post-treatment clients. 

Also, the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres was able to hire two additional front line mental health workers and expand local mental health and wellness programs to serve more community members.

Our work is not complete. Our government has committed to investing $3.8 billion dollars over ten years to improve upon, and expand, mental health and addictions services and programs trough the “Roadmap to Wellness.”

I believe this strategy will help us to ensure our most vulnerable people have access to the supports they need. Early intervention, counselling and care for those who have suffered are the best tools we can give them to prevent against future harm. 

INCREASING BEDS AT SAULT AREA HOSPITAL

In 2018, Sault Area Hospital would often reach its maximum capacity of 289 beds during the winter season. This was following an eight-year freeze in provincial hospital funding.

During the wintertime, in particular, capacity limits are often stretched to the limit. This is due to a number of different factors including an increase in the number of visits from seniors, as well as an increased number of motor vehicle accidents, and slip and falls. Overexertion is also a lead cause, combined with the usual need for additional beds during flu season. These factors often caused our hospital to operate over 100% capacity.

Surge beds are based in various locations in the hospital and are opened depending on local patients’ needs.

 

In October of 2018, I was honoured to announced an increase in year over year funding of $1.72 million and a further increase of $605,000 very shortly thereafter. This total increase in year-over-year funding of $2.3 million created 26 new surge beds at Sault Area Hospital and could not have come at a better time given that COVID-19 would become a worldwide pandemic just over a year later.

INVESTING IN CULTURE & TOURISM

In March of 2019, I was so excited to announce funding through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) of $5 million to build a new Agawa Canyon tour train station, an exhibit centre and gallery, a microbrewery, and an outdoor event centre in the historic Paper Mill District.

The Agawa Canyon Train Tour is our city’s biggest local tourist attraction, creating $25 million in economic activity for the city and the region every year. We appreciate how vital tourism is to our economy here in Sault Ste. Marie and believe that investments like this work to support building our community as a tourism destination.

The Algoma Central Railway (ACR) was constructed well over 100 years ago, and even in its inaugural years, the passenger service allowed travellers to experience the vast beauty of the region. From the early years of the ACR, the concept of a wilderness-by-rail adventure captured the hearts of many travellers. Most famously, the Group of Seven artists explored the river canyons, lakes and jagged cliffs of the region and captured the natural beauty of our area through their works.

In the 1950s, the ACR began to promote the beautiful landscapes of the Algoma District to tourists, and in 1972 the Railway began a dedicated tour train excursion to the Agawa Canyon. Due to its popularity, the ACR ran some of the longest passenger trains in North America, often up to 24 cars long. During the late 1970s and 19802, approximately 100,000 visitors each year would tour the Agawa Canyon.

Much has transpired in the almost 50 years since the Agawa Canyon tour train embarked on its wilderness adventure. Although the numbers may not be what they were in the ‘80s, the Agawa Canyon Tour certainly possesses the potential of providing the critical mass necessary to continue to grow wilderness tourism in the North. To be sure, investments by our government in projects such as this help to foster growth, in addition to creating both full and part-time jobs.

Considering the fact that these dollars were earmarked a year prior to COVID-19, an investment of this magnitude has proven to be even more important than originally envisioned. This funding has offered positivity and hope to an industry that has faced much adversity. Through projects such as this, our government is revitalizing our tourism sector and ensuring northern communities like Sault Ste. Marie can bounce back stronger than ever before. Much like the Agawa Canyon Tour, investments such as this allow us to enjoy the journey every bit as much as the destination.

PROTECTING ALGOMA STEEL JOBS & PENSIONS

Following the last election in June 2018, our community was anxious to see an end to the Companies Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) process at Algoma Steel that had begun in November of 2015. Nearly 9000 retirees were worried about the state of their pensions, while nearly 3000 active employees worries about the status of their jobs.

Our government understood how important it is to guarantee those pensions under the public Pension Guarantee Fund. And we recognize the importance of supporting and protecting Algoma Steel worker jobs, for those families that were directly affected, and for the entire community of Sault Ste. Marie. 

That is why we took immediate and necessary action to guarantee the pensions of our steel workers through the Public Pension Guarantee Fund. With the assessments paid by employers, this fund guaranteed the first $1,500 per month of pension income from a defined plan if the employer has insufficient funds and is bankrupt.

Our Work did not end there. In order for Algoma Steel to emerge from the black cloud of CCAA creditor protection, we provided necessary financing of $60 million towards capital expenditures in the plant.

Additionally, the province negotiated conditions to address environmental concerns by requiring the new owners to develop a plan to identify and address past environmental contamination at the Algoma Steel site. This plan requires a minimum investment of $3.8 million, annually, by the new owners for the next 20 years. 

Ultimately, protecting the jobs and pensions of our steel workers is of paramount concern and I am proud that our government was able to get this done early in our mandate so that we could focus future efforts towards strengthening Algoma Steel for generations to come.

THE PIPE DREAM IS NOW A REALITY

Sault Ste. Marie has long been known for its strength in steel manufacturing, and pipe and tube fabrication in particular.

It was a privilege to announce a grant through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) of $9 million to Tenaris that leveraged a $117 million expansion project that is creating 153 high paying, full time jobs here in Sault Ste. Marie.

Through this funding, our local facilities will be updated, new equipment will be purchased and operations in Sault Ste. Marie will expand, The government’s investment of $9 million has successfully leveraged an investment into Tenaris Algoma Tubes of over $117 million – which will see the global steel pipes manufacturer turn its Sault facility into the company’s central Canadian hub facility.

Strengthening the local steel industry in Sault Ste. Marie is an important part of our government’s plan to create more jobs and attract new and expanded investment so our northern communities can grow and thrive.

“Thanks to the strong advocacy of the local member, Ross Romano, and his work with colleagues in the Ontario Government for their overwhelming support. At Tenaris, we are committed to Canadian manufacturing, and thanks to the provincial support announced today, we are able to move forward with our investment, along with our Rig Direct business model and service Infrastructure, makes us stronger to support Canadian energy development with safe, efficient solutions for years to come.”

The NOHFC promotes economic prosperity across Northern Ontario by providing financial assistance to projects that stimulate recovery, growth, job creation and skills development. Since June 2018, the NOHFC has invested more than $225 million in 1,492 projects in Northern Ontario, leveraging more than $991 million investment and creating or sustaining 4,298 jobs.

Advocacy for employment opportunities and Canada’s energy development sector is at the forefront of what we want to achieve here and I am privileged to see that this pipe dream is finally a reality.

SUPPORTING SMALL BUSINESS RECOVERY

When the pandemic first struck, the Ontario government knew that small businesses needed support through these very uncertain times.

The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) is a $100 million fund that is designed to stimulate economic development initiatives in Northern Ontario that proved to be very helpful in assisting many of our northern businesses throughout the pandemic.

In September 2020, the government announced the creation of the Northern Ontario Recovery Program (NORP) to help businesses across Northern Ontario adjust to the impacts of COVID-19, and protect their employees and their customers. Pivoting in a time of crisis, the NOHFC was instrumental in providing mentorship and support to companies from a variety of sectors. In Sault Ste. Marie alone, 109 businesses received NORP support. This equated to $1.8 Million paid directly to local business for assistance with projects such as building renovations, customer and employee safety installations, equipment purchases, marketing and restructuring of business operations. 

Outside of the direct program funding delivered through the NOHFC, the Ontario Small Business Support Grant provided over $8.2 Million to over 300 businesses here in Sault Ste. Marie. The Ontario Small Business Support Grant provided eligible businesses that were required to close or significantly restrict services under the province-wide shutdown with a minimum total support of $20,000 up to a maximum of $40,000.

Our government also provided additional financial supports to help offset the costs of purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE), along with rebates for both property tax and energy costs. These dollars, invested in our local businesses, provided the flexible financial support needed to help small business owners keep the doors open and their workers employed. 

We value the role that small business plays not only in our community of Sault Ste. Marie, but also in Ontario’s economic recovery. We realize that the road to recovery will be long, but our government will keep working to ensure that our community will be open for business and continue to support job creation and economic growth in the months and years to come. 

DOUBLE MCMEEKEN WITH THE WORKS

The McMeeken Arena was built in 1967. It has served us well, however time has caught up to it. There have been calls to replace the building for a long time now. These calls only increased after a CO2 leak in 2016 caused a health scare for many parents and families in our community.

In fact, when the Northern Community Centre was constructed in 2012, a future expansion was contemplated that would include an ice hockey rink being attached to the facility to accommodate the ultimate replacement of the McMeeken Arena.

Having spent most of my life in the west end of the city, I can appreciate the significance of having a community recreational facility in both ends of our City. That made it so much more exciting for me to join the Minister of Infrastructure on May 31, 2021, to announce that the Ontario government was providing more than $18 million for the construction of a $33 million twin-pad arena in Sault Ste. Marie.

The twin-pad arena will replace the single-pad McMeeken Arena. The Northern Community Centre will now have two full size indoor soccer fields, two ice hockey rinks as well as a walking track. This will significantly increase the square footage and seating capacity inside the arena for the Sault Ste. Marie community.

This is an amazing investment into our City’s infrastructure that will be enjoyed by members of our community for decades to come.

FIGHTING FOR OUR FAIR SHARE!

Our government recognizes how important the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) is to communities across the province, and in particular, for our northern Ontario municipalities. This is especially so given that the OMPF targets funding to municipalities facing challenging fiscal circumstances and supports areas with a limited tax base and lower property assessments. 

Therefore, a community with a small tax base and lowe property assessments will receive more funding than a community with larger tax bases and higher property assessments. 

The OMPF supports 389 municipalities across the province with $500 million annually. The funding provided through the program is unconditional and can be used to support the local priorities and specific needs of each community.

This funding is so critical for Sault Ste. Marie, and I am proud that we have been able to consistently see substantial increases to our share of it. 

In fact, Sault Ste. Marie has seen its share of the OMPF increase from $15,455,200 in 2017 to $16,822,000 per year as of 2022. That is an increase of nearly $1.5 million per year.

COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE EXPANSION AT ALGOMA UNIVERSITY

On May 19 2021, I was proud to announce the provincial government’s investment of $5.9 Million to Algoma University to leverage an $18 million investment in Sault Ste. Marie to build an Indigenous cultural centre that will be called Mukwa Waakaa’igan. This was a joint announcement under the Community, Culture and Recreation Infrastructure Stream of the Investing in Canada plan, made along with Canada’s Minister of Infrastructure and Communities.

Through this federal program, the province is asked to nominate local community infrastructure projects to the federal government for funding. The university will contribute $4.7 million to the project while the province will provide $5.9 million, and the federal government will contribute $7.1 million. 

Mukwa Waakaa’igan will be a complete renovation to the University’s east wing that will create a brand new view of the school from Queen Street East. Most importantly, this will be a hub to promote Anishnaabe culture and the sharing of knowledge while showcasing the work of the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association, the survivors of the residential school and their descendants. It will house the Shingwauk Residential School archives and the Aboriginal Healing Foundation Collection and will be an exciting destination for many people visiting our community.

The history of residential schools is a dark chapter for our country. It is our duty to bring these events into the light, to ensure that survivors are heard, and to work together towards reconciliation. Nothing could be more important than creating safe and inclusive spaces for everyone, and I look forward to the continued transformation of Algoma University on this journey.

GET A DEGREE IN NURSING WITHOUT LEAVING SAULT STE. MARIE!

In February 2020, I was proud to announce that our government was giving Ontario Colleges the ability to grant nursing degrees. This news was particularly important to me given that the decision was founded in giving young people the opportunity to “study and stay” in their home communities and was motivated by the ‘Home to Stay’ mantra of keeping our kids home in Sault Ste. Marie.

Previously, colleges were only permitted to offer the nursing degrees of a partner university in exchange for a fee. The method of program delivery differed from one partnership to another. In some instances, the local college would offer the first 2 years of the 4-year program locally, while the final 2 years had to be completed at the university campus. 

Colleges across all of Ontario, like Sault College in Sault Ste. Marie, were simply shut out because they were not called a university. 

With our policy changes, colleges can now prove their ability to offer these programs and, I was so proud to join the Minister of Colleges and Universities on February 7, 2022 to announce that Sault College had officially passed all of their professional accreditation requirements and can now officially grant nursing degrees.

We know that we have and will continue to have a need for more nurses here in the north and we need young people to pursue these careers to staff them. Through policy changes like this, we are making it easier for more of our youth to pursue rewarding careers and to remain ‘Home to Stay’ in Sault

FIXING FACILITIES FUNDING FORMULA

The Facilities Renewal Program is a fund within the Ministry of Colleges and Universities that is supposed to help schools with deferred maintenance needs and to help with the expansion of current infrastructure. 


The fund has remained stagnant for the previous decade at $71 million a year. The allotment formula was heavily influenced by enrolment numbers which placed smaller institutions like ours in Sault Ste. Marie at a significant disadvantage. The formula furthermore failed to take into account other inherent disadvantages for smaller institutions to generate revenue for campus maintenance and growth.

As a result, Algoma University and Sault College received just under $260 thousand per year in funding under the program. This was the bare minimum allotment of funding that was granted to all of the smaller sized institutions prior to 2020. 

I was proud to announce, from my local constituency office on November 20, 2020, that the government was increasing the fund from $71 million to $144 million per year. Additionally, the government fixed the funding formula and created a balanced approach that allowed smaller and medium sized institutions to receive their fair share of the funding envelope. 

As a result of these changes, our local institutions now enjoy a tremendous increase in funding. Sault College now receives a total of $2 million per year and Algoma University now receives a total of $1.5 million per year. This is in stark contrast to the roughly $260 thousand per year that our local institutions used to receive under the previous funding formula.

DEVELOPING SAULT STE. MARIE SOLUTIONS

Words cannot begin to describe the devastating pain and loss that has been felt by families and loved ones of vulnerable persons struggling through the mental health and addictions crisis. 

While working towards securing our local Residential Withdrawal Management Services Site (‘RWMSS’) that will be housed in the old Sault Star building, I had the opportunity to engage with many local stakeholders and realized that there was more we could all do to help.

While our new RWMSS is overdue and necessary, we must remain steadfast in our continued advocacy to learn more about this devastating disease and to develop ways to address it in a meaningful way.

This led me to form the H.E.A.R.T.S (Helping In Education and Application of Research and Training Supports) working group. The group was comprised of Sault Area Hospital, the Canadian Mental Health Association, Algoma Family Services, the Sault Ste. Marie District Social Services Administration Board, Sault College, and Algoma University.

In addition to securing a RWMSS, our goal was to unite our service providers and post-secondary institutions into one group with a mandate to work together and with the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (‘NOSM’) to develop a health human resource research and training strategy that leverages our unique and challenging circumstances in the north, in order to help us develop and deliver a Sault Ste. Marie solution to this national crisis. 

The working group has been able to secure funding for a feasibility study into the development of a regional campus of NOSm in Sault Ste. Marie that would focus on research and training in the areas of mental health and addictions. 

We are all eagerly awaiting the results of that study.