Regional Development Agency For Ontario

Targets Province’s Southern End For Economic Improvement

It was announced the formation of a Regional Development Agency for Ontario by Stephen Harper - the Prime Minister. The agency’s goal is to help with the province’s economic recovery.

The new agency is to be headquartered in Kitchener, Ontario. Its goal will be to improve the fortunes of Southern Ontario because it was one of the areas hardest hit by the economic downturn.

Ontario Regional Agency Promised In January Budget

The agency named FedDev (Federal Development) Ontario was promised in January’s federal budget. It’s been given $1 billion in funding over the next five years to primarily help the area’s manufacturing industry, which has lost 200,000 jobs over the last few years.

FedDev’s purpose is to help economic development, innovation, and diversify the economy. In comments published by CBC.CA Prime Minister Stephen Harper said it was going to help area businesses take advantage of new opportunities: “The goal of this agency is helping the communities from southern Ontario, as well as the businesses and workers,  to take advantage of the new opportunities that will arise from the economic recovery.”

Minister of State Garry Goodyear is going to take responsibility for the agency. He will soon begin a tour of the area.

Kitchener Waterloo Considered Neutral Location for Headquarters

A lot has been made of the choice of Kitchener as for the agency’s headquarters, with many asking why not Toronto or elsewhere in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area)?

According to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the point of the agency was to have as little money tied up in bureaucracy as possible.

To do that, Harper desired it to be outside the Toronto area. Kitchener being around an hour west of Toronto is centrally located and connected to major area roads including the 401 filled the description. In comments published by the Canadian Press, Harper said the goal was to centrally locate the agency without using Toronto for its base: “The goal was quite simple- to have a fairly central location that wasn’t in the (Greater Toronto) area.”

The designation of holding the agency’s headquarters brings with it some prestige, although not as much as Waterloo regional chair would like. Waterloo Region Chairman Ken Seling cautioned the public to take it with a grain of salt. He wondered about the municipality’s role in the agency pointing out provincial regulations against bonusing a process in which municipalities could give financial incentives to companies who enter the area.

Premier Dalton McGuinty applauded the agency’s formation. Meanwhile, federal Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff named Guelph MP (Member of Parliament) his critic for Southern Ontario. Speaking in a party news release, Valeriote wondered why the announcement took so long: “Southern Ontario has waited six long months since it was first announced in the budget to get this agency underway- the government has wasted precious time determining a site for it while thousands of more jobs have been lost.”