January 19, 2011

The Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario)

Thorold, Ontario

Check against delivery

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, friends and guests.  Thank you for the warm welcome.

I would also like to thank RuskCast for hosting us today.  It's a pleasure to be here, at the site of such a successful small local business that I will speak about a little bit later.

The economy remains the top priority of Canadians and of our government.  Here in southern Ontario, the economy is recovering, but the global recession is fragile.

Thanks to our government's Economic Action Plan, 240,000 more people in Ontario are working than in May 2009.  The economy in our region and across Canada is doing better than other countries, but we realize the economy isn't just about numbers – it's about people, families and their financial security.

That is why, as we prepare for the next phase of the Economic Action Plan, our government will continue to focus on protecting the financial security of hard-working Ontarians, their families and businesses.

Which brings me today's announcement.  As we emerge from some challenging economic times here in Ontario, our government is committed to ensuring our communities and businesses have the support they need to move from economic recovery to growth and prosperity.  An important part of our government's Economic Action Plan was the creation of FedDev Ontario in 2009, to meet the specific needs and priorities of this region.

In its first year and a half, FedDev has committed more than half a billion dollars in community and economic development funding to projects all across southern Ontario.  This has created new jobs, increased business activity and provided economic stability to the region.

Consumers are spending again and the economy is growing because of it. We need to build on this momentum.

Our government recognizes that small- and medium-sized businesses are the economic engine of Canada.  They employ nearly half of Canada's workforce and contribute close to a third of the country's GDP.

Our government is committed to helping small businesses and communities succeed, and the Community Futures Program is an important part of these efforts.

This program provides rural communities and businesses across Canada with the resources to develop and implement local solutions to local problems.

Through this program, FedDev Ontario supports 37 Community Futures Development Corporations in southern Ontario, such as Venture Niagara, that offer community economic development and business counselling services, as well as provide access to capital for entrepreneurs.

Today, I am pleased to announce that our government will invest an additional $1.7 million to help give small businesses greater access to capital, services and support, so they can grow and create new jobs.

This funding is part of the national Community Futures Program funding of $11 million provided in Year Two of Canada's Economic Action Plan, and will enable Community Futures Development Corporations across Canada to continue to support small businesses and rural communities.

Since 2006, in rural communities throughout southern Ontario, our government has invested almost $190 million to help more than 14,000 businesses succeed with the help of services and financing through the Community Futures Development Corporations.

And I'd like to highlight that the loans provided are repayable, so one contribution is re-invested again and again into the community. As a result, the funds provided by the Government of Canada since the inception of the program have circulated through rural Canadian communities almost two and a half times.

And ladies and gentlemen, we are seeing concrete results from this program.  With the support received from Venture Niagara, RuskCast has been able to establish positive relationships with its various suppliers and grow from 5 to a total of 14 employees.

Through initiatives like this one, our government is committed to helping this region grow and attract the smartest minds, and brings promising ideas to the marketplace. I look forward to seeing how these actions result in better outcomes for southern Ontario.

I'd like to thank the Venture Niagara Board Members, staff and volunteers for their contributions to this community.

I'd also like to extend my best wishes to you for the upcoming Ontario Association of Community Futures Development Corporations Conference being hosted in Niagara Falls in May.

I look forward to seeing the continued results of the Community Futures Program over the coming years.

Thank you.  Merci.