Northern Ontario Heritage Fund
The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund is a Crown corporation and development agency of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines in the Canadian province of Ontario, whose purpose is to provide funding and program support to foster economic development in the economically disadvantaged Northern Ontario region.
The NOHF concentrates on six key funding programs: job creation, technology research and development, infrastructure and community development, youth entrepreneurship, youth internship and cooperative education, and generation and conservation of renewable energy.
First announced in the David Peterson government's 1987 throne speech, the fund's creation was included in the 1988 provincial budget, and the enabling legislation was given royal assent on June 7, 1988. At the time, it was set up as a short-term program which was slated to conclude in 1999; it has since seen periodic funding expansions and term extensions, and continues to run today, although as of 2015 the fund has still not been officially converted into a permanent program.
The organization's first board, consisting of 19 representatives from various cities and towns across the region, was named in July 1988. One of the fund's first large-scale investments was a $7.6 million contribution to the creation and construction of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory.
In its earliest years, the fund received some criticism focusing on allegations that it was too often used as an emergency bailout fund for failing natural resource companies rather than as a mechanism to actively encourage economic development or diversification, and that it lacked sufficient controls to prevent it from becoming misused as a vote-buying slush fund.
In 1990, the fund gave a $5 million grant to the Algoma Central Railway, which opposition Progressive Conservative leader Mike Harris alleged was a "down payment" on a secret deal to have the provincial government take over ownership and operation of the troubled company. Other investments in the early 1990s included a $1 million loan to Muscocho Explorations and McNellen Resources to fund construction of a new gold mine in Wawa, a $900 thousand loan to Brinkman and Associates, a tree-planting firm, and a $5 million loan to Bombardier Transportation to expand the company's facility in Thunder Bay.
In 1995, the Auditor General of Ontario's annual report criticized the fund for not having sufficient monitoring programs in place to ensure that its investments were actually achieving their job creation goals.
In the late 1990s, the fund was a key investor in new projects such as the Northern Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership, NORCAT and the Northern Academic Health Science Network. The organization also continued to make grants or loans to existing companies or organizations to expand their operations, including grants to Cinéfest to expand its marketing and advertising, and to Science North for the creation of its F. Jean MacLeod Butterfly Gallery.
In the early 2000s, the fund invested $16 million in the creation of a fibre optic cable network to improve the region's internet and telecommunications services, and made a $3.5 million grant toward the construction of Sudbury's Dynamic Earth.
In this era, the fund began to receive criticism for expanding its service area to include the Muskoka District, a region outside the traditional boundaries of Northern Ontario. This decision was made by then-finance minister Ernie Eves, who was the MPP for Parry Sound—Muskoka at the time, and was later reversed by Greg Sorbara in the 2004 provincial budget.
- "North to get economic help". Toronto Star, November 4, 1987.
- "Northern aid fund to get $360 million over next 12 years". The Globe and Mail, April 21, 1988.
- "Legislation". The Globe and Mail, June 7, 1988.
- "Secret memo depicts a desperate North". Toronto Star, April 18, 1990.
- "Candidates say Heritage Fund should be permanent". Thunder Bay's Source, September 9, 2011.
- "Panel named to supervise northern fund". The Globe and Mail, July 9, 1988.
- "Underground observatory hinges on federal funds". Ottawa Citizen, October 5, 1989.
- "Spend the money: - The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. has not lived up to its goals". Sudbury Star, June 24, 2002.
- "Algoma official denies 'secret deal'". Toronto Star, April 19, 1991.
- "Domtar plant expansion promises jobs in Ontario". Toronto Star, November 26, 1991.
- "B.C. loan to reforester criticized in Ontario: Money skewing eastern market, competitors charge". Vancouver Sun, April 25, 1992.
- "Bombardier upgrade to create 500 jobs". Toronto Star, June 11, 1993.
- "Auditor criticizes NDP job program". Kingston Whig-Standard, November 15, 1995.
- "Innovation, diversification spur Northern Ontario growth". The Globe and Mail, November 23, 1998.
- "Expanding program makes sense". Sudbury Star, August 18, 1999.
- "Cinefest receives grant". Sudbury Star, September 11, 1999.
- "Butterfly gallery takes flight". Sudbury Star, November 3, 1999.
- "Fibre-optic highway great investment". Sudbury Star, March 20, 2000.
- "Dynamic Earth to expand: Work on $7-million project to begin soon". Sudbury Star, August 18, 2004.
- "Why Northern Ontario is creeping southward". The Globe and Mail, May 15, 2000.
- "Muskoka moves to Southern Ontario". The Globe and Mail, May 27, 2004.