Ontario initiates Northern Ontario Recovery Program to aid northern businesses impacted by COVID-19
Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla - Staff Writer
The creation of a new, short-term Northern Ontario Recovery Program (NORP) was announced on September 28, in support of the businesses impacted by COVID-19. "As the province continues to respond to the ongoing challenge of the global pandemic, our government will continue to support our business owners, entrepreneurs and workers," said Greg Rickford, the Minister of Energy, Mines, Northern Development and Indigenous Affairs, who also made the announcement for the funding. "There is no denying that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on businesses throughout Northern Ontario and this program will deliver targeted funding so they can continue to serve their communities,” he said.
MP Eric Melillo is applauding the Ontario Government for stepping up to support business owners in Northern Ontario, and appealing the federal Liberal government to also take action. “I’ve been calling on the federal government to show this kind of leadership, but we’ve unfortunately seen very little action from the Liberals,” Melillo stated. “They’ve forgotten about Northern Ontario.”
Some of the major assistance that NORP can provide for companies is with projects that help them adjust to the impact of the pandemic, such as building renovations and new constructions, customer and employee safety installations, equipment purchases including personal protective equipment (PPE), marketing for new business initiatives, and restructuring of business operations.
Melillo, the Conservative Party’s Shadow Minister for Northern Affairs and FedNor, noted that Northern Ontario’s tourism and hospitality sector might not recover until the Canada-US border reopens. This may leave several tourist camps, hotels, airlines, and other businesses in a gruelling position. He added that the exclusionary eligibility criteria have caused struggles for several business owners to access the existing COVID-19 supports.
“Administered through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC), this new program will provide targeted funding so businesses can install the upgrades necessary to adapt to the challenges of COVID-19,” said Rickford. Applications will be open from October 1 until the year-end on December 31. The current NOHFC program streams have been closed as of September 30, to focus exclusively on NORP funding applications.
Minister Rickford said, “We hear your concerns and that is why I am proud we will be launching a new and improved NOHFC program in the New Year.” The program will make it easier for more people and businesses to apply. It will support more projects in rural northern communities, target both existing and emerging market opportunities, provide more work opportunities for Indigenous people and address the skilled labor shortage in the north, along with aiding the recovery of COVID-19.
Melillo has been advocating for additional financial support since the beginning of the pandemic. He has been writing letters to the Liberal cabinet ministers, in addition to public statements and private lobbying. “The contribution from the province will go a long way in helping northern businesses who have been hit hard by this pandemic,” Melillo said. “I won’t stop fighting until the federal government steps up as well.”
On October 2, the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, Mélanie Joly, announced the availability of additional funding for small and medium-sized businesses. According to the news release from the Office of Economic Development and Official Languages, Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan has helped protect millions of jobs, provide emergency support to families, and keep businesses afloat as they deal with the impact of COVID-19. A central part of this is the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF), which helps support those who may not be eligible for other programs.
“Small and medium sized businesses have been hit hard by COVID-19, and the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund is here to help them, protecting over 3,300 jobs across Northern Ontario. With the second wave upon us, we’ve heard clearly from businesses and workers that more support is needed. That’s why we’re enhancing and expanding the RRRF to help even more people in Northern Ontario. Our message to them is clear: we’ve been here for you with significant measures, we’re here for you now and we’ll get through this, together. We’re working with you to support good, local jobs and help our economy come back strong,” shared Joly.
Minister Rickford said, “I commend the businesses who have adapted and overcome the unprecedented challenges of the past seven months…This has been a challenging period for many of us, but it is our true northern resiliency that has carried us through and I know that Northern Ontario will return from this crisis stronger than before.”
More information about the Northern Ontario Recovery Program is available at
People can find out more about the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund at https://fednor.gc.ca/eic/site/fednor-fednor.nsf/eng/home.