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Vic Fedeli touts ‘strong relationship’ with Premier Doug Ford after major cabinet shuffle

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Following a major cabinet shuffle by Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli said Friday he has a “very strong relationship” with the premier that benefits both North Bay and the District of Nipissing.

Fedeli was the keynote speaker Friday at the State of Ontario and Here At Home speech with the business community hosted by the North Bay and District Chamber of Commerce.

He will retain his cabinet position as Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, a portfolio he said he’s proud to hold.

“The premier and I have a very strong relationship. He is the best closer,” Fedeli said.

“We bring in the businesses on the final one-yard line, and the premier brings them over the line. I think that we're a great team.”

When asked about the cabinet shuffle, the Nipissing MPP said Ford wanted to shake things up.

“He just wanted to refresh the economic team,” Fedeli told reporters.

“I’ll do whatever the premier needs me to do to help the people of Ontario.”

During Fedeli’s speech Friday, he took a moment to phone Ford to tell him about the 49,500 new jobs that were created in Ontario last month.

Fedeli then put the phone on speaker mode where Ford addressed the crowd of a little more than 100.

“You’ve got a champion with Vic. He’s my champion. He’s Ontario’s champion,” Ford said on the phone.

Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli was the keynote speaker Friday at the State of Ontario and Here At Home speech with the business community hosted by the North Bay and District Chamber of Commerce. (Eric Taschner/CTV News)

Fedeli said he takes pride in the $88 million the government has spent in the region in the last year. That includes $10 million for film and television production, $32 million for health care, $5.5 million for businesses and $39 million to support the district.

Jennifer Nickerson, manager of the Business Center Nipissing Parry Sound, said she pulled Fedeli aside after the speech to lobby for more support for small businesses.

“With businesses, I find that have been operating say for, you know the three- to seven-year mark, they’re struggling a little bit to expand and grow,” Nickerson said.

“I would like to see the province develop some sort of programs or supports so (you) can maintain those businesses and have them continue to grow and add employment.”

Record health-care spending

The province continues to sell its record spending in health care and education, despite a report by Ontario’s financial watchdog that found the province has actually underspent on social services by $3.7 billion.

“We respect the financial budget officer, but it's always a point in time and it lags the reality,” Fedeli said.

This is the second state-of-the-region address hosted by the chamber. The first was with North Bay Mayor Peter Chirico in a state-of-the-city address. The chamber is planning a third event with Nipissing-Timiskaming Liberal MP Anthony Rota in the fall.

“These are great opportunities to educate the business community and the community as a whole,” chamber president Donna Backer said.

Backer had a chance to press Fedeli on concerns the business community has had for months with homelessness, mental health and addictions.

“They're really fed up and they want to know and they want to see some action happening,” she said.

Fedeli said it’s not a money issue, but talks are needed with experts and stakeholders on how best to use funding to help struggling people get back on their feet.

When he goes back to Queen’s Park in October, Fedeli said he plans to continue to sell Ontario as the “economic driver” he sees it as.

“It's all about creating jobs and returning Ontario to solvency,” he said. 

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