MICA gets funding for 20 e-bikes

E-bikes such as the one shown here may soon be a common sight on Manitoulin thanks to the hard work of Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates and a grant from FedNor.

SUDBURY – In recognition of National Tourism Week, May 23 to 30, FedNor announced three funding contributions last week, two of which are located on Manitoulin Island.

Sault Ste. Marie MP Terry Sheehan made the announcements via a Zoom video conference on behalf of the Honourable Mélanie Joly, minister of economic development and official languages—the minister responsible for FedNor. Mr. Sheehan is the parliamentary secretary to Minister Joly.

“Canada’s tourism sector and those whose livelihoods depend on it have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and I want them to know that we’re here for them,” said Minister Joly in a release accompanying the announcements. “The Government of Canada has provided support to businesses and workers across the tourism sector since the beginning of the pandemic and continues to provide support to ensure these businesses have what they need to get through COVID-19 and succeed as our economy reopens.”

“Today’s announcement will help Algoma and Manitoulin’s local tourism sector launch a strong recovery and enjoy sustainable growth when travel restrictions ease and our communities welcome visitors once again,” said Mr. Sheehan in making the announcements. “Our government is intensifying its efforts, through FedNor, to protect and create jobs and further positioning Northern Ontario as a world-class destination with so many experiences, attractions and wide-open spaces to discover.”

One of the FedNor investments targets the rising cycling tourism market. Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates (MICA) received $64,200 to improve cycling infrastructure on Manitoulin Island through the creation of a network of 20 electric bicycles (e-bikes) for rent and to build seven quick charging stations in strategic locations across Manitoulin Island. The Island features 14 cycling routes totalling over 850 kilometres, noted Maja Mielonen, MICA president.

“I would like to express how grateful and excited we are to have been awarded this FedNor grant to install e-bikes and e-bike charging stations on Manitoulin Island,” said Ms. Mielonen. “FedNor knows what our Northern communities needs are and we wish to thank you for believing in our project. Innovative, green, micro mobility is coming fast and MICA is thrilled to be able to put Manitoulin on the map as one of the first e-bike rental charging stations systems in Ontario.”

Ms. Mielonen went on to thank Destination Northern Ontario’s Executive Director David MacLachlin for recognizing the tourism opportunities the MICA project provides, for DNO’s ongoing financial support and consultant Pat Forrest’s “administrative helping mind.”

“I wish to thank all current and past MICA board members for their volunteer time successfully lobbying for them since 2010,” continued Ms. Mielonen. The result of their diligence and determination has resulted in “Manitoulin being now well known as a safe, vibrant and attractive cycle tourism destination. With your help, MICA will now be able to add e-bike rental option accessible to all. MICA is supporting this project financially and will be subsidizing this e-bike project well into the future.”

Charging stations will be located in South Baymouth, Manitowaning, Little Current, Kagawong, Gore Bay and Mindemoya.

Ms. Mielonen noted the e-bikes will expand the ability of those travelling by boat to explore deeper into the Island and will encourage walk-on visitors travelling by the ferry to reach out to more Island attractions.

The third announcement was for the Town of Blind River, which will receive $155,000 to implement the next phase of its comprehensive waterfront and downtown revitalization project and help maximize the tourism and economic potential of its waterfront development area, including the construction of a new boardwalk and pavilion, and marketing to promote the site as inclusive and fully accessible—but it too has a Manitoulin link.

“I am proud to say Greater Sudbury is home to a number of highly skilled entrepreneurs, all motivated to share their ideas and products with the community,” said Mayor Sally Hagman, who is also the mother of Blair Hagman, co-owner of Manitoulin Brewing Company. “After more than a year of monitoring the impacts of COVID-19 in the community, I am sincerely grateful for this investment from FedNor and the federal government and anticipate a future of economic growth in the North. Today’s announcement symbolizes a commitment to strengthen Northern Ontario’s economy, and a path towards accessible mentorship, workspaces, and equipment for local start-ups.”

Mississauga First Nation Ogimaa Reg Niganobe, whose community worked in partnership with Blind River on their project, congratulated all of the team that worked on securing the funding, especially Mississauga economic development officer Jon Cada and Blind River facilities co-ordinator Karen Bittner.

Canada’s tourism sector is an essential contributor to the Canadian economy, noted Lucie Perrault, director, corporate services and policy with FedNor/Industry Canada, who acted as facilitator for the online press conference. Ms. Perrault pointed out “prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sector was generating $102 billion in annual economic activity, 1.8 million jobs and accounted for over two percent of GDP. However, the sector has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. During these challenging times, the Government of Canada is stepping up efforts to ensure that tourism businesses and organizations, as well as municipalities and Indigenous communities dependent on the sector, are resourced and ready to start back up as our economy reopens.”

“Together, these projects (including one for the Meldrum Bay waterfront improvements) are expected to create three new jobs and maintain five tourism-related jobs,” noted Mr. Sheehan. “Today’s announcement builds on the investments proposed as part of budget 2021 totalling $1 billion over three years in support of the tourism sector. This includes the creation of a $500-million Tourism Relief Fund, administered by the regional development agencies, to support investments by local tourism businesses to help them recover from the pandemic and position themselves for future growth. Canada’s tourism sector and those whose livelihoods depend on it have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and I want them to know that we’re here for them. The Government of Canada has provided support to businesses and workers across the tourism sector since the beginning of the pandemic and continues to provide support to ensure these businesses have what they need to get through COVID-19 and succeed as our economy reopens.”