Nickel Belt M.P. Marc Serré was handed even more work on September 15th, when it was announced that he would be adding the role of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources to his already hefty portfolio. Serré continues to act as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Official Languages, as well as maintaining his roles on various committees and councils such as the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, and the Joint Interparliamentary Council. While the increase in work may seem substantial considering the impending size increase of the Nickel Belt riding also looming, Serré reassures that Nickel Belt constituents are not only his top priority, but residents from all of northern Ontario could benefit from the work he’s doing.
For those who may not be familiar with the role, Serré briefly describes it as being “able to provide the feedback that I hear from constituents directly back to government, directly back to Cabinet. It gives me a good opportunity and a good, strong voice here in Ottawa to make sure we advance what we need to advance.” He replaces the minister during events and question period if the minister is absent, and “I lead all the legislation committee work, all the caucus liaison within our own caucus, and it’s also important to reach out to the opposition. I’m responsible [to ensure] the Conservatives, the NDP, the Bloc are aware of what’s going on in these files,” he adds.
“Those are two elements that, from a Nickel Belt perspective, are very important,” Serré says of the Official Languages and Natural Resources portfolios. Northern Ontario being a francophone-rich part of the country and having a wealth of mining and forestry resources means that as Nickel Belt M.P., he’s already got plenty of exposure to the pertinent issues.
“We have to find a way to move forward for any mining projects, which have over $60 billion of potential in Northwestern Ontario, [and…] have a plan between federal, provincial, first nation governments, and the private sector to protect nature,” begins Serré, talking about the challenges and priorities under the Natural Resources portfolio. A significant one of those challenges is accessing critical minerals in parts of the north that have no infrastructure. “You can’t run things on diesel, that’s not good, so we have to find ways to get the grid [expanded out there]. I’m working to see how we can do that while we’re looking at the roads with the province,” explains Serré, adding that a solution the government is currently considering is utilizing small, modular nuclear reactors to feed the energy required for mining.
The MP also brings up forestry as a critical industry for many parts of northern Ontario. Even before being appointed Parliamentary Secretary, Serré says he’d already been working with different sectors of this industry to secure and promote work across the north. “A lot of the products being shipped from the mills in West Nipissing are being shipped to Espanola for processing,” he gives as an example.
While resource extraction is obviously an important part of northern Ontario’s economy, Serré says there’s a lot more to offer. “The critical minerals strategy that we announced as a government to get more mines in operation is so important, but then the other aspect is the supply and services industry. There are over 25,000 jobs that are outside of mining companies, but linked to mining,” Serré explains, and brings up DSI in Sturgeon Falls and Boart Longyear in North Bay as examples. “People don’t realize that Northern Ontario exports a lot of parts, a lot of machines, a lot of equipment all over the world. That’s creating a lot of jobs in the supply and services industry, and good paying jobs,” he says, adding that those jobs range from simply warehouse labour, to engineering. According to Serré, there is a lot of potential in the north to expand on global exportation given the push towards EV batteries. We have both the critical minerals, and the industry that provides equipment for the mines that extract those minerals, he points out.
Serré is continuing his role of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Official Languages. “I kept that role, which is important because we just passed historic legislation in June, [Bill] C-13, for the modernization of the Official Languages Act, which my father [the late Gaëtan Serré] voted for in 1969,” he recalls. Furthermore, Serré mentions that the minister in charge of the portfolio recently changed, with Randy Boissonnault taking on the role in July, so he is providing some consistency and continuity for those working with the ministry.