Between grant announcements in Kenora last week, MP Greg Rickford talked about a number of initiatives meant to help the local and regional economy. For example, patients from the northwest can take advantage of new technologies in Thunder Bay.

With the decomissioning of the nuclear reactor at Chalk River -- in eastern Ontario -- the northwest needed a new source of nuclear isotopes for medical tests. Rickford says he's excited to see these are now available through a new facility in Thunder Bay.

"I think this is one of the single biggest advancements in medical technology in the region, and health services in general, we've seen in a long time," he said.

Rickford -- who is also the minister responsible for FedNor -- says it's part of a long-term strategy to diversify the economy.

"There are several floors in that building that are doing other diagnostic tests -- cardiac for example -- that involve the cyclotron medical isotope. All of the strategic business units around it are coalescing in that building," he added.

The minister made several announcements late last week. They include grants for accessibility, small business innovation, as well as supports for children and families at risk.

Kenora M-P Greg Rickford says he's it's part of an overall plan to help lay the groundwork for an economic recovery. One of the projects involves the innovation centre in Thunder Bay, which the minister says will help diversify the economy through new high technologies by helping to provide start-up capital.

"This was one of the single biggest challenges facing them. In addition, we had some very complementary internship programs offered under the FedNor brand contributing to an innovation centre that does a great job at inspiring and attracting people with ideas and helping to take that idea and bring it to market," he said.

As the minister for Natural Resources, Rickford also offered assurances there was good news on the way, regarding help for the forestry sector.

"We're looking very forward to a forestry innovation summit, which is going to bring ministers in from across the country to talk about the innovation aspects of the forest sector moving forward, which we know in Kenora was the sole reason some companies existed, during arguably one of the most difficult challenges for the forest," he continued.

In recent months, Rickford has offered supports for forestry companies adapting to new markets, as well as workers looking for retraining, as the industry slowly recovers from the recession.

Meanwhile, how to get western oil and gas to new markets has been a key question for the country's Natural Resources minister. While the cost of a barrel of oil is roughly half what it was a year ago, there are still some long-term projects on the books. They include initiatives to extract oil and gas, as well as pipeline proposals and tanker car reforms.

Despite some strong opposition, the minister says he's determined to continue working on ways to get Canada's resources to new markets.

"I think if we've learned anything from Keystone XL Pipeline, selling 99 per cent of our oil and 98 per cent of our gas to one customer, can be problematic for a variety of reasons," he said, referring to the American market.

A spill in Vancouver and a protest on the Jones Road put the pipeline issue on the front burner over the weekend. So, the minister continued to offer assurances about the safeguards in place for Canadians.

"We've been clear, the projects will not proceed, unless they're safe for the communities most directly impacted by them and safe for the environment, to the extent that they survive a rigorous scientific and fact-based inquiry through the National Energy Board or the comprehensive environmental assessment process obviously our ability to get our energy products to new markets is critical," the minister said.

Rickford also made several stops in Kenora, in order to announced grants for local projects.