Ken Boshcoff was born and raised in Thunder Bay south, formerly known as Fort William. It is there where most of Ken’s academic training took place. As a child he attended St. Ann’s Elementary School, followed by three years at St. Patrick’s High School and two years at Westgate High School. He continued his education in Thunder Bay at Lakehead University, where he completed Political Science and Economics Degrees. He obtained his Master’s Degree in Environmental Studies, Systems Planning from York University.
As a young graduate, in the 1970’s, Ken began his career as an interpretive planner with the Ministry of Natural Resources and an environmental planner at the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. Later that decade, Ken changed professions and served as Vice President for Reed Stenhouse Insurance. He later worked for the Port of Thunder Bay as its first Director of Marketing. In 1991, Ken and his brother Ed started Boshcoff & Associates Insurance.
In 1978, Ken began his political career when he was elected to Council for the City of Thunder Bay. He served as a City Councillor for the Northwood Ward and Councillor at Large for 16 years. Ken was elected Mayor in 1997. During his 6 years as Mayor, Ken is most proud of his role in the construction of the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre and the establishment of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine – the first medical school in North America in over 35 years!
Over the years, Ken has compiled an extensive list of community organizations in which he has been involved; these include social, economic, business and arts groups both local and national.
In June 2004, Ken was elected as Member of Parliament for the Thunder Bay-Rainy River riding. In his first term he served as Chair of the Subcommittee of the Status for Persons with Disabilities and was member of the Standing Committee on Operations and Estimates. Re-elected in 2006, Ken was the Associate Critic for Natural Resources from April 2006 – January 2007. Ken is presently the Official Opposition Critic for Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario (FEDNOR). Ken also serves on the Standing Committee of Agriculture and the Standing Committee on Natural Resources. He is member and past Chair of the National Liberal Rural Caucus, where his aim to bring a bigger voice to the issues facing Rural Canada.
The riding of Thunder Bay-Rainy River was established in 2003 through the redistribution of boundaries in the previous Thunder Bay-Atikokan and Kenora-Rainy River ridings.
The riding is approximately 40,000 square kilometers with a population of nearly 86,000 residents. It encompasses 16 municipalities and 11 first nation communities. With its large expanse, the riding also encompasses the vibrant history of its communities.
Each community’s history tells the story of the countless number of men and women who pioneered development in the North. The original inhabitants of the region were the Ojibway, who occupied the North shore of Lake Superior and Lake Huron. The hunt for furs to supply the fur trade brought Europeans to area where numerous trading posts were established. In 1803, the Northwest Company established the hub of the Canadian fur trade, Fort William. It was located in the east end of what is currently Thunder Bay thus establishing the roots for the thriving community and encouraging the settlement of other communities in the area.
Located in the Rainy River District of Northwestern Ontario, like all communities in the area, Fort Frances has a long colourful history. Fort Frances is the oldest settled community west of Lake Superior; its first European contact came in the winter of 1688-89 with the visit of Jacques de Noyau. In 1731, LaVerendrye soon followed and Fort St. Pierre was built. Strong growth in the area did not come until the Northwest Company established themselves in the 1780’s along their Voyageur Highway, a crucial part of the Company’s trans-shipment of goods. In 1818, the Hudson’s Bay Company established a permanent post along Rainy River. However, Fort Frances received its current name on June 1, 1830, when the Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, Sir George Simpson visited the “Lac la Pluie” with his wife Lady Frances Ramsay Simpson. In honour of her visit, he renamed the community Fort Frances on September 25, 1830. The town itself was incorporated April 11, 1903.
Fort Frances has grown from a small trading fort into the hub of the Rainy River District with a population of 8,400 people. Its surroundings allow the town to offer the best of both worlds in that it has the advantages of a large city with the conveniences of a small town. The main industry in Fort Frances is forestry based and the major employer is the Abitibi Mill. Tourism is a major contributor to the local economy. The town shares a border with Minnesota making it the gateway to Northwestern Ontario and allowing for easier access to Canadian and US markets. People come from all over to take advantage of the natural resources and participate in the recreation it provides. There are numerous fly-in fishing and hunting outposts, pristine lakes and rivers to enjoy water recreation, as well as many secluded areas to relax and unwind.
Atikokan was described by its first settlers, the Ojibway Indians, as the “country beyond the height of land”. They lived peacefully with nature amongst the abundant forests, lakes and rivers until first European contact came in 1688. Jacques de Noyon traveled through the area at that time and his passage brought about a rush of expansion and exploration in the next 200 years. As with the other surrounding communities, the fur trade became the major industry. The construction of the railroad in 1850 halted the need for travel on the lake system. After Confederation in 1867, the Dawson Trail project saw more traffic through the area. Its construction also facilitated mineral exploration and gold was found in the 1850’s approximately 45 miles southeast of Atikokan, commencing its first active mine in 1899.
That same year Tom Rawn settled in the Atikokan area. Tom, Atikokan’s first settler, was the first to stake claim for iron ore in the Steep Rock area and the iron ore exploration began. In the 1930’s a large amount of iron ore was discovered under Steep Rock Lake. Problems arose in mining the ore as it was buried under 100 feet of water and 300 feet of silt, making the ore difficult to salvage. However, through diverted and dammed lakes and rivers, its finders were able to make a success of the iron ore mine. Steep Rock Mines was a success, producing 1,400,000 tons of high-grade pellets annually until the 1970’s when it was forced to close as it could not compete economically due to newer technologies producing higher quality ore.
The mining industry produced a reciprocal relationship with the forest industry, as the mines utilized a large quantity of timber. In the early 1900’s numerous lumber mills were in use and the companies extensively logged the Quetico area, until commercial logging was banned in Quetico Provincial Park in 1971.
The little community that Tom Rawn started blossomed into a productive town and was incorporated as a township in 1954. Since that time, the town has faced numerous economic struggles through the closures of mines and forestry companies. Only accessible by train, until the Lakehead-Atikokan Highway was completed in 1954, the township faced limited access and communication with surrounding areas. There also was a food shortage during the Canadian National Railway strike. The town was without meat, sugar or green vegetables until the “Mercy Train” from the Lakehead came with some supplies for the hospital and children. Atikokan has faced tremendous odds, that would have forced the failure of other towns, but through the strength and determination of its residents, the community has persevered.
Named after the river, the Town of Rainy River is the southern gateway to Lake of the Woods. This is an historic area on the fur trading routes and Ontario’s most westerly community on the Canadian-U.S. border.
In 1895, lumbermen moved a small sawmill to Rainy River where it was understood a bridge would be built across the (Rainy) river. This first mill was bought in 1898 by the Beaver Mills Lumber Company. Soon the Rat Portage Lumber company of Kenora began to show an interest in the timber industry south of them and set up a mill. This expanded the population of the little hamlet, that was originally called Beaver Mills.
A new mill opened in 1903 by the Rainy River Lumber company. This new mill employed over 450 mill hands during the summer months and about 80 of them had to work year round in the planning mill. The town grew until the fire of 1910. This fire burned the Rat Portage Lumber company to the ground and it was never rebuilt. In 1912 the Rainy River Lumber company moved its mill to Fort Frances because of the scarcity of lumber as a result of the 1910 fire. The Town site was rebuilt, and remains within close proximity of the CN Station which had been built in 1901 and managed to survive the fire. The Western Canada Flour MIlling Company built a stave mill on the former Rat Portage Mill site to make barrels for flour. It operated until 1929.
At the turn of the twentieth century the Town of Morson was a vast forest. The earliest known inhabitants were the Ojibway Indians. In the area lie centuries old rock paintings, reminders of the early inhabitants from 800-900 years ago. By 1731, Morson area of Lake of the Woods was busy during the fur trade but settlement and development did not begin until 150 years later. It was at the end of the 1800’s the land saw its first development. Land grants were offered by the government with the purpose of attracting Scandinavian settlers. The need to clear the land within the guidelines sparked the timbering industry and saw the emergence of an agricultural community.
During the early years of settlement, the water route between Lake of the Woods to ports along Rainy River was a busy carrying passengers from Kenora or used by lumber companies for towing logs. When the railroad replaced the steamships as a popular mode of transportation, the area saw an increase in tourism. The first resort was built between 1910 and 1920 on Cedar Island. In 1928, Morson was incorporated as a town and the decade following saw several resorts built, thus establishing tourism in the economy of Morson. The town established itself further with the establishment of Highway 621 in the early 1940’s, hydroelectricity in 1952 and telephone service in 1964. The town of Morson does not offer the amenities of a large city but it represents the greatest aspects of the Thunder Bay-Rainy River district: the natural beauty of untouched shorelines and islands.