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The headquarters of Ontario's Provincial Ministry of Tourism and Recreation will be moved from Toronto to Niagara Falls within the next few years, Mayor William S. Smeaton announced Wednesday.

The move will create about 400 jobs -- some filled by employees transferring from Toronto, Smeaton said.

"I'm absolutely ecstatic about this announcement. It's very, very good news for our downtown core," Smeaton said at a reception in City Hall, 4310 Queen St. The ministry's new headquarters will be on property already owned by the city next to City Hall.

"During my seven years as mayor, I've made overtures to the provincial government to decentralize, and we offered some downtown land for that purpose," Smeaton said. "This is a very happy marriage because Niagara Falls is the main tourist center in Ontario. We have more visitors here than anywhere else in the province.

"I courted the government on this. It's been a dream of mine. There is no frontier between nations that is closer than the Niagara Frontier. This is an ideal location for the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation," he continued.

The mayor said the move from Toronto to Niagara Falls could take three to four years. He said he does not know how many of the 400 employees would be transferred from Toronto, "but many of them may want to move to Niagara Falls because of the lower cost of living here and the less-hectic pace of life."

The ministry is in charge of promoting and advertising the vast variety of tourism and recreational opportunities throughout the Province of Ontario.

Smeaton said the move to Niagara Falls was part of a larger decentralization of provincial government agencies, which will include the transfer of the Ministry of Labor headquarters from Toronto to the heavily industrialized area of Windsor, Ont.

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