While it did not propose sweeping changes, the Bill would have created transparency in the system that could be used to promote economic development and job growth in the mining sector.
The bill changed only one word in the Act – a provision that ensured ‘all minerals mined in Ontario must be treated and refined in Canada’ would instead read that ‘all minerals mined in Ontario must be treated and refined in Ontario.’
The Act currently- and would still- allow for exceptions to be granted by the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. The only difference being that the Minister would have to explain and defend his or her decision to allow processing outside of Ontario.
This would force the government to publicly acknowledge policy and infrastructure shortcomings that renders the province at a competitive disadvantage. It would, at the same time, provide Ontarians with an important opportunity to address these challenges and provide for better long-term planning that can lead to successful job growth strategies.
Critics of the bill call it a protectionist measure, however, changing the word ‘Canada’ to ‘Ontario’ is hardly revolutionary.
The only protectionist part of this bill was the decision of Liberals and Conservatives to vote in favour of protecting themselves from future scrutiny and accountability. Decisions such as the Conservatives’ failed attempts to privatize our electricity system- which created an unruly bureaucracy that adds hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost of electricity- and the Liberals’ Green Energy Act, have driven electricity prices through the roof and have made us uncompetitive.
When granting exemptions to other countries such as China, there are dozens of market factors in play, such as the low cost of labour, longer working days, fewer employee benefits, lower environmental standards, and lower energy prices. Most of these variables are relatively stable between provinces, the key differences being policy and infrastructure decisions that governments do not want to be held accountable for.
This includes the considerable difference between the 8.69 cents per kWh industrial electricity rate in Ontario, opposed to 4.56 cents per kWh rate in Quebec. This is part of the reason Timmins is losing 700 good paying jobs as Xstrata Copper shuts down its operations in our province in favour of Quebec.
I believe that as the owners of these minerals and these resources, the people of Ontario, and Northerners in particular, deserve to be major beneficiaries of this wealth. I understand that we may not be able to process each and every mineral in Ontario, but I believe government should be required to tell us why they need to be shipped elsewhere and acknowledge what we can do better in the future to ensure we maximize the value-added benefits.
These minerals belong to all of us. As shareholders of the Province of Ontario we deserve to maximize our dividends in the form of jobs and prosperity in all areas of this province.
Sarah Campbell MPP
Kenora Rainy River