QUEEN’S PARK – The Ring of Fire was the subject of a question in the Ontario Legislature on Tuesday. Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Michael Gravelle was up in the legislature answering a question from the opposition MPP Michael Mantha.
Minister Gravelle has focused that the Ring of Fire is very important, but also that getting the Ring of Fire right is equally important. “It might be slightly longer, but it will be going forward,” stated the Minister. “We are going to get it right,” continued Gravelle.
That focus has raised concern with the opposition who are suggesting that perhaps getting it right could be taking so long that it might set the project back.
From Question Period in the Ontario Legislature:
Mr. Michael Mantha: My question is to the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. In May 2012, the Premier said, “In order for the Ring of Fire development to go forward … in the best way possible, we know that this is a partnership: the federal government, First Nations, the provincial government and the companies working together.”
Yet, just two weeks ago, Cliffs was forced to consider pulling out of the Ring of Fire because this government refuses to provide direction in Ring of Fire development. Last Friday, Northern Superior Resources was forced to sue the government for failing to play a role in consultation with First Nations. How can this government ask partners to work together while it refuses to play a role in creating a plan for mining development and job creation?
Hon. Michael Gravelle: I appreciate the question, and I think, as the member understands very well, we are indeed working with all our partners very, very closely. We’re certainly involved in very significant and important discussions, if not negotiations, with the Matawa First Nations, something that we hope will lead us towards a much greater opportunity to work together with them as well on a number of issues that are very important.
We’re working in terms of skills upgrading and skills training to have people prepared for the Ring of Fire. We’re certainly also working with the federal government, as well, trying to get them to play a true partnership role, and, may I say, with the companies. We continue to work closely in a focused way with all the companies: Cliffs Natural Resources, Noront Resources and KWG Resources.
This is a complex and complicated project, one that will make such a difference to so many over so many years—a multi-generational opportunity—and, indeed, that’s the opportunity that we have to work together with the work that, obviously, all of us can do here in the Legislature together.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?
Mr. Michael Mantha: Again, my question is to the minister. Minister, last week you said, “We’re having discussions with all interested companies. Those discussions obviously will include important infrastructure links.”
The government is announcing that thousands of jobs will come to the province, but yet no work on the ground is being done to create these jobs. There is no training of the workforce to meet the demand. There is no plan for infrastructure and there is no electricity rate reduction.
For six years, this government has talked the talk, but has done nothing on the ground to create the jobs and consult the communities. What will it take for this government to actually develop a plan for Ring of Fire development and job creation in the north?
Hon. Michael Gravelle: The member could not be more wrong in almost every aspect of what he just referenced.
Certainly, in terms of the skills training and upgrading, we’ve provided skills training and upgrading to over 800 people. We’ve consulted, on a number of bases, with First Nation communities, as well as all kinds of other northern municipal leaders and on a variety of aspects as well. In terms of the companies, we recognize how important infrastructure is. That’s why we are looking very closely at a variety of options.
Our obligation, and what your expectation would be, is that we make an appropriate assessment to say, “What is the best decision in terms of the role the province should be playing in terms of infrastructure?” That’s exactly what we’re doing, and that’s why we’re going to continue to work as closely as we can with Cliffs and with the other companies, with Noront and with KWG.
I think you recognize what a complex project—it’s a multi-faceted project, but one that we are extremely excited about, continue to be excited about, continue to view as a real priority, and one that I will, as minister—