Cliffs Ring of Fire Decision Hot in Question Period.

Local Liberal MPPs Bill Mauro (left) and MInister Michael Gravelle share a smile with Premier Kathleen Wynne
Local Liberal MPPs Bill Mauro (left) and MInister Michael Gravelle share a smile with Premier Kathleen Wynne

Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle at Prince Arthur Hotel
Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle at Prince Arthur Hotel

QUEEN’S PARK – Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle was on the political hot seat in Queen’s Park on Thursday. The Minister was up to defend the Ontario Government over the decision by Cliffs Natural Resources to suspend operations in the Ring of Fire.

Premier Wynne who was the real target of the Opposition was not in the Legislature for Question Period.

In the short run the move means job loses in Thunder Bay and Northern Ontario as Cliffs will close offices in the city and end operations in the north.

Ontario PC Northern Development and Mines Critic Norm Miller called on the Liberals to acknowledge how their policies drove Cliffs Natural Resources to abandon efforts to develop the Ring of Fire.  

“How do things get so far off the rails that Cliffs, the major player in the Ring of Fire, has pulled the plug on their development? You had early warnings. But even in the face of prominent miners raising concerns about “unresolved agreements with the government of Ontario that are critical to the project’s economic viability”, you insisted the Ring of Fire was moving ahead. Well yesterday, Cliffs announced it would be shuttering its mining camp in the Ring of Fire, closing offices in Thunder Bay and Toronto. What do you have to say to these hard-working people who are out of work as a direct result of your government’s failure?” (audio clip attached)

Miller called for the Liberals to act immediately, in order to bring jobs and prosperity to Ontario’s north.

Mr. Norm Miller: My question is to the Acting Premier. I, like many Ontarians, was shocked at yesterday’s decision by Cliffs Natural Resources to pull out of the Ring of Fire.

What is truly unfortunate is the amount of unheeded warnings that your government received throughout the process. The Premier deflected my questions here in the House numerous times and in one instead chose to reminisce about paddling on the Attawapiskat River.

Acting Premier, back in April, Bill Boor, senior vice-president of Cliffs, said that “company officials have yet to talk with representatives of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government.” He went on, “As we approach a year since the agreement in terms, that’s become more of a concern.” In September, he said, “Since last winter’s provincial leadership change, talks with Queen’s Park have stalled.”

Acting Premier, it is clear that the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of your government. Who in your government is going to be held accountable for your failure on this file?

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.

Deputy Premier.

Hon. Deborah Matthews: Speaker, I’ll refer this to the Minister of Northern Development and Mines.

Hon. Michael Gravelle: Let me begin by saying that our government, our province, remains absolutely committed to seeing smart, sustainable and collaborative development in the Ring of Fire project. This is an extraordinary multi-generational economic development activity, with known mineral potential worth $60 billion. We know that there is extraordinary interest in this.

I will certainly say that I am disappointed with the decision and the announcement that Cliffs made, but I also appreciate their continuing interest in the project.

What’s really important is that we continue to move forward to develop this project. We are going to work diligently to ensure that we are ready to support this development, and we’re going to remain firmly committed to working with any and all interested parties to develop the region.

The fact is that we are taking strong action to move the project forward. We are bringing—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.

Hon. Michael Gravelle: —to create a development corporation.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. Supplementary?

Mr. Norm Miller: Again to the Acting Premier: How many generations do we have to wait?

What is so shameful is, your government has been bragging about developing the Ring of Fire for years now. On May 9, 2012, your government issued a press release that stated, “Thousands of Jobs Coming to Northern Ontario.” The release also touted a refinery in Capreol, promising to employ 450 people during the construction and as many as 450 people in 2015 when it was scheduled to be operational.

Acting Premier, you sold hope to the people of northern Ontario and have failed to deliver. First Nation communities and cities like Thunder Bay and Sudbury are all waiting for the investment in jobs that this project would bring.

You’re sitting on the largest deposit of chromite ever discovered in North America. Acting Premier, why have you failed to bring the promised jobs and prosperity that Ontario so desperately needs?

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.

Minister.

Hon. Michael Gravelle: Speaker, we are working incredibly hard on providing really strong action to move this project forward. We are establishing a development corporation that will bring together any and all interested partners to this project. That certainly includes the historic consultations that were undertaken with the Matawa First Nation, important partners, and other industry partners—let alone further discussions with Cliffs—that we intend to continue to have to bring in the corporation.

May I say, we’re also making significant investments in communities, both First Nations and other northern communities, bringing them forward, and skills upgrading.

But let’s also make sure that we recognize how important it is to bring the federal government to the table. We’re calling on them to bring matching funds. We are prepared to make very significant investments in this project. That——but we need the federal government to come to the table. The fact is, they have made strong commitments to other projects in Newfoundland and Labrador: hydroelectric projects. So we need you to come and call on the federal government—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Better.

Final supplementary.

Mr. Norm Miller: Again to the Acting Premier: How did things get so far off the rails that Cliffs, the major player in the Ring of Fire, has pulled the plug on their development? You had plenty of warnings, yet even in the face of prominent miners publicly raising concerns about unresolved “agreements with the government of Ontario that are critical to the project’s economic viability,” you insisted that the Ring of Fire was moving ahead.

Well, yesterday, Cliffs announced that it would be shuttering its mining camp in the Ring of Fire and closing offices in Thunder Bay and in Toronto. Acting Premier, what do you have to say to these hard-working people who are now out of work as a direct result of your government’s failure?

Hon. Michael Gravelle: Mr. Speaker, there continues to be an extraordinarily high level of interest among industry, among First Nations, and among—may I hope to see—the federal government in seeing this project move forward. We are taking very strong action to move it forward—

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Because she was very much engaged and probably, even with my mike on, didn’t hear me, the member from Burlington will come to order.

Hon. Michael Gravelle: This project is moving forward; there’s no question about it. There’s an extraordinarily high level of interest, and we are going to continue to have our discussions.

The formation of the development corporation is crucial to seeing this project moving forward. We are bringing together any and all partners, and I would like to actually have the members of the opposition, let alone members of the third party, recognize the important work that’s being done with the First Nations as well. We need to create the climate to allow the private sector to get involved.

We understand how important infrastructure is. That’s why we put in place the development corporation. That’s why we’re going to continue to work with all our partners in this project, a $60-billion project in terms of mineral potential in a part of the province that’s never seen development before.

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