Horwath – Not Playing Ring of Fire Blame Game

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath at Youth Centres Thunder Bay in media scrum

Minister Michael Gravelle accepts nomination as Liberal candidate in Thunder Bay Superior North
Minister Michael Gravelle accepts nomination as Liberal candidate in Thunder Bay Superior North

QUEEN’S PARK – NDP leader Andrea Horwath says she won’t play the Ring of Fire blame game. Thunder Bay Superior North MPP and Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle was in the sights of the NDP leader during Thursday’s Question Period.

Ring of Fire Hot in Question Period

“You know what? Nobody likes the blame game. We don’t want a blame game. We want jobs in this province. That’s what the government should be focusing on, not the blame game,” stated Horwath.

“A lot of people are counting on the jobs and prosperity that the natural resources of the Ring of Fire bring, but they worry that the development corporation announcement is once again about a desperate government scrambling to get ahead of bad news, instead of getting something done for the people who need jobs”.

“Can the Minister provide any detail whatsoever about this development corporation that he announced two weeks ago?”

Bringing Partners Together – Gravelle

Minister Gravelle responded, “This is certainly not about the blame game. This is about bringing all of our partners together on a project with extraordinary economic development potential for northern Ontario, a project with extraordinary mineral potential: up to $60 billion. We are very committed to seeing this project move forward.

“The development corporation will bring those partners together, bring industry together. We hope to bring First Nations as partners to the project as well. We certainly are inviting the federal government to join us for that project as well. The fact is, that’s the key to making the decisions that certainly need to be made related to infrastructure, related to a transportation corridor, and that’s why we are so keen to move this development corporation forward.

So, may I say, Mr. Speaker, this project continues to be a huge priority for us. The opportunities for economic development and jobs in the north continue to be enormous, and that’s why we are staying so committed to this extraordinarily important project”.

Horwath – Governing by Press Conferences and Photo Ops?

Horwath in her supplementary question asked, “The Premier promised that “thousands of jobs” were coming—those were her words—but, once again, when people desperate for work look beyond the press releases, they see a government without any plans, any details or, frankly, any idea what they are doing. The only jobs the Liberals seem to rally about and seem to really care about are their own jobs.

Does the minister have any evidence whatsoever that Liberals took any meaningful steps to actually deliver on the jobs that they had promised—the thousands of jobs that they have promised—back when the Premier promised them?

Minister Gravelle stated, “we’ve seen some really interesting opportunities in the mining supply and services sector that have come about as a result of the opportunities we’re going to be seeing in the Ring of Fire.

“But in terms of the actions that we have taken, I do hope that the leader of the third party would recognize how important our historic consultations with the Matawa First Nations are. Clearly, we need to work with them, and we are very much happy to work with them: Bob Rae representing the Matawa First Nations, Frank Iacobucci representing the provincial government”.

“It’s absolutely crucial that First Nations see those benefits, and in fact I know the leader of the third party has called on us to make that happen. That’s a very important part of the process, as is the fact that we need to bring all of our partners together in this development corporation. That will be a key element in moving this project forward. We need to make decisions related to infrastructure. This will allow us to make those decisions, and certainly, again, I can only say how strongly committed we are to seeing this project move forward. It’s a huge priority for us.”

MINING INDUSTRY

Ms. Andrea Horwath: My question is to the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. In 2010, the current Premier and other members of the Liberal cabinet announced that Cliffs Natural Resources would be building a refinery outside of Sudbury. When exactly did the government first learn that the Cliffs project was in jeopardy?

Hon. Michael Gravelle: Mr. Speaker, we have been working closely with Cliffs over the last couple of years, and we recognize that the announcement they made yesterday is very disappointing.

The fact is that we are continuing to move forward on the Ring of Fire project, as I would hope the leader of the third party would want us to do, and I hope she will join us in doing the work that we need to do.

We need to do a number of actions to make this project come to fruition, and those are the actions that we’re taking, which is why, indeed, working on the development corporation is absolutely crucial; which is why it’s so important for us to continue our work on historic consultations with the Matawa First Nations; which is why we need to continue to make the investments that we’ve made to have skills upgrading and communities ready in terms of capacity building. That’s the work that we’re going to continue to do.

This is a huge project. There is $60 billion in mineral potential. We are going to see this project move forward, and we’re going to continue to take strong action to see that that happens.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Beyond issuing a press release announcing “thousands of jobs coming,” what steps did the government take in 2010 to ensure that the jobs they had so confidently announced were actually going to appear?

Hon. Michael Gravelle: The economic development potential for this project remains very much the same. The project has got a mineral potential of $60 billion. There is extraordinary interest in this project, and that interest continues with Cliffs Natural Resources. But there are other companies, as well, who are very interested in moving forward on this project.

We are going to continue to take strong action to move the project forward. It would be great to have the third party, as well as other members of the opposition, supporting us and moving together with the development corporation.

We’ve got very interested partners from industry, from the First Nations. We are hoping to have discussions with them very, very soon. The fact is, we need the federal government on board as well.

This is a multi-faceted project; nobody argues with that. But we are going to move this project forward. We continue to remain absolutely, committed to it.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Final supplementary.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: The minister didn’t mention any steps that they took in 2010 or 2011 or 2012.

Two weeks ago, the minister issued another press release, pledging to create a development corporation for the Ring of Fire. When the minister made that announcement, did he already know that Cliffs would be pulling out?

Hon. Michael Gravelle: As the leader will know, there were some very encouraging, positive comments that were expressed after we announced the creation of the development corporation, and those comments continue.

We are having very important discussions. We have already had very important discussions with a number of potential partners for the development corporation, and those will continue; in fact, they will be redoubled.

We recognize how important it is to make decisions related to infrastructure, and the way to do that, I think, is to bring the potential partners together. Certainly, that includes discussions with members of industry, who are obviously very much involved in the Ring of Fire, recognizing the long-term, let alone the medium-term, economic development potential for this all across northern Ontario in terms of the creation of jobs. That’s still our priority.

The fact is, again, we need to have the federal government join us in matching funds. We’ve seen them support other major projects across the country. We need them at the table. I look forward to having an opportunity to sit down with the federal—

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

Hon. Michael Gravelle: —say they’re committed to the project. We need them at—

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

>MINING INDUSTRY

Ms. Andrea Horwath: My next question is for the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. You know what? Nobody likes the blame game. We don’t want a blame game. We want jobs in this province. That’s what the government should be focusing on, not the blame game.

A lot of people are counting on the jobs and prosperity that the natural resources of the Ring of Fire bring, but they worry that the development corporation announcement is once again about a desperate government scrambling to get ahead of bad news, instead of getting something done for the people who need jobs.

Can the minister provide any detail whatsoever about this development corporation that he announced two weeks ago?

Hon. Michael Gravelle: Mr. Speaker, this is certainly not about the blame game. This is about bringing all of our partners together on a project with extraordinary economic development potential for northern Ontario, a project with extraordinary mineral potential: up to $60 billion. We are very committed to seeing this project move forward.

The development corporation will bring those partners together, bring industry together. We hope to bring First Nations as partners to the project as well. We certainly are inviting the federal government to join us for that project as well. The fact is, that’s the key to making the decisions that certainly need to be made related to infrastructure, related to a transportation corridor, and that’s why we are so keen to move this development corporation forward.

So, may I say, Mr. Speaker, this project continues to be a huge priority for us. The opportunities for economic development and jobs in the north continue to be enormous, and that’s why we are staying so committed to this extraordinarily important project.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Speaker, the Premier promised that “thousands of jobs” were coming—those were her words—but, once again, when people desperate for work look beyond the press releases, they see a government without any plans, any details or, frankly, any idea what they are doing. The only jobs the Liberals seem to rally about and seem to really care about are their own jobs.

Does the minister have any evidence whatsoever that Liberals took any meaningful steps to actually deliver on the jobs that they had promised—the thousands of jobs that they have promised—back when the Premier promised them?

Hon. Michael Gravelle: The fact is, Mr. Speaker, that we’ve seen some really interesting opportunities in the mining supply and services sector that have come about as a result of the opportunities we’re going to be seeing in the Ring of Fire.

But in terms of the actions that we have taken, I do hope that the leader of the third party would recognize how important our historic consultations with the Matawa First Nations are. Clearly, we need to work with them, and we are very much happy to work with them: Bob Rae representing the Matawa First Nations, Frank Iacobucci representing the provincial government.

It’s absolutely crucial that First Nations see those benefits, and in fact I know the leader of the third party has called on us to make that happen. That’s a very important part of the process, as is the fact that we need to bring all of our partners together in this development corporation. That will be a key element in moving this project forward. We need to make decisions related to infrastructure. This will allow us to make those decisions, and certainly, again, I can only say how strongly committed we are to seeing this project move forward. It’s a huge priority for us.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Final supplementary.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Across Ontario, people are worried about jobs, and they see unemployment above the national average, 300,000 jobs lost in manufacturing and the highest electricity rates in the entire country; in fact, the entire continent. And their government reaction is a promise to conduct studies, strike panels and churn out press releases. Beyond the talk, we keep seeing the same old status quo.

How can anybody take this government’s job plan seriously when it’s obviously written on the back of an envelope or maybe on the back of a press release?

Hon. Michael Gravelle: Mr. Speaker, our role and our commitment is to get the best value possible for all Ontarians, and that’s exactly what we are doing with the Ring of Fire project. We all understand it is truly a multi-generational opportunity, with a huge mineral potential, and we recognize that the right decisions need to be made and the right climate needs to be provided. That’s the hard work that we have been doing, and that speaks to the hard work that we will continue to be doing.

We continue to be very, very excited about the opportunities, but it’s important that we do it right, which is why, indeed, establishing a development corporation was such a key part of the process. It’s why, indeed, the historic consultations with the Matawa First Nations are so absolutely vital. It’s why the investments that we’ve made in skills upgrading and community capacity building is so important. This is all part of a large project. We’re committed to it; we’re going to stay committed to it. It’s a hugely important project; we’re going to move it forward.

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