QUEEN’S PARK – During Question Period in the Ontario Legislature on Thursday, NDP MPP Gilles Bisson was questioning Minister Sandra Pupatello over the future of mining in Ontario.
Bisson’s concern was that in Timmins, Xstrata is closing down the company’s smelter, and reporting to Premier McGuinty that “there will not be other refinery smelters being built in the province of Ontario, including the project up at the Ring of Fire.”
That would leave Ontario simply as a primary resource extraction province.
Pupatello responded, “The reality is that here in Ontario-and for many years-we bring more minerals into Ontario from elsewhere for processing. Nickel alone: We have 85% of that mineral processed here in Ontario.”
At issue are high electricity rates in Ontario.
Here is the transcript of the exchange from Queen’s Park:
Mr. Gilles Bisson: My question is to the Deputy Premier. Last week, we had the opportunity to meet with the Premier along with Xstrata here at Queen’s Park. Xstrata was pretty clear: They said that not only are they shutting down the refinery and smelter in Timmins, but there will not be other refinery smelters being built in the province of Ontario, including the project up at the Ring of Fire.
My question to you is simply this: Why would Ontario allow itself to be put in the position of not adding value to those natural resources that we are so lucky to have and be blessed with in this province and instead allow those particular metals to be processed outside of Ontario?
Hon. Sandra Pupatello: I think it’s important to note that even when this member today asking the question was part of the government of the day, even at that time, the reality for us in Ontario-although acknowledging a very difficult circumstance with Xstrata in Timmins and a very difficult decision for us to have to watch, because while they’re not shutting down their whole operation, we want to see all of Xstrata’s operations continue to flourish, and it doesn’t look like that’s happening. But even at that time, and for many years now, Ontario has actually been a net benefit to doing that kind of processing here in Ontario and bringing resources into Ontario. We actually do that more than resources are being sent elsewhere. I’m happy to provide that information to the member opposite.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary?
Mr. Gilles Bisson: You’re the Minister of Economic Development and Trade, and you don’t understand the basics of the minerals industry? The issue is simply this: Ontario has an abundance of natural resources in the ground and in the forest. If we don’t have an ability to add value to those products, the economy of Ontario will suffer.
Xstrata was clear. There will not be any more refining, there will not be any more smelting done, as far as new projects coming into the province of Ontario. We will become the extractors of the ore, we will transform it into concentrated pellets, and we will ship it out of this province to be added when it comes to value.
So my question to you is, what are you going to do to ensure that Ontario is able to benefit from those natural resources by having value added to them here in Ontario?
Hon. Sandra Pupatello: I’m sorry, but I do have to set the record straight. The reality is that here in Ontario-and for many years-we bring more minerals into Ontario from elsewhere for processing. Nickel alone: We have 85% of that mineral processed here in Ontario.
As I said, I’m happy to share this information with this member-and perhaps it has changed over the years since he was a member of the government several years ago. But that is our reality. We are home to processing, here in Ontario.
I recognize the difficulty with the Xstrata situation. That is why our government has responded in working with local leadership and providing funding to that local leadership to look for other opportunities that could come that way in that very mine and in that very foundry. That is the kind of work we’re prepared to do. I appreciate the difficulty, because we don’t want to see job loss anywhere. So the-
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you. New question.