THUNDER BAY – “With the Far North Act, we have accomplished something ambitious, something exceptional. Together we are entering a new era of social prosperity, economic certainty and environmental protection in the Far North. It is our responsibility as global citizens to make wise land use decisions for this vast and unique part of the province and the world,” stated Linda Jeffrey the Ontario Minister of Natural Resources.
Dalton McGuinty says “Now is the time for us to act. Now is the time for us to take a stand. Now is the time for us to stand up for our children and their children. Now is the time for us to be good, responsible stewards of our global environment. So, we are taking a stand.”
“Protection is vital because the region is home to a remarkable array of more than 200 sensitive species of animals, including Polar bear, Woodland caribou, Bald eagle, Beluga whale and Wolverine… It’s one of the world’s largest remaining intact ecosystems”, the Premier continued.
The Liberals are celebrating the passage of this legislation.
They are not however many Northern Ontario groups joining the Liberals in celebrating the passage of the legislation. NAN, NOMA, the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, the Northern Ontario Chambers of Commerce are all opposing the measure.
The Nishanawbe Aski Nation (NAN) has all but declared political war on the McGuinty Government. NAN Grand Chief Stan Beardy stated, “The Premier of Ontario has failed to honor his promise to NAN First Nations that Bill 191 would not become legislation without our support. In yesterday’s Question Period, Premier McGuinty could not answer as to whether he intended to keep his word. It is obvious that his words mean very little and his promises even less.”
NAN in a statement issued on the legislation said, before it passed, “If Bill 191 passes, NAN will not recognize it. NAN will oppose Bill 191 by any means necessary.”
The passage of the bill may well leave the Ontario Liberal Government and First Nations into years of expensive court action, and needless delay.
That court action should it come, and it likely will, can likely have the effect of stalling mining operations or planning in Northern Ontario.
The Progressive Conservatives are questioning why, if as the McGuinty Government is saying the Far North Act is an economic benefit to the North, why the Minister for Northern Development, Mines and Forestry Michael Gravelle is not heading the bill.
Perhaps as critics have suggested this legislation is more about making Northwestern Ontario a carbon sink for the Premier than it is about making it an economically viable and self-sufficient region. After all in 2008, McGuinty stated, “Permanently protecting these lands will also help a world wrestling with the effects of climate change, as they are a globally significant carbon sink. Protecting this region is a key part of the Ontario government’s plan to fight climate change.”
The Ontario Liberals have likely put in play a scenario that will harm economic activity in the North. However since it is all in the name of saving the environment, and generating favour with southern Ontario and environmental groups, Dalton’s gang probably figures it is good for Ontario.
Ontario is 13 months away from the next provincial election.