Interesting Times in the Ring of Fire

Mobile Drilling Rig
Mobile Drilling Rig from Ogoki First Nation

THUNDER BAY – The news that there are issues over development brewing in the Ring of Fire should not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the issue closely. Both the Matawa First Nations and the Nishanawbe Aski Nation have been sounding the alarm bell for months. It appears a wake-up call that the McGuinty government has simply hit the snooze button and rolled back to nap mode over.

Perhaps one of the realities are that politically, the McGuinty government has made the determination that there are more votes in ridings that may matter more to them than in the far north, as Toronto often sees our region?

The First Nations are likely more aware of the opportunities that the chromite in their traditional territory can represent, and realize that the potential bounty if allowed to be squandered will leave them ever further behind in a society that already has plenty of hurdles before their people.

Some of what appears to be happening, and likely missed by some is the degree of communications and new technology is allowing First Nations to share information with each other from across the region, the country and the world. That means instead of operating in a communications blackout that First Nations are aware of far more today than ever before.

In parts of Alberta, where oil and natural gas was discovered on First Nations Reserves, the bounty of money has helped to make the lives of the people much better. However there have also been lessons to learn there as well. It is likely that those lessons are being shared, and that First Nations in the development zone are realizing that the resources are the keys to their futures.

That said, it is critical for First Nations, and for the McGuinty Government to work toward the future.

If the McGuinty Government is serious, then the time for the delightful enthusiasm of Minister Micheal Gravelle has to kick it up at least a notch or two. While it is hard to dislike that Minister Gravelle is always upbeat and excited to share the good news, the reality is that the decisions made right now by his department are likely to set the course for the next decade of progress on the Ring of Fire.

Gravelle’s biggest issue is likely that increasingly his boss, Premier Dalton McGuinty has, by his actions not meeting the lofty rhetoric of his words, has made the Minister’s task a difficult and daunting task.

Now is the time when the people of Thunder Bay Superior North get to see if Minister Gravelle’s endless enthusiasm can be matched by solid action and determination to fight for our region’s future.

Coming in an election year, politics will likely play a role. Gravelle will have to decide if the Premier’s coat-tails are worth riding, or if he wants to have a political legacy that will last longer than his term in office.

Interesting times? Absolutely.

James Murray

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