THUNDER BAY – Editorial – For those who follow politics, the common statement is that it is called “Question Period not Answer Period”. Over the past two days, Andrea Horwath has stood in Queen’s Park and sought to get answers to important questions that are impacting Northern Ontario. On Monday, and again on Tuesday, instead of answers, two McGuinty cabinet ministers have responded with rhetoric which would have better suited a hyper high school debating society. They have failed for two days in a row to actually answer the questions they were asked.
When the NDP leader asked, “Cliffs Natural Resources in northern Ontario’s Ring of Fire have said that they want to ship chromite overseas to refineries. Will the government allow our natural resources to be shipped to China when they should be processed here in Ontario, providing work for Ontario workers?”
That should have led to a very simple answer from Premier Dalton McGuinty, he should have stated that if the minerals are mined in Ontario, then processing will be done in Ontario. It should have been so easy.
Instead, the answer from Minister Rick Bartolucci was, “The Cliffs project provides an opportunity for incredible job creation not only in northern Ontario but across Ontario. The potential of mining chromite is enormous.
“We on this side of the House want to ensure that development moves very, very smoothly, moves very, very quickly, because the economic impact is immense. It’s immense not only for residents of Ontario; it’s immense for the definition of Ontario as the leading mining jurisdiction across the world.
“We will ensure that we get the process correct. We will engage our First Nations communities. We will ensure that we engage the mining communities, that we engage industry. We will ensure that we maximize the potential of job creation for Ontario”.
All of the Minister’s speaking points sound grand.
But if the plan is for the Ring of Fire to be a place where rocks are dug out of Northern Ontario, and all the secondary and tertiary jobs end up somewhere else, then our region is no better off than it was when the first mine opened in our region.
Perhaps what the Minister doesn’t understand is that unless there is something there for Northerners. And that something must be real economic benefits for our region and for First Nations where the minerals sit in their traditional lands, that the idea is likely to grow that it might be smarter in the long run to leave them there.
On Monday, Horwath asked, “Can the Acting Premier tell us what happened to the $7 million the government gave to Global Sticks Inc.?”
Again, the simple answer could have been that of that $7 million in funding, some was in loan guarantees, some in grants, and that the McGuinty Government would get to the bottom of this and share the truth with the people of Ontario.
Instead, the McGuinty Minister stood up and said, “I assume this is going to be an ongoing tirade we’re going to hear from the leader of the third party every couple of weeks when a company has some challenges, a company that we may have had some involvement with in terms of trying to help them create jobs.
“The fact is, the dollars that we invest, whether it be in research and innovation companies, whether it be in some of our regional economic development funds, whether it be in some of our funds to try to attract investment to Ontario—some of those companies may not fare that well. The majority of those companies fare very well; the majority of those companies create jobs. It takes a little bit of courage for a government to make these kinds of investments but we’re going to stand up for Ontario companies, we’re going to stand by job creation”.
The reality is that with the closure of the plant, there is no “job creation”. It is likely now that Global Sticks will seek millions more from the government to reopen.
Bluntly put, it would take real courage to make sure that an expenditure of $7 million dollars resulted in the promised jobs being created would last. When there are situations where the government assists businesses in starting up with funds and loan guarantees, one of the realities is that one of the reasons the company may have sought funding from the government is that other avenues for funding were not open to them.
However it is not out of the course of good business for the company and the government to maintain what should be a solid and open degree of communication.
Sadly perhaps if the level of real communication demonstrated in Question Period is an indication of how the government communicates with others, it is little wonder our region struggles with some of its problems.
Chief Content Officer