QUEEN’S PARK – Leaders Ledger – Number one, on the characterization of the legislation as being the south jamming the north: I would remind the member opposite who brought the legislation forward that not that many years ago we brought in a piece of legislation called the greenbelt that protected 1.8 million acres of land down here in southern Ontario, from Kingston right across the top of Toronto, ending somewhere west of Toronto. I don’t know exactly where it ends, but obviously a lot of policy of this type has been well applied in southern Ontario. I think it’s important to mention that.
In terms of the south jamming things down into the north, as the member has said, I would remind him that it was his party—and I’m not sure what his position was at the time—that brought in the spring bear hunt. Talk about jamming something down, with zero—zero—consultation, absolutely none, on the back of a napkin in an airport, as I’m told the story goes. But I don’t know that for sure.
Speaker, a long list of endorsements as well has been brought into this. What this legislation will do is leave a void. If the member would have perhaps brought something forward that he intended to replace this act with, that would have somehow been better, perhaps we would have given it some serious consideration over here, but what he’s going to do is create a vacuum. What mining companies want, what everybody who’s interested in northern development wants, is certainty. How has it been working for you so far? Not so well. People want certainty, and we know—the member from North Bay knows as well—that that’s what this act provides. That’s what the mining companies want. They need the certainty of access to land before they’re going to be able to make their investments, before the banks and their shareholders are going to finance exploration.
The implication that somehow this has put the brakes on mining exploration or mining activity in northern Ontario is hilarious. Mining activity in northern Ontario has never been higher. There is $1 billion worth of work going on by juniors in the mining industry in Ontario right now, as was spoken very clearly and publicly about at PDAC just two weeks ago. When that member’s party finished in government in 2003, the number was about $200 million. It’s gone from $193 million up to $1 billion. Speaker, they need the certainty.
I would say to members as well and to everybody who is interested in this, and hopefully people seriously are, that this bill was consulted on ad nauseam, and I hope that we are careful that we don’t turn consultation into the industry. We don’t want consultation to be the industry. We consulted extensively. I was on the plane with the member from Timmins–James Bay when we went to Sioux Lookout three years ago. At that point, there were already about five communities engaged. There are five communities finished; eight actively engaged. They want this.
The LUP process that’s in the Far North Act provides the road map and the pathway for exactly what we all want to happen: First Nation involvement in what goes on in their territory so the people who are going to bring the economic development dollars forward know with certainty that when they go there, they’re going to be able to continue their work, that their financial investment is not at risk. The worst thing we could do would be to pass this particular piece of legislation, create a void, create uncertainty in the industry, and then where are we again? Back at the starting line.
This legislation has moved it forward, Speaker. It’s working, and we need to continue to allow this process to unfold. Most First Nations communities are interested in this. They want to be engaged, they want to be consulted and they want to see this work.
Bill Mauro MPP