QUEEN’S PARK – Leaders Ledger – The Far North Act is a poor piece of legislation. It was done without consultation with northerners and when we voiced our concerns, the Liberals rammed it through anyway.
Among other things, the Act arbitrarily sets aside massive tracts of land and declares them off limits to development, imposes decisions on communities, and it fails to set the conditions necessary to bring jobs to our region.
This week, the Progressive Conservatives introduced a Private Member’s Bill which calls for the repeal of the Far North Act. I voted against this bill.
While the Far North Act is flawed, scrapping the Act without replacing it would needlessly delay development and the jobs that come with it. While the Act fails in many areas, it does lay out a process for land-use planning that has already begun. This planning process is an important step forward that should not be halted or delayed and that is why our region’s municipal organizations and First Nations have spoken out against the idea of simply repealing the Act without replacing it with something better.
Instead, what we need to do is fix the legislation through consultation with mining companies, municipalities, First Nations and other stakeholders. Other jurisdictions, notably Quebec, have faced similar challenges of their own and have successfully implemented their Plan du Nord, which has led to significant economic growth in Northern Quebec.
That is why I tabled a motion this week calling on the government to replace the Far North Act with legislation that listens to and meets the needs of the north. This plan would allow us to improve the parts of the Act that will allow mining and other development to proceed, while allowing us to eliminate the provisions we do not agree with. Simply scrapping the Act without replacing it would lead to unnecessary delays or prevent development from happening until a clear process is re-established.
It’s very important that we get the legislation right and correct it quickly. We need to turn our attention to building the infrastructure that we will need in place to take advantage of the Ring of Fire, including first determining where the access corridor will be located and then getting construction underway as quickly as possible.
The Ring of Fire has the potential to revitalize our northern economy but in order for that to happen we need good legislation in place. It is my firm belief that by working together with all stakeholders, we can develop our own Plan du Nord in Northwestern Ontario and enjoy the economic prosperity that will come along with it.
Sarah Campbell MPP