Norm Miller: Government’s Backwards Development Strategy Putting Ring of Fire Prosperity at Risk


Ring of FireQueen’s Park – Leaders Ledger – In politics, as in comedy, timing is everything. In late May, it was reported that Dalton McGuinty had approached Prime Minister Stephen Harper regarding federal support for development in the Ring of Fire, and I couldn’t help but question the Premier’s sense of timing.

Why did it take three years of pressure from the PC Caucus, miners, and northern communities to finally take some initiative and approach the federal government for funding? Why were these advances made only after a high-profile, flashy announcement by the Minister of Northern Development and Mines about a potential new chromite processing facility in Sudbury. Shouldn’t you acquire the funding before you pat yourself on the back with an indulgent press conference?

More than anything, however, the story highlighted just how much time may still pass before development in the Ring of Fire is a reality. The government is only now approaching federal officials for funding and regulatory cooperation, with their level of commitment remaining unclear. Once the federal government is on board, McGuinty and Cliff’s Natural Resources can start to consider environmental assessments, and can begin to consult First Nations groups that are already angry at being shut out of negotiations thus far. Neskantaga chief Peter Moonias has gone so far as to say that if Cliffs plans to cross the Attawapiskat River to reach their proposed mine site, “they’re going to have to kill me first.” Building trust and good relations with First Nations is crucial to success in the Ring of Fire. By proceeding without meaningful consultation, this government is asking for serious trouble and delays.

These qualifiers are a far cry from the language in Minister Bartolucci’s press release, which announces a $3.3 billion investment from Cliff’s and celebrates hundreds of jobs coming to northern Ontario with no mention of the many, many conditions attached, and the long wait that communities in the north will surely face.

We are far behind where we need to be in the Ring of Fire. The McGuinty government has arrived three years late to the party, is scrambling to catch up, and is all the while patting itself on the back for progress that has not yet been made. Clearly, timing is not this Premier’s strong suit. But when faced with one of the richest resource finds in this province’s history and a deficit that is projected to hit $30 billion by 2017, time is of the essence.

Norm Miller MPP

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