Federal Ring of Fire Help Sought by Ontario

Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle at Prince Arthur Hotel
Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle
Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle at Prince Arthur Hotel
Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle at Prince Arthur Hotel

Ring of Fire Life Line Sought by Ontario

THUNDER BAY – Mining – Minister Michael Gravelle has released a letter sent to the federal government. Gravelle is looking to convince the federal government to get involved in the Ring of Fire.

The Ontario Government has announced a Ring of Fire Development Corporation, earlier this month. 

There were no representatives from First Nations, the Mining Industry, or the federal government at that announcement.

Federal Government – Ring of Fire Aboriginal Training Alliance

Ring of Fire Aboriginal Training Alliance (RoFATA) Press/Media Announcement: Confederation College, August 8, 2013
Ring of Fire Aboriginal Training Alliance (RoFATA) Press/Media Announcement: Confederation College, August 8, 2013

The Ontario Government appears to have missed that the federal government is already doing some of the key work in the Ring of Fire. Sources tell NNL that the federal government has “Boots on the ground in job training with initiatives like the Ring of Fire Aboriginal Training Alliance, which will see industry and First Nations in the Matawa First Nations working together supported by the federal government.

The federal government has helped to fund Learn2mine.ca – an innovative online program that helps Aboriginal Youth explore a career in mining.

Careers in Mining
Learning about careers in mining presents opportunities for youth, as well as on social media for fun too

The Ontario Government has not developed any similar training programs for Northern Communities to facilitate job training. 

Political Heat on Ring of Fire

The Ontario Government has come under a great deal of political heat since the announcement by Cliffs Natural Resources to suspend its Ring of Fire operations, and close its field operations, Thunder Bay office and Toronto office.

Cliffs in their announcement on the Ring of Fire stated they “support” the announcement of the Ring of Fire Development Corporation.

What is being missed is that the decision by Cliffs Natural Resources, sources tell NNL is this is a major opportunity to ‘hit the reset button’ on the Ring of Fire and to “really get it right”. 

Sources in Ottawa tell NetNewsLedger that this effort by the Ontario Government is a demonstration by Ontario to attempt to deflect political blame from the province to the “big bad federal government”.

Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy says that for 100 years of resource extraction and development, there has been no cohesive mechanism to properly compensate First Nations and develop employment opportunities for those living in remote areas.

“We are dealing with legislation that has been in place for 100 years. If it doesn’t change, I’m not sure if the First Nations will benefit,” comments Regional Chief Beardy.

The letter comes on the heels of the Ontario Liberal Government hosting a Northern Caucus meeting.

Letter from Minister Gravelle

November 24, 2013
The Honourable Greg Rickford, MP
Minister of State (Science and Technology, and
Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario)
House of Commons
Parliament Buildings
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6

Dear Minister Rickford:

On November 8, 2013, Premier Wynne wrote to Prime Minister Harper, and I wrote to you, seeking your government’s support and participation in Ontario’s plan to establish a development corporation to facilitate development of infrastructure into the Ring of Fire. Leading up to this, Ontario has been consistent in its requests for federal engagement on Ring of Fire development initiatives and, through the most recent and previous correspondence throughout 2012 — in particular letters of May 8, 2012, June 1, 2012, and September 6, 2012 — highlighted the need for both levels of government to work together to support development of this globally significant resource.

In fact, as recently as November 7th, in Ontario’s Fall Economic Statement, we renewed our call on the federal government to step up to the plate. That call went unanswered.

Prime Minister Harper, in his letter to the Premier of July 10, 2012, wrote that ‘together we have an opportunity to break ground on a model for resource development that fully engages First Nations, is environmentally sustainable and maximizes economic opportunities for Ontario, for Canada — and for First Nations Communities’. I am disappointed to see that your government is now dismissing the development in the Ring of Fire as a provincial issue. Just last week, Prime Minister Harper stated, “This is a project that is primarily under provincial jurisdiction because ultimately resources belong to the provinces and resource development is a provincial responsibility” (CBC, November 22, 2013).

Development of this scale is not about jurisdictional boundaries or placing blame — the Ring of Fire development is about much more and that is why we continue to urge your government to be a committed partner for investment and collaboration in the development corporation. You’ve stated repeatedly that you know the significance of this project but we have yet to see that turn into action.

Ontario continues to highlight the potential benefits for First Nations and municipalities across Northern Ontario — benefits that, in fact, will extend across Ontario and Canada — through downstream economic benefits and jobs and increased tax revenues. Realizing the potential social and economic benefits of Ring of Fire development is, indeed, an objective that our governments share. We are ensuring that work is underway to prepare for this development and support a climate that will only increase the attractiveness of such an incredibly wealthy mineral deposit.

The federal government has prime responsibility for the well-being of First Nations communities. The province would view strong federal support and investment in the Ring of Fire as a meaningful way to address its obligation to First Nations communities.

Ontario’s leadership has already resulted in a number of ground breaking initiatives. We continue to work on a historic, community-driven regional negotiation process with the Matawa First Nations, led by Mr. Iacobucci for Ontario and Mr. Rae for the Chiefs of the Matawa Tribal Council. Indeed, an early success of Ontario’s collaborative approach with First Nations resulted in withdrawal of the Judicial Review against the federal environmental assessment process, launched by the Matawa Chiefs in November 2011 — a key step in providing greater certainty moving forward for industry and a significant benefit for the federal government. Again, Ontario is working to move this project forward, regardless of jurisdiction.

I would also point to other large-scale resource development initiatives in other parts of Canada that your government has supported due to their potential for national economic and social benefits. In particular, developments in British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador. As well, your colleague, the Honourable Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources, has cited mining as being essential to the government’s goal of jobs, growth and long-term prosperity and that discoveries in Ontario’s Ring of Fire, northern Quebec and Northern Canada will provide economic growth for years to come. Ontario agrees with this assessment and views the Ring of Fire as having particular significance for the national economy.

Our proposed development corporation, designed to bring key partners together to facilitate development of infrastructure into the Ring of Fire, reflects our commitment to the infrastructure that is critical to successful development in the region. It represents an opportunity for both levels of government to work together, with First Nations and the private sector, in support of a key initiative that benefits the people of Ontario and Canada.

It is clear that the Ring of Fire is much broader than a simple resource development project. We have consistently said that this is an opportunity to bring positive change in the lives of many, for generations to come. The Ring of Fire region is a part of Ontario that has never seen development. There is a clear call for the federal government to take action with us to unlock its potential. You have stated that development in the Ring of Fire must be a collaborative process. We have put forward a collaborative model and I am asking you to take part in determining the scope and governance of this model over the coming weeks as we continue to do with other key partners in the private sector and First Nations.

I know you understand the importance of working together to maximize the benefits of this development. We have repeatedly requested your engagement and commitment to work with us on developing and funding vital infrastructure into the Ring of Fire. The province is prepared to make a substantial investment in this critical piece of infrastructure, subject to environmental and regulatory approvals and the Crown meeting its duty to consult, and is expecting the federal government to come to the table with matching funds.

As Ministers of Economic Development for Northern Ontario and as members representing a tremendous region in Northwestern Ontario, it is our duty to make this a priority for our governments. The Premier and I have affirmed our commitment and certainly the people of Canada expect you to do the same. I am confident that you will take this to the Prime Minister to fight for a defined role and commitment on funding and infrastructure development.

This is an investment not just in Ontario’s, but Canada’s future. It is about more than tomorrow, this is about the next 50 to 100 years. Now is the time to act and support resource development, jobs and growth in Northern Ontario. It is exactly the moment when Ontario’s invitation to a partnership through a development corporation should be accepted with enthusiasm. That would be in the interest of the people of Ontario that both our governments represent.

I would appreciate the opportunity to sit down with you as soon as possible to more formally discuss the important role of the federal government in this vital economic development project.

Michael Gravelle
Minister of Northern Development and Mines

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