Ontario Mining Act Public Consultations are Flawed – by Don McKinnon

The world-class Hemlo deposit was the major gold discovery in Canada during the 1980s. The three individuals who were responsible for discovering one of the country’s richest gold camps were Don McKinnon, John Larche and David Bell. Don McKinnon is still an active Timmins-based prospector.

It was a farce.

That is the only way to describe the so-called public consultation session on changes to the Ontario Mining Act (OMA) held in Timmins Aug.11.

The 70 people who turned out were told they could not:

1-ask questions;

2-make any statements to the room;

3-have any other material other than a government handout; and

4-question Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle as he broke his promise to attend.

Any changes to the OMA will have an important bearing, either a negative or positive impact, on a $10.7 billion Ontario industry.

Premier Dalton McGuinty wants “focused discussions” with municipalities, the mineral industry, Aboriginals, prospectors and the public. He certainly went about it in a strange way. On Aug.5 it was announced there would be  five public meetings. The first one being in Timmins Aug.11.

The government then said talks would be based on a discussion paper it had prepared on “five critical policy issues that must be addressed in this review of the OMA.” That paper would be available the morning of May 11 (actually it was not available until 11.30 a.m. on the internet) and hard copies until the afternoon…but no one knew where). Most of the people attending the session saw the document when they were handed one when they registered.

Then they found out the format was to be facilitator directed session, the group broken into 11 groups of 7 or 8 (there were at least 13 ministry people sprinkled about the room). A recorder was to be appointed to keep notes and a person appointed to read the table’s conclusions to the entire group.

Anger vibrated throughout the room and the noise level soared to the point where some table members could not hear each other. Attendees were insulted, and rightly so, and angry and loud and ministry employees working the room to try and get attendees to discuss the five issues got an earful.

How can attendees discuss the very future of mining in Ontario when they had no time to read the Liberal propaganda? What happened was that speakers at the tables expressed views they held long before the consultative process was announced.

It was quite obvious critical analysis was impossible and the one-hour time limit made intelligent comment by eight people all expressing their personal prejudices impossible. Calm, rational discussion cannot be achieved by eight strangers with strongly held views trying to change each other’s mind.

Before the tables were created, Timmins Coun. Mike Doody, the son of a prospector, brought greeting from the city but also put his finger on the main problem the government created – a lack of time for the “extensive amount of consultation required.”

The Liberals want all comments to be received by Oct. 15, legislation then will be created and (hopefully) passed before the Christmas break by the legislature.

Doody asked that the government hold another meeting in Timmins because of the shortness of time to consider the vital issues and this was request was granted. It was about the only constructive thing that happened at the 2.5 hour meeting.

Oh, yes, at least two of the table recorders were ministry employees and two of the table spokespersons were ministry employees. Maybe there were more as not all ministry employees are known.

What did the majority of table speakers want and say? More time to consider the issues, that the Oct. 15 deadline was ridiculous, that the suggestion that prospectors tell Aboriginal groups where they intend to stake claims was absurd, that the legal requirement to consult with Aboriginal groups requires a clock so that talks don’t drag on for years, that there were requirements concerning ministry assessment work deadlines and rules of the Ontario Securities Commission that require clarification and so on and on and on.

And finally, a common comment that Aboriginal land claims were being mixed up with mining rules when such matters are the responsibility of the federal and provincial governments.

It is obvious to me that government knows what changes it wants to make to the Mining Act and that nothing anyone says during this “consultation process” is going to result in one changed comma.

McGuinty has once again proven he speaks with a forked tongue when it comes to making statements about “helping” Northerners. He seeks northern votes with empty promies but makes certain southern Ontario voters know thewy come first in all matters and issues.

As I said earlier, the process is a farce and an insult to all the residents of Northern Ontario.