Liberals should rethink the [Ontario’s] Far North Act – by Christina Blizzard (Toronto Sun-August 19, 2010)

Christina Blizzard is the Queen’s Park columnist for the Toronto Sun, the city’s daily tabloid newspaper.

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Northerners don’t expect government hand-outs, or intrusive legislation from a remote provincial government in the south

The road to hell, they say, is paved with good intentions. Similarly, it seems the highway to God’s country ends in a dead-end created by well-meaning but wrong-headed do-gooders.

Northern Ontario has spectacular landscapes, vast mineral riches, untold tourism potential and resilient, self-reliant folk.

While northerners don’t expect government hand-outs, they also don’t expect intrusive legislation from a remote provincial government in the south.

Yet that’s what’s happening with the Far North Act, which would put half the land north of the 51st parallel out of bounds for development. Worse, the government hasn’t said which 50% of land is off the table.
That uncertainty means mining companies are thinking twice before they invest in the north.

Said Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce President Harold Wilson: “The junior mining companies, when they are out raising funds to go up there and look for and explore and prospect for new mineral developments, find it hard to do that when everyone says it’s so up in the air there. If you find something, maybe you can’t do anything with it.”

Aboriginal groups are outraged by the lack of consultation.

“The Far North Act violates our treaties and disrespects our jurisdictions,” said Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy. “When we signed the treaties with the Crown we were recognized as a nation, and a nation has land, people and a culture.”

He noted the meetings in the aboriginal communities were not done in native languages. Beardy also pointed out aboriginal people have been in the north for thousands of years and have respected and protected the land.

“All we are saying is that if there is going to be resource development, we must be in a position to participate in the global economy. Participation to us means that there must be real jobs and training for my people. We must be able to capture the economic spin-offs and activity. We must be part of wealth creation.”

Conservative leader Tim Hudak says he will scrap the Far North Act if he becomes premier.

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