The Ontario Liberals will wait to see how much money the private sector is willing to invest in infrastructure to develop the Ring of Fire chromite deposits before it puts government money into the area, says the premier.
The province will definitely have to help build infrastructure, such as roads, to bring the project online, but it wants to maximize its opportunities before it does, says Dalton McGuinty.
Any public investment would have to be shown to benefit Ontarians — and especially Northern Ontarians — and that includes businesses and First Nations.
“We’ve got an opportunity to do this in a way that’s never been done before, so we’re excited about that,” McGuinty told reporters at Laurentian University’s J.N. Desmarais Library on Saturday. “But, yes, at some point in time, it will call for an investment in infrastructure.”
He visited Laurentian to address the annual Summer Fling policy conference of Ontario Young Liberals, where he announced an initiative to help new graduates who work in the not-for-profit sector.
The province will extend the grace period for repaying student loans and interest to a year for people who work for non-profits, up from the six-month grace period other graduates receive.
Before investing in the Ring of Fire, located 240 kilometres west of James Bay, a Liberal government would monitor private-sector involvement in the project “to see what we need to do in a supportive role,” said McGuinty.
The premier was asked if his government, if re-elected, would invest money in recomm e n d at i o n s and proposals contained in its Growth Plan for Northern Ontario, a document to help the North prosper.
McGuinty said he is proud of the progress his government has made in the North, saying voters look at “the big picture.”
Northerners appreciate Liberal investments in health care, including the redeveloped Sudbury Regional Hospital, nurse practitioner-led clinics, family health teams, shorter wait times for medical procedures and “peace and stability in our schools.
“The northern growth plan is just one step and one in a series of steps that we’re taking to build a stronger Ontario,” said McGuinty.
If people want to know what his government will do in the future, look to its accomplishments of the last eight years, he said.
The premier credited his government for Ontario’s strong economy, saying the province created more jobs in June than the rest of Canada and “all the U.S. combined, so we’re on the right track.”
His government hasn’t always done the easy thing, said McGuinty, adding families are looking to the Grits to take responsibility and answer the question: “What do we need to do to grow stronger?”
When asked about recent promises to give refunds to GO Transit riders in Ontario if their buses or trains are more than 15 minutes late, McGuinty said people should not underestimate “the value of those guarantees.
“To me, they demonstrate a fundamental respect for citizens.”
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