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The Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce and chambers of commerce from Timmins, North Bay and Sault Ste. Marie are calling on the provincial government to address five key issues relating to the Far North Act that will provide more detail and make it friendlier to business.
The chambers issued a joint statement Friday calling upon the party that forms the next government to address what they call weaknesses in the act.
The act sets out a process for community-based land use in the north. First Nations, Northern Ontario municipalities, mining companies and business organizations fear the loss of growth opportunities and the creation of investment uncertainty if parts of the act are not clarified, the chambers said in the statement.
“Over all, we agree with the act and we like it and we see there’s value,” said Julie Denomme, vice-chair of the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce.
The first issue businesses want clarified is the fact the act stipulates 50% of the area covered by the act will be protected.
“That is too vague and too dangerous,” said Denomme. “We want to know the how and understand the planning process around that.”
The purpose of the act is to permanently protect at least half of Ontario’s Far North for the sustainable development of natural resources and the preservation of biological diversity and ecological processes.
“The Far North Act affects us collectively and individually, and we want to ensure it is carried out in a responsible and inclusive manner that respects all northern groups — be they businesses, municipalities or First Nations,” said Denomme.
The chambers also want the oversight and implementation of the Far North Act to be transferred from the Ministry of Natural Resources to the Ministry of Northern Development Mines and Forestry.
That would create a greater alignment with other northern initiatives such as the Northern Growth Plan, which falls under the Ministry of Northern Development Mines and Forestry.
“If we have too much red tape, we’ll lose,” said Denomme, speaking about the opportunities being presented by the Ring of Fire chromite deposits in northwestern Ontario.
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