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Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci’s heart has always been in Northern Ontario and now his cabinet post is here, too. Bartolucci was sworn in Thursday as minister of Northern Development and Mines, a post he held earlier in his 16- year career in provincial politics.
He was also named chair of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s cabinet. Bartolucci said the “raison d’etre of just about everything I’ve done in government is about benefiting the lives of Sudburians and northerners, as a minister and a member in opposition and now government.”
Forestry was a part of the Northern Development and Mines ministry for two years, but it has been transferred to the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Bartolucci said his priority as Northern Development and Mines minister is to get briefed and brought up to speed on several issues, including the progress of talks to convince Cliffs Resources to set up a chromite smelter in Northern Ontario to process ore from the Ring of Fire.
His ministry will focus on strengthening mining, he said. “We’re not going to build walls around Northern Ontario for sure.”
The former school principal and Sudbury city councillor said he expects MPPs in northwestern ridings “to be advocating and helping their communities to try to secure the processing plant up there. I think that’s fair game.”
He said “the way the (Sudbury) mayor and the community have engaged me in this process, I can still act as the MPP, and will.”
The priority will be to ensure that Cliffs Resources builds its processing plant “right here, in Northern Ontario.”
The Liberals made a commitment during the Oct. 6 election campaign to open eight new mines. That means streamlining the process to bring mines into operation, he said.
Bartolucci said he may look to the “recipe” he used to help De Beers Canada get established in Ontario, which was setting up a one-stop shopping centre to streamline the applications and approvals process.
He said he is “open to that kind of thing, no question,” to get eight new mines into operation as promised in his party’s platform.
Nickel Belt New Democrat MPP France Gelinas said she hopes Bartolucci does stream-l ine the process of mine approvals, but said there may be a problem when it comes to him lobbying for Cliffs to establish its smelter in Sudbury.
Greater Sudbury has “lost a voice” in lobbying to have Cliffs locate here because Bartolucci’s ministerial duties “won’t allow him to show preference, so he could not advocate for us. I liked it better when it was Michael Gravelle who had that portfolio … then he couldn’t advocate for the northwest,” said Gelinas.
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