[Northern Ontario] Mine support a true investment – Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal Editorial (August 24, 2012)

The Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

The government sure loves to throw the word “invest” around. When was the last time you heard the provincial government was paying for necessary road improvements (or, for that matter, simple road repairs)? It’s been a while, hasn’t it? That’s because the government doesn’t pay for those things — it invests in the province’s infrastructure.

A business grant? Nah. Investing in the economy, or entrepreneurs, or somesuch. Providing long-term care beds is an investment in the province’s health-care system.

Well, the government has on its hands another excuse to use the word investment, and a much more legitimate one than usual.
Northwestern Ontario has been, for some time, calling on the government to get on board with the looming mining boom.

They’re looking for — ahem — investments in the province’s infrastructure, the ones that will be needed when the various in-the-works mines are up-and-running.

Roads to the mine sites, power connections, other transportation corridors to get the supplies to the mines, and resources back out.

The government should, of course, be champing at the bit here. Not only do they get to use the word “investment” again in their news releases and press conferences, but if they act now, they’ll be in on the ground floor of a much needed industrial resurgence in the region.

Yes, the up-front costs will be large. But so will the long-term tax revenues as companies set up shop, and new people move into the region for work purposes.

And the government needs to be involved. Smaller municipalities in the region stand to benefit, but those same municipalities can’t afford the massive capital outlays necessary to support an industry like mining in the remote areas of the region. First Nations communities can’t. Thunder Bay can’t.

What’s needed is provincial action — and soon. Much is made by the government of their efforts to help Ontarians in the wake of the recession or the downfall of the forestry industry.

They announce a grant to a business, hold a news conference, and tout the handful of jobs their money has created. Those jobs are, of course, important. But they’re nothing on the scale of what’s to come when the mining industry really gets rolling again in the North.

If the government moves, that is. These are complicated projects, complicated procedures. Nobody is arguing that. But few will argue that there is usually plenty of opportunity for projects large or small to get hamstrung, delayed, or dropped altogether because of red tape.

Thunder Bay is working on its mining readiness strategy. The city knows it will need more industrial zoning, more homes, more supports for the companies that will operate here. Other cities in the region are doing their own work along those same lines.

Perhaps what’s needed to kickstart governmental involvement is a simple reminder — it’s not just the North that will benefit from the mining industry. As the jobs, spinoffs and tax revenue pile up from the mine operations, southern Ontario stands to gain, too.

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