Forward-looking companies will make it in Ring of Fire: Mulcair (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal – April 3, 2013)

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

The leader of Canada’s official Opposition says companies need to be “forward-looking” and respect First Nations if they hope to be successful in the Ring of Fire.

“We have to have everyone at the table,” federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said in Thunder Bay on Tuesday.

“There are good models that have worked. Manitoba has a great model, for example — when they develop new hydro projects, they have revenue sharing and 70-year plans and deals with First Nations. Quebec was forced to come up with a deal rapidly when the courts shut down the James Bay hydroelectric agreement some 40 years ago.

“So we’re looking at the behaviour of some of the companies,” he said. “Trying to exclude elders from giving expert testimony in court is just not smart, because what it does is it signals that the companies don’t get it. They’re not willing to work with First Nations and respect their rights.

“So we’re hoping that forward-looking companies will be involved in this, respect not only the rights of First Nations today, but the rights of future generations of all Canadians.”

Mulcair stopped in Thunder Bay on Tuesday as part of a tour of Northern Ontario. While in the city, Mulcair toured the Bombardier plant, met with Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) and the city’s port authority, and attended a fundraising dinner for the party on Tuesday evening.

“It’s important for us to be doing this tour of Northern Ontario,” Mulcair said.

“We know, for example, that in places like Thunder Bay, there’s a lot of resource development in the offing, with the Ring of Fire, but there’s also a very strong manufacturing base. Bombardier is a beautiful representation of that.

“Companies like Bombardier need to be able to start planning long-term, just as municipalities need to be able to plan long-term for their transit,” he said. “That’s why the NDP has been talking about these issues.”

Mulcair said Canada doesn’t give municipalities enough money to properly maintain their infrastructure.

“We’ve got gridlock in a lot of major Canadian cities,” he said. “If we come up with proper funding . . . companies like Bombardier wind up winning, and that’s great for a region like Thunder Bay.”

Mulcair was meeting with NAN because, he said, it’s important for the federal government to meet with and listen to First Nations representatives “to find out whether the requirements set down by the Supreme Court are being respected.”

He also touched on the closure of the Experimental Lakes Area near Kenora, calling it “the canary in the coal mine for the anti-science agenda of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.

“He’s muzzled scientists,” Mulcair said.

“The scientists that Stephen Harper hasn’t muzzled, he’s fired. So he doesn’t want science interfering with his plan, which is rip-and-ship: resource development at all costs, even if it leaves nothing but degradation to future generations.”

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