Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.
Thunder Bay-Superior North and Kenora-Rainy River MPPs were on opposite sides of the fence Thursday when debating two private members’ bills at Queen’s Park.
Following debate late Thursday afternoon, MPPs defeated Bill 43: Mining Amendment Act (Resources Processed in Ontario), and approved second reading of Bill 42: Ombudsman Amendment Act (Children’s Aid Societies).
Bill 43, introduced by NDP Northern Development and Mines critic Michael Mantha (NDP-Algoma–Manitoulin), would have required ore and minerals mined in Ontario to remain in the province for refinement. Currently, companies can apply for an exemption from exporting restrictions, allowing them to send raw material anywhere in the world to be processed.
Following the vote, Mantha said the defeat of his bill shows that Liberal and Conservative MPPs are not serious about job creation. “My bill would have given Ontario’s mining industry a bright future,” he said.
“By keeping our resources in the province, there is the potential of job creation in many sectors. We would ensure that the unprecedented wealth of resources in the Ring of Fire is used to create good value-added jobs for Ontarians.”
Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle (Thunder Bay-Superior North) said the proposed legislation would have removed “flexibility” in the mining industry.
“However well-intentioned MPP Mantha’s private member’s bill may be, the fact is mining and steel industries benefit from this movement of minerals and the flexibility we have,” he said.
Gravelle said Ontario benefits from the movement of minerals across jurisdictions and thousands of well-paying jobs depend on it.
“Ontario and certainly the mining industry are part of the global economy,” he said.
“Four of Ontario’s five largest mineral processing facilities receive two-thirds or more of their feed from outside the province and their economic viability, as well as the jobs they create, depend very much on the movement of minerals from outside of Ontario.
“The priority for our government is clear — to maintain and create jobs here in Ontario,” Gravelle added.
Kenora-Rainy River MPP Sarah Campbell disagreed with Gravelle, saying that the province’ mineral wealth must be used to create jobs in Ontario.
“This is mineral wealth that is going to make large corporations billions of dollars,” she said.
“They want these resources, but they absolutely cannot come without a price and that price is: if you want them you can have your profits, but you have to make sure we in the province of Ontario — those of us who collectively own those resources — have a fair share of the benefits.
“We are never going to be a have province again if we do not take immediate action to protect Ontario jobs. . . . This means ensuring that our mineral wealth, something that is owned by each and every one of us, goes to creating jobs in Ontario, not in the United States, not in Mexico, not in China and not in another province,” Campbell added.
Meanwhile, MPPs approved second reading of NDP Children and Youth Services critic Monique Taylor’s (Hamilton Mountain) private member’s Bill 42, which would extend the oversight of Ontario’s ombudsman to include Children’s Aid Societies.
Taylor told the legislature that “with my bill, we get the broad and general authority that comes with (the ombudsman’s) office.
“Having an independent, arms-length body protecting our children should not be a question any longer,” she said.
The proposed legislation would give the ombudsman the authority to investigate CAS decisions and actions. Currently, the only recourse for someone who wants to appeal a decision is through the legal system.
Ontario’s 47 CAS agencies are governed by the Child and Family Services Act and are funded by the provincial government. Ontario is the only province whose ombudsman doesn’t have the authority to oversee its child protection services.
Campbell said she agrees with the bill.
“Ultimately, I believe ombudsman oversight will be good for not only the families affected by the decisions Children’s Aid Societies make, but also for the hard-working employees of CAS who do their best to make the right decisions under very difficult circumstances,” she said.
Gravelle disagreed with Campbell, saying that the CAS is already held accountable by government and by the communities they serve through a comprehensive oversight system that uses independent review and community involvement.
They are also under the oversight of the court system, he said.
“Our government has made considerable progress partnering with them to better protect vulnerable children and youth, and we will continue to ensure that there are strong accountability measures in place which Ontarians can be confident in,” said Gravelle.
“The well-being and safety of children and youth in care is of the utmost importance to me and to our government.”