The Honourable Tony Clement is the Minister for FedNor. This speech was given at the CANADIAN INSTITUTE OF MINING, METALLURGY AND PETROLEUM (CIM) CONVENTION 2013, on May 6, 2013 in Toronto, Canada.
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Thank you for that kind introduction and good morning. It’s a pleasure to welcome so many participants, distinguished guests and speakers at this year’s convention of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum.
First, I wish to thank the organizers for inviting me and for this opportunity to say a few words this morning.
This is an exciting time for natural resource development in Canada, and especially so in a region I hold dear, Northern Ontario, but more about that in a moment.
This sector contributes both to the strength of our economy and the quality of our lives. And it is critical to our future.
Natural resources support close to 1.6 million jobs in Canada. And these aren’t just any jobs. Mining, oil and gas jobs are the best paid jobs in Canada according to Statistics Canada, earning an average of some $1,900 a week. These are the kinds of jobs Canada can be proud of and should encourage.
It contributes to our growth and long-term prosperity. All told oil, gas and mining industries drive almost 20 percent of our GDP.
Which is why when it comes to the development of our natural resources – our national patrimony and the foundation of so much Canada’s enviable wealth – that we get it right.
The theme of this year’s conference “Global Leadership – the Courage to Change” captures both the essence of what is at stake and what it will take to seize the day.
And this is no less true for us in government than it is for you, in industry.
We understand that we need to get things right — the right fundamentals, the right policies and the right regulations. And that is just what our Government is doing.
It begins with a sound economy.
Our Government is lowering taxes, cutting red tape and promoting free trade. We are the only G7 country to have recouped all of the jobs lost during the last recession. In fact, we added 900,000 net new jobs since July 2009.
But if we are going to capture the incredible opportunities offered by our natural resources, we need to do more.
We need to act decisively in three key areas:
Governance: We introduced a sweeping new approach called Responsible Resource Development which ensures clear, predictable rules for development.
Environmental protection: Not a nice-to-have but a must-have. Economic development and environmental responsibility can occur simultaneously in accordance with the highest environmental standards.
Consultation with First Nations: This is not just a legal requirement. We must ensure Aboriginal peoples have every opportunity to share the benefits of resource development.
Take, for example, the Ring of Fire, a most extraordinary resource development opportunity. Potentially the biggest mining development Northern Ontario has ever seen.
This is not just one mine but a vast, resource-rich region in the James Bay Lowlands spanning 5,000 sq km and estimated to contain between $30 to $50 billion worth of minerals – enough to be mined for several decades and to create thousands of direct and indirect jobs in Northern Ontario alone.
But before we can move forward and realize that potential, there is something we must understand.
The region’s marshy wetlands have been home to First Nations for thousands of years. And their communities and their experience are unique to them.
It is incumbent upon the mining industry to understand those circumstances, engage those communities and be able to appreciate their perspective.
Of course, the mining industry also has its own story to share, a story that has brought jobs, growth and prosperity to many regions of Canada and the world.
I realize it’s not to going be easy. This is a complex undertaking; there is no doubt about it.
In addition to our First Nation partners, there are many stakeholders and many challenges to overcome, including infrastructure and environmental considerations.
This should not be new to an industry like yours – that has had the wherewithal, ingenuity and perserverance to develop complex projects in the most challenging environments.
And our government understand this too. That is why the Prime Minister recently asked me to coordinate and lead our Government’s engagement on this file.
Through a collaborative approach involving 15 federal departments and agencies, we will maximize our investments, avoid duplication and work efficiently with stakeholders and partners, including the Government of Ontario, in addressing development challenges.
There is a lot at stake and we cannot let this opportunity pass us by.
Recently, I met with representatives of the Matawa First Nations during a visit to Thunder Bay, and over the next few months, I will travel to each of the nine Matawa First Nations to meet, and begin an honest and open dialogue with their leaders and community members.
This is a first step, but I can assure you that I am fully committed to working closely with these communities in the coming months and years, reaffirming our Government’s commitment to collaborative and responsible resource development.
And I look forward to working with all of you so that we can continue to create jobs and growth and lay the foundations for Canada’s long-term prosperity.
Thank you for inviting me today and I hope you all have a great conference.