Bob Rae jumps into Ring of Fire – by Gloria Galloway (Globe and Mail – June 24, 2013)

Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

OTTAWA — Bob Rae has had a few tough assignments in his life, but the job he faces as he departs his federal political career could be one of the most challenging.

Mr. Rae will represent nine different native governments as chief negotiator for the Matawa First Nations in talks with the Ontario government about the opening of their land to the massive Ring of Fire mineral development. There are varying ideas about how to proceed, and even about what his role should be.

The huge impact the mining projects in the remote northwest part of the province could have on the native communities’ environment, social welfare and long-term prosperity means there is an imperative to get it right – to ensure that the First Nations walk away from the negotiations with deals that will leave them richer, not poorer.

Mr. Rae, who has been interim leader of the federal Liberals for the past two years, says he recognizes the potential harms and benefits that could befall the people who have trusted him to fight on their behalf.

“I think that the attitude of First Nations toward development is shifting,” he said during an interview with The Globe and Mail that followed his announcement last week that he was resigning as a Member of Parliament. “I think that there’s a realization of the continuing importance of environmental issues. But I think there’s a powerful realization that the era of simply being dependent on government is not sustainable.”

Although it is not unheard of for a former leader to make an easy transition to the back benches – Stéphane Dion has managed to do it – it might have been awkward for Mr. Rae, who clearly enjoyed being the face of his Liberal party, to make way for Justin Trudeau.

“Of course I have been thinking for some time about what was I going to do” after Mr. Trudeau was elected party Leader, said Mr. Rae. “Was I going to stay on as an MP after the new leader was chosen, or was I going to think of something else? And this was something that has interested me for a long time.”

The two projects at the Ring of Fire – Noront’s Eagle’s Nest copper and nickel mine and the Black Thor chromite mine of Cliffs Natural Resources – hold out the tantalizing prospect of wealth and royalties for Ontario, a province that is in need of cash.

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