The new man in charge of FedNor and the Ring of Fire portfolio is making his first trip as a cabinet minister to Sudbury next week. Kenora MP Greg Rickford was appointed to the posts when Prime Minister Stephen Harper shuffled his cabinet last month. He replaced longtime FedNor Minister Tony Clement.
Rickford will speak at the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce’s President’s Series Luncheon, which runs noon to 2 p.m. at Bryston’s on the Park in Copper Cliff. Jonathan Laderoute, the chamber’s policy and communications manger, said Rickford’s office hasn’t revealed many details of what the minister wants to talk about.
“But it goes without saying he’s going to talk about the Ring of Fire and how that impacts the province and the country as a whole,” Laderoute said. “But other than that, they’re playing their cards pretty close to their chest. We’ll have to wait and see.”
The Ring of Fire is a massive chromite discovery in northwestern Ontario, much of which is owned by Cliffs Natural Resources. The U.S.-based company announced last year that it would build a smelter near Capreol to process the ore, but problems coming to an agreement with the province over hydro rates and reaching deals with local First Nations led Cliffs to put those plans on hold.
That raised concerns in Sudbury that the Capreol smelter may not happen, and that Cliffs may move the project elsewhere. Laderoute said the fact that Rickford is from Kenora doesn’t mean the smelter will end up moving to the northwest.
“We know Sudbury is a significant factor, so we’re not really concerned about where Mr. Rickford’s riding is located,” he said. “It’s good to have a fresh perspective. That area is well versed in mining, so it fits into what Sudbury wants from the Ring of Fire.”
Without being critical of Clement, Laderoute said he’s eager to see what Rickford will do, both with FedNor and the Ring of Fire.
“We’re looking for new energy, and someone who’s really going to get involved in this portfolio,” he said. “His decision to come here and talk about it is a significant first step, since it hasn’t been that long since the (cabinet) shuffle.
“So yes, I imagine the Ring of Fire will be the predominant item on his agenda.”
For more information on the luncheon, call the chamber at 705-673-7133, ext. 222.