Diamonds are a premier’s best friend – by Heidi Ulrichsen (Sudbury Northern Life – August 29, 2013)

A deal benefitting a business which polishes diamonds mined at the DeBeers Victor Diamond Mine on the James Bay coast is an example of how the province works to create jobs in Northern Ontario, Premier Kathleen Wynne said.

She made the remarks during an Aug. 29 tour of Crossworks Manufacturing’s Sudbury office, which opened in 2009, and employs 35 people. Eighteen of these employees are from the Sudbury area, while the rest are originally from Vietnam.

Wynne, who is also visiting Kenora and Thunder Bay in the coming days as part of a tour of Northern Ontario, credits these jobs to a deal the province struck with De Beers to process 10 per cent of its Victor diamonds in Ontario.

“One of the things I’m determined to do as premier is to work to close the skills gap, to make sure that we provide opportunities for people in Ontario develop the skills for the businesses that are looking for those skills,” she said.

“I think this is a great example of a partnership that is creating those opportunities. Putting the conditions in place for businesses to thrive is a priority of our government, and that’s why the partnership with Crossworks is so important.”

Wynne, who got the opportunity to tour the Crossworks office, and even to hold a 35.8 carat diamond from the Victor mine, was asked by a reporter if plans are in the works to increase the percentage of diamonds processed in Ontario.

The premier didn’t make a commitment one way or another, but said the current arrangement has been a success.

Dylan Dix, Crossworks’ group executive of marketing and external relations, said it was an “amazing honour” to have the premier tour the plant, especially given the fact that it wouldn’t exist without the agreement with DeBeers.

“Their commitment and partnership has allowed us to really jump in with both feet,” he said.

While at Crossworks, Wynne also answered several questions from reporters about various subjects, including rocks of a different sort.

She was asked what the province is doing to move forward the Cliffs Natural Resources chromite project in the Ring of Fire region of Northern Ontario.

The company put its environmental assessment on hold in June, citing a lack of progress at the provincial level regarding not only environmental issues, but a deal with regards to a transportation corridor and energy prices.

Wynne said she’s placing her trust in former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Frank Ioacobucci, who was appointed by the province back in July to lead discussions with the Chiefs of the Matawa Tribal Council on the Ring of Fire.

More specifically, he’ll address environmental protection and monitoring, regional infrastructure planning and development, resource revenue sharing and social and economic supports.

“If we don’t get those protections and processes right at the beginning stages, we will pay for that at the end,” Wynne said. “There will be time constraints and there will be costs at the other end if we don’t do that work up front.”

The premier was also asked if there’s any chance of the province holding a full public inquiry into mining safety, a request from the families of two local miners who died on the job in 2011 and their union, Steelworkers Local 6500.

Minister of Labour Yasir Naqvi told Northern Life earlier this month he doesn’t think it’s necessary to hold a public inquiry, and wants to conduct a smaller-scale review of mining safety instead.

The minister has also met with both the miners’ families and Local 6500 to see if they can come to a mutually agreeable solution.

“Here’s my position,” Wynne said. “We need to make sure that any questions that need to be answered are answered around protection and around safety.

“So we will work with all parties, with companies, with unions to make sure that government is playing an appropriate role in making sure those protection are in place.”

Talk of mining and rocks aside, Wynne also found herself answering a question about who will run in Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci’s place in the next provincial election.

Bartolucci, who has been the city’s provincial representative since 1995, announced last year he doesn’t plan to run again.

Wynne said she didn’t want to comment on the matter, saying the Liberal riding association in Sudbury is “very robust” and are well-positioned to choose an appropriate candidate.

And what was it like holding a 35.8 carat diamond worth more than $1 million?

“Awesome, awesome,” Wynne said. “I told my kids I was going to hold a large diamond today, only for a moment. It was fantastic.”