First Nations seek economic partnership with NEOMA – by Wayne Snider (Timmins Daily Press – September 23, 2013)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

TIMMINS – First Nations and municipalities in the North face many of the same challenges in terms of economic development.

Now, it appears two key groups are ready to come together to foster growth. Mushkegowuk Council, which represents eight First Nation communities, has approached the Northeastern Ontario Municipal Association (NEOMA) to develop a growth strategy.

Deputy Grand Chief Les Louttit of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) spoke to NEOMA members on Friday. Mushkegowuk Council is part of NAN, which represents 49 First Nations across Northern Ontario.

“We would like to propose an official entity of some kind to partner with NEOMA and Mushkegowuk Council,” Louttit said. “We would have an organization together, with people from your and our organizations, to foster business development, to take advantage of future business opportunities and economic development from the mining, forestry and tourism sectors.”

At the request of Mushkegowuk Council, NAN helped develop a proposal. This plan is currently being reviewed by Mushkegowuk Council and its member First Nations.

“We will send a copy of that to NEOMA for your next meeting,” Louttit said. “We would be happy to discuss it further and how to set it up at a minimal cost. But we need something set up so we can work together.”

He said such a partnership has been developed in Northern Quebec.

“We would like to set up a similar structure that already exists in Northern Quebec with the James Bay Cree and Abitibi-Témiscamingue municipalities,” he said. “We can do that here too and benefit our municipalities, First Nations and citizens.”

When it comes to natural resources, Louttit said municipalities and First Nations are in the same boat. Industry collects a large profit and the province gets taxation, but there is very little revenue at the local level.

“For so long, all we have been receiving is a minimal percentage from the net profits of a mine over the life cycle of the mine,” he explained. “As an example, in negotiations with De Beers and the (James Bay) coastal communities, they only receive less than 1% of the net profits … and also business and employment opportunities … while the Ontario government gets a percentage of the gross, right off the top.

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