Tories seek to rescue North from red tape – by Jonathan Migneault (Sudbury Star – September 25, 2013)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

Government red tape has impeded development in Northern Ontario – especially for the mining and forestry industries – according to a new white paper report by the Progressive Conservative Party.

“We want the government to move a little more efficiently,” said Paula Peroni, the Progressive Conservative candidate for Sudbury.

Peroni said the standstill on Cliffs Natural Resources’ plans to develop the Ring of Fire was a “perfect example” of a company that has been blocked by red tape. “The Ring of Fire needs to be a priority, not just for Sudbury and Northern Ontario, but for this whole province,” she said. “In my opinion, we are 10 years behind on this project.”

But mining analyst and Sudbury Star columnist Stan Sudol said the complications for the Ring of Fire project go far beyond government policy. “The Ring of Fire is a very complicated development that includes resource revenue sharing with First Nations, environmental approvals, transportation and power infrastructure challenges, just to name a few issues, on top of Cliffs’ current financial constraints and reduced global demand for all commodities,” he said in an email to The Sudbury Star.

The Conservative white paper, called Paths to Prosperity: A Champion for Northern Jobs and Resources, included 20 goals it called “paths to prosperity.”

One goal was to permit 10 new mines over the next five years.

Norm Miller, Conservative MPP for Parry-Sound Muskoka, and the party’s critic for Northern Development and Mines, said speeding up the approval process for mining permits would help meet the goal for 10 new mines. “It’s about a mindset of government,” he said.

But Michael Gravelle, Ontario’s Minister of Northern Development and Mines, said the province has already had a good track record for opening new mines in the last 10 years.

Gravelle said 23 new mines have opened in Ontario over the past 10 years and eight more are set to open in the next couple years. He said the Detour Gold Mine, north of Cochrane, is among the eight mines scheduled to open soon, and will be the largest gold mine in North America.

Sudol said it is up to mining companies, not the government, to ensure new mines are opened.

“I do get a bit tired when political parties try dumb down the issues and infer that by magically waving their policy wands and by getting rid of red tape, mine shafts will start sprouting like mushrooms after a rain shower,” he said.

“We have made a very clear commitment to support economic growth throughout the north,” Gravelle said. He said the Northern Ontario Heritage Corporation has invested more than $890 million in the north, created 22,000 jobs and around $3.2 billion in investment.

The Conservative white paper has also recommended that the Far North Act, which protects around 225,000 square kilometres of boreal forest from development, be repealed.

“We believe that Ontario forests will support a harvest of 26 million cubic metres per year,” the white paper said. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources the province harvested around 13 million cubic metres of timber in 2010-2011. The harvest reached a high of 24 million cubic metres in 2002-2003.

On energy, the white paper recommended a return to hydroelectric and nuclear power generation for future long-term energy planning.

“Right now we are suffering the highest energy costs in all of North America,” Peroni said.

A Fraser Institute report called the Environmental and Economic Consequences of Ontario’s Green Energy Act, compared the average electricity rates in 11 North American cities from 2008 to 2012. For large consumers, the average rate in Ottawa was 9.09 cents per kWh. In Montreal the average was 5.05 cents per kWh and in Winnipeg it was 3.55 cents per kWh.

Minister Gravelle said the province’s Northern Industrial Electricity Rate Program, which was recently renewed, has cut energy rates for participating northern companies by as much as 25%.

Under the program, participants receive a rebate of two cents per kilowatt hour – with individual rebates capped at 2011-12 consumption levels, or $20 million per year per company – whichever is lower.

For Miller, the white paper’s most valuable goal is to give northerners more control over the use and management of their land and wildlife. He said too many decisions are made for a “Toronto-centric” viewpoint. “I think northerners would do a great job looking after northern resources,”Miller said.

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