The Ontario Northland Transportation Commission should play an integral role in providing access to the Ring of Fire, says the group representing its unionized workers.
“We are the transportation corporation for Northern Ontario. I don’t see why the government wouldn’t want the ONTC to be involved,” said Brian Kelly, spokesman for the ONTC’s General Chairperson’s Association.
His comments come on the heels of an announcement by the province Friday of plans to create a development corporation for the chromite deposit that will bring together private and public parties to address infrastructure needs.
The province also called on the federal government Friday to help cover the costs of the infrastructure needed to access the remote area in the James Bay Lowlands.
“Ontario is prepared to make a substantial contribution to the infrastructure needed to access the resources,” Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said in a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “We expect your government to come to the table with matching funds.”
The province’s plan to divest the ONTC has been in limbo since May when Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle indicated other options would now be considered.
Kelly said the ONTC is an existing provincially-owned infrastructure holding in the North. And he said it’s a natural fit for the Crown agency to be involved in accessing the Ring of Fire.
“Converting the ONTC into an integrated transportation and communication system for both northeastern and northwestern Ontario makes sense and would also help improve the social and economic development of all communities in Northern Ontario” he said.
Kelly also applauded the notion of a development corporation to co-ordinate the construction, financing, operation and maintenance of infrastructure for the Ring Fire, suggesting that is what’s been missing from the outset.
Gravelle said in a release Friday he is confident an infrastructure solution will be found through the corporation.
“We need to determine what infrastructure will be most appropriate,” he said. “That means that the current proposals on the table must come together while, at the same time, we must see the federal government join us in moving development forward.”
The lack of a government plan on how to develop road or rail access to the site as well as environmental protection and the need for agreements with First Nations in the area have been major hurdles in moving forward with the Ring of Fire.
Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli, meanwhile, says the province has dithered on moving ahead with the development of the Ring of Fire. And he said there’s little substance to the announcement Friday of a development corporation or the ask for funds from the federal government.
He noted that the move by the province comes on the heels of a recent Ontario Mining and Lands Commissioner’s ruling denying Cliffs Natural Resources the right to build a road on mining claims staked by rival KWG Resources.
And, although Fedeli and the Progressive Conservatives believe rail is right option, he said there was no indication from the province in its announcement that rail is on the table.
In addition, Fedeli suggested the federal government will likely be reluctant to provide Ontario funding given the Liberal’s recent track record, specifically the $1-billion gas plant scandal.
For the original version of this article, click here: http://www.nugget.ca/2013/11/10/union-wants-ontc-to-play-role