Ontario’s Ring of Failure: Our provincial leadership is badly stricken by analysis paralysis – by Gary Laine (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal – December 2, 2013)

Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

Our governing Liberals have got it bad and that ain’t good. I’m talking about the debilitating case of analysis paralysis infecting our provincial leadership that has turned the much-heralded Ring of Fire into a Ring of Failure.

The online encyclopedia Wikipedia defines analysis paralysis as “the state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome. A decision can be treated as over-complicated, with too many detailed options, so that a choice is never made, rather than try something and change it if a major problem arises. A person might be seeking the optimal or ‘perfect’ solution upfront, and fear making any decision which could lead to erroneous results.”

Clearly, Kathleen Wynne and Michael Gravelle, who both repeatedly hide behind the phrase “we want to make sure we do things right,” are victims of this progress-preventing condition.

Mineral resources in the Ring of Fire (RoF) were first discovered in 2002. The Liberals took power in 2003. Ten years have gone by, in other words, and still no road and still no development.

Sadly for the Liberals the slow pace of RoF development can’t be blamed on the Mike Harris government or any other previous provincial administration.

Resource development is provincial jurisdiction. The feds therefore can’t be blamed either.

Ontario has a Ministry of Northern Development and Mines. The Ring of Fire is all about mining activity and Northern Ontario resource development. So why isn’t this ministry more pro-active when it comes to turning RoF talk into RoF action?

The Ministry of Transportation directs road planning in our province. Why then isn’t it taking the lead role planning road access into the RoF? Is the Far North not regarded as a full-fledged region of Ontario?

The Liberals have suddenly pulled a plan for an RoF development corporation out of their back pockets. Sort of like tossing eggs to boil on the stove when it’s suddenly discovered there’s nothing else to eat in the cupboard and the family is clamouring for food. But why did it take so long for this sensible idea to materialize?

Cliffs Natural Resources had a plan to build a road through Crown land staked by KWG Resources. Media reports last year indicated the Ontario government supported the idea. Yet in September of this year Ontario’s Mining and Lands Commissioner nixed that idea.

Elsewhere in Ontario the government can expropriate private land for any roadway deemed to be in the public interest. Yet apparently it cannot reclaim land for a roadway through Crown land staked by a mining company.

Does this mean that in Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario private mining companies operating on Crown land have more property rights than owners of privately held patented land?

The cost of a road from Aroland to the Ring of Fire has now been pegged to be in the one-billion-dollar range. A staggering sum to some. But not so staggering when you consider that Ontario’s annual budget is now approximately $127 billion. The total cost of an RoF road, in other words, would gobble up a grand total of 1/127 or .007 per cent of one year’s budget.

The roadway, of course, would not be completed in one year. Both the financing and the construction would be spread out over a period of years. Meaning an even smaller annual percentage of RoF-directed spending.

Isn’t it curious how a government that squandered roughly a billion dollars on its seat-saver program in southern Ontario (the cancellation of the gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga) now can’t find an equal amount to fund an important infrastructure project in Northwestern Ontario that would create jobs, launch an economic boom and boost royalty revenue and income, sales, corporate and fuel tax income for the Ontario Treasury?

All governments spend money. But it’s how money is spent — the quality of their spending decisions — that differentiates a good government from a bad one.

Major highways are typically built the same way most people eat chocolate bars — one bite-sized chunk at a time.
That’s how the current four-lane project between Thunder Bay and Nipigon is proceeding. That’s how Highway 11 between Nipigon and North Bay was completed in the 1930s. How Highway 17 between Nipigon and Sault Ste. Marie was completed in the 1950s. How a goal-oriented government would build an RoF road in our generation.

Our provincial leadership is badly stricken by analysis paralysis. They appear to be in no rush to take remedial action to cure the condition.

The only way to turn the Ring of Failure into a Ring of Success therefore is the no-Wynne solution — a new government headed by either Andrea Horwath or Tim Hudak.

Gary Laine is a periodic contributor in Thunder Bay.

Comments are closed.