Harper, Wynne agree Ring of Fire funding must be of ‘public benefit’ – by Susana Mas (CBC News – December 6, 2013)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics

NDP motion on Ring of Fire rejected as Ontario premier meets prime minister

Prime Minister Stephen Harper had what his office is describing as a “productive” and “constructive” meeting with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne on Thursday in Ottawa.

The two packed a number of issues into a half-hour meeting including the controversial Canada Job Grant program, infrastructure funding, pension reform, and the Ring of Fire — a mining project in northern Ontario, worth up to $60 billion.

“On the Ring of Fire, they both agreed that the two levels of government will continue to collaborate on this important development,” Jason MacDonald, the director of communications for the prime minister said in an email to CBC News late Thursday night.

“They also agreed that any investments by either level of government must represent a public benefit, including for First Nations.”

Wynne downplayed expectations Thursday telling reporters an hour before her meeting with Harper that she wasn’t going in with specific demands today but that she was looking for meaningful engagement.

The Ontario premier, however, has asked Harper to split 50/50 the costs associated with developing the project in a letter she wrote to him on Nov. 8.

The Ontario government has estimated the total capital investment for infrastructure in the range of $800 million to $1 billion, with the estimated costs of connecting the Ring of Fire communities to all-season access roads at $1.25 billion.

On Thursday, Wynne told reporters she still expects the federal government to come to the table with matching funds but that today she was going in with an open mind.

Wynne ‘optimistic’

Wynne emerged from Thursday’s meeting satisfied that she has the prime minister’s ear on the Ring of Fire.

“I’m more optimistic than I was before I went in to the meeting that we’ll be able to work together,” Wynne told The Canadian Press in a brief interview late Thursday.

Wynne suggested the two made progress saying “definitely, we have each other’s ear on this.”

“He and I agree that this is a very important project. He and I also agree that infrastructure is critical, and infrastructure that will be directly associated with the development of the Ring of Fire but also infrastructure that will serve the needs of First Nations and other communities in the north.”

Greg Rickford, the minister responsible for the federal economic development initiative for northern Ontario, spoke to reporters on Parliament Hill around the same time Wynne was holding a press conference at a university campus a few minutes away.

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