Getting it Right in Northern Ontario
THUNDER BAY – Mining – Federal Minister Greg Rickford says “Noront is now leading the charge. They were perhaps a little underestimated. In the wake of Cliff’s very clear announcement, Noront is moving ahead with the environmental assessment process. We’re all very hopeful that that will go live sooner rather than later.”
Rickford is the federal minister responsible for the Ring of Fire. The Kenora MP has been working the file getting the pieces in place to get the Ring of Fire project on a solid footing.
NetNewsLedger has reported that Cliffs Natural Resources is pulling out of the Ring of Fire with camps being emptied in January. Cliffs Natural Resources has denied those reports in an email to Northern Ontario Business. The company has been moving goods out of their camps, and online has completely pulled Northern Ontario off their map of activities in North America.
The Ring of Fire is a massive project, and “Getting it right,” as Ontario Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle has repeatedly put it is key for success.
The federal government is coming under a great deal of fire recently over decisions made in closing veterans affairs offices and over spending scandals in the Senate. However Minister Rickford is working, along with his provincial counterpart Ontario Minister Gravelle toward making the Ring of Fire work.
Rickford doesn’t make as many announcements on the Ring of Fire as the Ontario Government.
The federal government was not a part of an announcement on the formation of a Ring of Fire Development Corporation. That effort almost appears to be an Ontario effort.
Minister Gravelle certainly gets it, and sources tell NetNewsLedger that the Minister is working hard to achieve the desired goals. Premier Wynne and the Ontario Government can look longer term on this effort, and look to the federal government and the efforts in the Ring of Fire Aboriginal Training Alliance for assistance.
The bulk of the heavy lifting, except for removing equipment from camps, in the Ring of Fire is now on the shoulders of Noront Resources and KWG Resources. Cliffs despite protests that they are still in the game have all but left, closing their offices in Thunder Bay, and laying off their staff in Northern Ontario.
The Ring of Fire, in order to “Get it Right” means first and foremost bringing in First Nations communities. That effort is going to be needed not only in Northern Ontario, but across Canada.
The partnerships are a four level process. The engagement must be with the federal government, provincial government, First Nations, and mining companies.
Companies which are not willing to sit at the table and discuss issues openly and with a look to shared economic opportunities and benefits are likely to find themselves on the outside of what could be massive projects.
The federal government appears to be realizing this in their funding of training opportunities in partnership with First Nations and mining companies.
Building Big Vision Futures
In Thunder Bay several years ago, at Lakehead University President Stevenson spoke about the plans for Lakehead University.
“Lakehead University is working on a living blueprint. Lakehead has set four directions for success – based on the Medicine Wheel. The building that we have talked about would include education facilities, a daycare facility and all the needed facilities”.
Currently 11% of the University population is Aboriginal. Stevenson said that only 16% of the total population go to university, but a smaller number of Aboriginal students. “We have to grow the population of Aboriginal students”.
The goal has to be bigger than the ‘Ring of Fire’. The goal should be to generate an atmosphere of enthusiasm and relevance for students. The goal should be, in Ontario of building an effort to make education more relevant for students starting in the northern communities, and then transitioning to secondary and post-secondary education.
Providing the funding for students to return to school and complete high school as well for older students, and especially for single moms should be a focus. Leaving a generation behind is not an option.
There needs to be a re-focusing of energies and efforts to assist students right from the elementary school right through to high school and onto post-secondary education for Aboriginal students. That partnership between all three levels of government: Federal, Provincial: and First Nations needs to focus on the needs of students and in making education more engaging.
Provincially putting the focus on education and ensuring that funding agreements can be made with the federal government to assure students can receive the same quality of education across Ontario.
Success Means Innovation
To generate the long-term success that will put First Nations students on a level playing field will benefit Ontario.
The goal is one that all levels of government should be endorsing. Building public/private partnerships in this effort will make a massive difference, not only for the ‘Ring of Fire’ but for the next fifty years and beyond in Ontario.
It is a goal that should be as big as the ‘National Dream’.