A former deputy minister of Transport Canada recently recommended an airport/port transportation authority model for the Ring of Fire mineral development area.
“It would be at arms length from the government, it would have its own fiduciary financial responsibilities and management responsibilities,” said Nick Mulder, author of the Northern Policy Institute commentary: The Airport/Port Transportation Authority Model Is It Applicable for Ontario’s Ring of Fire Mineral Development. “It would decide on the chair and the management team, it would finalize the plans for the road and railroad or whatever else is needed. It would finalize all the funding with the mining companies and transportation companies and private sector interests, pension funds, whatever.”
Mulder described his recommendation during his July 8 Northern Policy Institute speaker’s breakfast at the Valhalla Inn in Thunder Bay, where he indicated the Ring of Fire infrastructure authority would not be involved in the social and economic infrastructure needs of the First Nation communities in northern Ontario.
“Those 40 or whatever number of communities there are have their own special needs,” Mulder said. “It isn’t up to a business-driven or market-driven kind of entity that I am recommending — they should decide on what kind of water or sewer or other kind of systems they need or local roads in the community or so on.”
Mulder said some of the monies required to finance the Ring of Fire road or railroad could come from the provincial government, but the majority should be raised in the marketplace or through the mining companies.
“Over the next year or so there are four essential things that ought to be done before final decisions are made (on the Ring of Fire),” Mulder said. “The mining companies have to decide what to do, and right now the prices aren’t very good. Some companies like Cliffs have withdrawn or aren’t doing much more. Other ones are still proactive.”
Mulder said the needs of the First Nation communities also have to be considered.
“That is very important,” Mulder said. “It always has been, especially with the Supreme Court (of Canada) decision a week or so ago (that adopted a broad approach to Aboriginal title and granted title to more than 1,750 square kilometres of land to Tsilhqot’in First Nation in British Columbia).”
Mulder said the environmental plans for the Ring of Fire have to be sorted out and rules established, and the royalty plans have to be established as well.
Mulder’s commentary on his Ring of Fire infrastructure authority model was released on June 17. It is available online at: http://northernpolicy.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/commentary-1-rof-authority-model.pdf.
“This alternative model would involve creating an independent, representative and arm’s length statutory Ring of Fire infrastructure authority,” Mulder said at the time. “All parties would have formal representation on the board and the board, not government, would plan and procure facilities and services for road, rail, power and air, while sharing costs and risks with the private sector.”
Mulder’s commentary stated that his Ring of Fire infrastructure authority model would place the onus and risks on all the stakeholders, not just the provincial government and taxpayers.
“Because of the uniqueness of the Ring of Fire development and its many challenges, there will be an inevitable need to make changes in the transportation authority model,” Mulder said in the commentary. “Nonetheless, its main elements – independence, inclusiveness, risk sharing, market-driven, political independence, legislated legally binding powers – would all be practical and essential.”