Federal help in Ring of Fire linked to community benefits (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal – April 25, 2015)

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

The federal government needs to see the potential for community benefits before investing in the Ring of Fire development.

That’s the message Aime Dimatteo, director general for FedNor, gave during his presentation at the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association conference, which was held this week in Thunder Bay.
Dimatteo argued the project is moving forward and pointed to the joint funded study with the province that’s looking at an east-west road corridor.

He said he was referring to the direction the federal government has taken in terms of building the infrastructure for the Ring of Fire. But the government wants to make it clear that those investments have to have community benefits, he said.

“If it is just about putting a road from a highway into a mining site that’s not going to have any community benefit, the federal government’s programs won’t come to bear,” he said. “In the case of the east-west road study that was announced jointly by the federal and provincial governments, it will connect four remote communities. Huge opportunity for these communities to now be fully connected by road to the rest of the economy. That of course will attract assistance, ultimately, from the federal government. It is in reference to that that we need to see those kinds of benefits.”

Dimatteo also made a comment about the province’s commitment of a billion dollars towards developing transportation infrastructure for the Ring of Fire.

He said the federal government doesn’t need to put a billion dollars on the table at the moment. He said they know where their money is and at the point and time when it is necessary for applications to be made, they will be funded through the Building Canada fund.

“You got to do the planning,” he said. “Planning is necessary before capital. If you don’t have a good plan, how do you know what a billion dollars or $2 billion might be good for? . . . We remain prepared, we’re working with the communities, we’re doing the planning. So whether it is roads, electrification, broadband or other infrastructures, we need to know what they represent.”

He also stressed that they have a great working relationship with the province and specifically mentioned Ontario’s Ring of Fire secretariat. He added that they speak regularly and the process is about collaborating.