The CEO of the Matawa First Nations is disappointed that the Trudeau government isn’t into mining in the Ring of Fire, at least not according to this year’s federal budget.
Though David Achneepineskum is “pretty happy” with the $8.4 billion in planned spending to improve First Nations’ education, on-reserve water quality, social and healthcare infrastructure across Canada over the next five years, it was a headscratcher to him that nothing was laid out to move the undeveloped mineral belt forward.
Despite the Wynne government having a far friendlier government in Ottawa to deal with, their federal Liberal counterparts chose not to match Ontario’s $1-billion pledge for mining-related infrastructure in the James Bay region.
“Certainly I was disappointed there was no mention of the Ring of Fire in the budget at all, whether it’s today or whether they’re thinking about it in the future,” said Achneepineskumm, the head of a tribal council of nine Ojibway and Cree communities, which would be most impacted by mine development. “At least they could say, we’re going to be working with Ontario and the First Nations in the Ring of Fire development.”
He wants further studies done on infrastructure development and environmental safeguards, and how Matawa can get involved with the economic and business opportunities generated from mining that are going to be available.
“I knew it was about time,” said Achneepineskum of the federal government’s approach, “but certainly I’m hoping that in the next several budgets at least the tone will change.”
There have been indications for months that the Trudeau government was planning to pivot funding dollars away from industry infrastructure toward community and individual quality of life projects.
A PowerPoint presentation obtained by Northern Ontario Business that was prepared by federal Ring of Fire executive coordinator Christopher Cornish after the Oct. 19 election suggested funding be allocated to more foundational supports in the Matawa communities.
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