THUNDER BAY – Kathleen Wynne views the Ring of Fire as more than just an economic development opportunity.
The Ontario premier was asked about the province’s progress in developing the potentially lucrative mineral deposit in the remote north during her media availability in Thunder Bay on Thursday.
Wynne responded that her government is dedicated to acting in an environmentally responsible manner while engaging and consulting with First Nations communities to ensure their children will experience the resulting economic prosperity.
“That’s a bigger vision than just how do we, as fast as possible, get trucks in to get those minerals out, get them out and then leave the site,” Wynne said.
“That’s not the vision we have and I think there are a lot of critics who look at us and say ‘you haven’t moved fast enough,’ but the reality is that the work that’s going on now to build those relationships, do the training, to make a plan that’s actually going to have long-term impact, that’s what’s important about the Ring of Fire potential.”
Wynne said there has been a significant amount of training work that has been continuing and money has flowed to support those initiatives.
She also cited a nearly $800,000 transportation corridor study, which remains ongoing, led by Webequie First Nation that was jointly funded by the province and the former federal Conservative government to examine building a year-round route.
“This Ring of Fire project is about opening up an area of the north that is ripe for economic development but it’s also about opening up communities to make them more connected to the rest of the province,” Wynne said.
One of the Wynne government’s steps in moving the Ring of Fire forward was the formation of a development corporation that is designed to bring together First Nations, industry and both the Ontario and federal governments to spearhead infrastructure advancement.
That development corporation was established in August 2014, yet Wynne and Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle confirmed neither the previous Conservative federal government nor the new Liberal federal government have taken a formal role on the Ring of Fire file.
Gravelle said he has had discussions with two federal ministers – Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett – and plans on reaching out to Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi.
“Our relationship with the federal government has been very positive and we’re quite confident we’ll find a way to partner with them and I think they feel the same way,” Gravelle said.
During a visit to the city earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Ottawa has a role in developments like the Ring of Fire, but did not make any declarations to commit to matching the province’s $1 billion infrastructure pledge.
“I think it’s normal and expected that the federal government should be a partner in developing large-scale projects like (the Ring of Fire),” Trudeau said.
“The federal government wants to be a strong and active partner to provinces on resource development and that’s exactly why we sit down regularly with provincial partners to talk about opportunities to grow the economy, opportunities to create jobs and also opportunities to make sure we’re being as aware of the challenges of the future in terms of environmental responsibility and sustainability that Canadians expect us to.”
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