OPINION: This spring, Ontario’s premier seemed determined to speed up negotiations on developing the mineral-rich Ring of Fire — then, nothing happened.
Neither Premier Kathleen Wynne nor the Ontario Liberals generally are predisposed to playing the heavy with Indigenous communities. The Grits won the 2003 election partly on a pledge to establish better relations with Indigenous people, in contrast with the acrimony — and violence — of the Mike Harris years. Wynne has made reconciliation a personal mission in her time as premier.
So it was notable that she wrote a letter this spring to the Matawa Chiefs Council urging a speedy resolution to negotiations on developing the Ring of Fire, a mineral-rich region northeast of Thunder Bay that’s smack-dab in the middle of multiple First Nations territories. Wynne said she hoped for “meaningful progress in weeks, not months” on an agreement to build transportation infrastructure to the chromite and nickel deposits there.
Well, it’s been months, not weeks, yet the government has announced no major progress on an agreement, and the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines had no new details to report this week in response to inquiries from TVO.org.
“Ontario has been meeting regularly with Matawa member First Nations to advance meaningful progress. Our government is hopeful to be able to speak publicly about this progress in the very near future,” Minister Bill Mauro said in an email Tuesday.
Former premier Bob Rae was named the negotiator for the Matawa First Nations, a group of nine Indigenous communities close to the Ring of Fire. He declined to comment except to say that the ongoing negotiations have been “in my view productive and positive.”
Mauro’s “very near future” tease notwithstanding, this is just the latest missed deadline on the Ring of Fire, the development of which has been a key part of Liberal plans since the 2010 budget. In 2013, American mining giant Cliffs Natural Resources abandoned its efforts in the province citing costly delays and lengthy negotiations with the government and with First Nations in the region.
For the rest of this opinion piece: http://tvo.org/article/current-affairs/the-next-ontario/ring-of-pants-on-fire-kathleen-wynnes-weeks-not-months-deadline-blows-by