Ontario’s Progressive Conservative leader is promising a no-holds-barred approach to mining development in the province’s north, as his Liberal and NDP election campaign rivals caution against ignoring northern communities and destroying the environment.
Doug Ford said at a leaders’ debate on Friday that he would push hard for mining in Northern Ontario, home to the Ring of Fire. The Ring is an area in the James Bay lowlands that is rich in minerals, but lacks infrastructure and is surrounded by sensitive ecological areas and First Nations.
“All we’ve heard is talk, talk, talk, no action,” Ford said during the debate on northern issues in Parry Sound, Ont. on May 11. “We’re going to go in there and start mining.” As well as suggesting the Liberal government has been slow in getting development going, Ford took aim at the New Democratic Party candidate for Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, Ramsey Hart, a former researcher and advocate with Mining Watch Canada, repeatedly labeling him an “extremist environmental activist” or a variation of that.
Development in the Ring of Fire region has faced complications. U.S.-based Cliffs Natural Resources, for example, sold its Ring of Fire assets in 2015 for a fraction of the cost amid a commodity slump. As well, at 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, there are no roads leading to the area or other infrastructure needed for mining.
Proponents, including the current Liberal government of Premier Kathleen Wynne, say the Ring could be one of the biggest resource rushes in Ontario’s history. But the government also says it wants to respect First Nations’ perspectives and traditional knowledge when making decisions affecting their land, air and water.