Doug Ford slashes Indigenous Affairs budget and pursues Ring of Fire – by Declan Keogh (National Observer – April 11, 2019)

Premier Doug Ford is pushing ahead with plans to develop Ontario’s northern region in the province’s 2019 budget, promising to cut “red tape and restrictions that are blocking important economic developments” in the Ring of Fire, a remote region with mining potential and logistical struggles.

Efforts to exploit mineral resources in the Ring of Fire region have been fraught with controversy and opposition, as First Nation communities assert jurisdiction over traditional territory and raise concerns about the use of land and risk of water contamination.

The move to open up development of the remote area comes as the government also seeks to slash the budget for Indigenous Affairs — which promotes collaboration and coordination in policy and programs across ministries in partnership with First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities — from $146 million last year to just $74.4 million.

Part of the decrease is due to the loss of one-time funding investments, and things like land claim settlements that are not tied to the base budget.

Seven pages of Ford’s first budget laid out extensive plans to “unleash the potential of Ontario’s forest industry” in the north of the province, but lacked any significant details as to the economic and environmental costs of the projects.

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