Ottawa’s interim plan to regulate large resource projects causing confusion for Ring of Fire stakeholders – by Niall McGee (Globe and Mail – October 27, 2023)

The federal government’s plan to continue to regulate major resource projects despite a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that says those powers are largely unconstitutional is creating confusion and uncertainty in Ontario’s Ring of Fire. A significant Indigenous stakeholder is making a plea for regulatory certainty, while a major mining company is warning that Canada’s weak standing on the global critical-minerals stage will only get worse.

The Supreme Court said earlier this month that the federal government’s broad-based environmental reviews around large mines and major infrastructure associated with those mines are unconstitutional. Ottawa must limit its oversight to certain defined areas clearly defined in the Constitution, the court said, such as fisheries, the bird population, species at risk and certain Indigenous rights.

The decision means that the provinces and territories have primary jurisdiction over regulating mining projects. Since the ruling from the Supreme Court was in a reference case, one in which a province asked for an opinion, it is non-binding, but governments historically take such rulings seriously.

This week the federal government reiterated that because of the ruling, it intends to introduce legislation to change the 2019 Impact Assessment Act that will limit its oversight over resource projects. But Ottawa has not provided details on when that will happen and what the new regime will look like.

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