Airport/port authority possible for Ring of Fire – by Rick Garrick (Wawatay News – July 25, 2014)

A former deputy minister of Transport Canada recently recommended an airport/port transportation authority model for the Ring of Fire mineral development area.

“It would be at arms length from the government, it would have its own fiduciary financial responsibilities and management responsibilities,” said Nick Mulder, author of the Northern Policy Institute commentary: The Airport/Port Transportation Authority Model Is It Applicable for Ontario’s Ring of Fire Mineral Development. “It would decide on the chair and the management team, it would finalize the plans for the road and railroad or whatever else is needed. It would finalize all the funding with the mining companies and transportation companies and private sector interests, pension funds, whatever.”

Mulder described his recommendation during his July 8 Northern Policy Institute speaker’s breakfast at the Valhalla Inn in Thunder Bay, where he indicated the Ring of Fire infrastructure authority would not be involved in the social and economic infrastructure needs of the First Nation communities in northern Ontario.

“Those 40 or whatever number of communities there are have their own special needs,” Mulder said. “It isn’t up to a business-driven or market-driven kind of entity that I am recommending — they should decide on what kind of water or sewer or other kind of systems they need or local roads in the community or so on.”

Mulder said some of the monies required to finance the Ring of Fire road or railroad could come from the provincial government, but the majority should be raised in the marketplace or through the mining companies.

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Governance Options for the Ring of Fire – by Nick Mulder (Northern Policy Institute – July 16, 2014)

Many questions abound when it comes to the issue of mineral development in the Ring of Fire (RoF) region of Northern Ontario. These questions – which are top of mind for many in industry, government, academia – include concerns about who will pay for the necessary infrastructure and how it will be organized, planned, managed and implemented. All big issues. In a paper I recently wrote for the Northern Policy Institute on the topic, I suggest a properly-designed transportation Authority model could be more effective than a traditional Crown corporation to meet the infrastructure needs in the RoF.

The Authority model would maintain the same core elements as formulated in federal Airport/Port Authorities, but would obviously need to be tailored to fit the unique challenges of RoF development. An effective model would place the onus and risks on all the stakeholders and not just the provincial government and taxpayers, while maintaining elements of independence, inclusiveness, risk sharing, market-driven, political independence and legislated legally-binding powers.

Let’s step back for a minute. The Ring of Fire consists of an area in the northern part of the province near the Attawapiskat River, where large high-grade deposits of chromite, nickel, copper and other minerals have been discovered, currently valued from $60 to $100 billion dollars that can be mined over many decades.

The mineral resources in the area are remote and difficult to access with many conflicting and competing interests and costly infrastructure requirements. Stakeholders include nine First Nations in the region, various mining companies and the provincial and federal governments, making infrastructure needs – such as railway, road, power, pipeline and/or air facilities – a complex arrangement.

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[Ontario Northland] ONTC workers still wondering about their future – by Jennifer Hamilton-McCharles (North Bay Nugget – July 8, 2014)

While Ontera comes to grips with the news Tuesday that they will lose half of their workforce once the sale is completed with Bell Aliant, Ontario Northland Transportation Commission employees are left wondering about their fate.

Brian Kelly, spokesman for the General Chairperson’s Association, said the government hasn’t been clear about the future of the ONTC.

“Are we going to form a strategic alliance with Metrolinx? Are we going to be part of the Ring of Fire development? There’s just a lot of uncertainty right now,” he said. Kelly said the future of the ONTC remains up in the air.

“The government has given us no indication what the plan is,” he said. “The work in the shops is slowly drying up. The contracts should be completed by the end of the year and then there will be very little work in refurbishment,” he said.

“It’s nice the government is not selling the ONTC, but employees want to know ‘what’s the rest of the story?’” The Liberal government announced in 2012 the divestment of the ONTC, however they have since changed their position and decided to leave the majority of the corporation in public hands.

ONTC’s telecommunications division, Ontera, is scheduled to be sold to Bell Aliant by the end of the summer. The transition will mean the loss of about 66 jobs.

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