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An inquiry by any other name?

By: Sudbury Northern Life Staff

 | Dec 12, 2013 - 10:38 AM |
That those closest to the story are applauding it, suggests Ontario is serious about its decision to conduct a ministerial review of mining practices in the province.

Not three months ago, the loudest voices in this struggle were saying anything less than an inquiry simply wouldn’t dig deeply enough into the issue to address their concerns.

Those loud voices have been several and varied. Gerry Lougheed Jr. started a postcard campaign calling for an inquiry. The Liberal stalwart appeared with former Conservative MPP and mayor Jim Gordon in this newspaper to help spread the message.

The United Steelworkers Local 6500 wanted an inquiry. The MINES (Mining Inquiry Needs Everyone’s Support) Committee, a group formed in 2012 by members of the Fram and Chenier families along with others who wanted a mining inquiry, were dogged.

Their diligence landed meetings with cabinet ministers and Premier Kathleen Wynne.
They didn’t get the inquiry they wanted, but they insist what they got is something equally as good. Local 6500 president Rick Bertrand doesn’t waver when he says Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi is serious.

Naqvi will chair the review body, with USW as the vice-chair representing the labour side. The name of the vice-chair for industry has yet to released.

Although she won’t have an official voice at the table, Wendy Fram will be an observer, apparently free to speak her mind to the press about the proceedings. Fram’s son Jordan, 26, died alongside Jason Chenier, 35, in a run of muck at Vale’s Stobie Mine on June 8, 2011.

Fram hasn’t pulled punches in the past. She means it when she says she’s serious about improving safety for the men and women underground.

We agree that having the attention of those who work the gears of government is absolutely crucial, and if those people who have been fighting to get that attention all these months are confident — and they do seem confident — that this ministerial review is as good as an inquiry, then we take them at their word.

There is a fly in the ointment, though.

There is some risk that the Liberals could be defeated on their spring budget, triggering an election in Ontario. An election and its aftermath would certainly delay the process.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has already indicated her support for a probe of mining in the province, as has Sudbury riding Progressive Conservative candidate Paula Peroni. So, at the very least, there is some support among all parties for the process to go ahead.

That support is a good thing. Mining has inherent dangers and continual efforts to minimize those dangers for workers must be front and centre.

It’s been three decades since the last government review of mining industry practices and it’s about time for another.

Politics may delay it — hopefully, it won’t derail it.

Sudburians are tenacious and proponents of a mining review have demonstrated considerable resolve up to now as they’ve fought for this review. But, given the vagaries of provincial politics, they may have to prepare themselves to find even deeper reserves of determination.

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