Kenora MP Greg Rickford, Minister of Science and Technology, with responsibilities for the Ring of Fire, was in Greater Sudbury last week to discuss resource development in Northern Ontario.
As reported in the Northern Life, Rickford urged business and industry partners, civic leaders and others to engage in “the politics of collaboration.”
This change of tone should be welcomed by Northern Ontarians who, for too long now, have seen the dreams of economic prosperity through sustainable resource development in Ontario’s north jeopardized by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.
Rather than working with environmental and First Nations stakeholders, the Conservative government has done what it can to frustrate stakeholders through a flawed environmental assessment process.
Instead of working collaboratively to find the best way forward, parties have found themselves in front of the courts, arguing about the process itself.
In March, costs were awarded to First Nations groups as a result of motions filed by the government which led to “unnecessary delays” in the judicial review proceedings. Clearly, this type of obstructive legal bullying isn’t going to mend fences and move the Ring of Fire project forward.
There is far too much at stake for Northern Ontario for this kind of bickering. The Ring of Fire represents an investment of billions of dollars in our economy, and could create thousands of jobs. However, we have only one opportunity to lay a solid groundwork for how future development will proceed.
Sustainability must be front and centre for resource development. Sustainability implies meaningful consultation — something which hasn’t been happening up until now.
With development impacts on our natural environment leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions, and with significant mining activity taking place within the traditional territory of First Nations, it just boggles the mind why the federal government has chosen confrontation over consultation.
Perhaps Rickford’s “new kind of politics” signifies the Conservatives realize their historic approach to run roughshod over environmentalists and First Nations communities hasn’t worked.
Northerners certainly hope Rickford backs his words up with solid actions that include consultation and collaboration.
Ultimately, the sustainable development of the Ring of Fire’s mineral resources needs to be the goal, so all Ontarians and, indeed, all Canadians can benefit.