Ontario Chamber of Commerce Far North Act Submission to the Minister of Natural Resources Linda Jeffrey

This submission was signed by Len Crispino, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce on September 10, 2010.

Certainly, the “Ring of Fire” project will foster considerable long-term economic growth for Ontario as a whole and Northern Ontario in particular. It is fair to say that such a project may have never been discovered had the [Far North] Act already been in place years ago, because the land use planning process may have delayed, or even ultimately stopped the Ring of Fire opportunity from ever being discovered and/or explored. – Len Crispino, President and CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

Dear Minister:

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) is a federation of 160 local chambers of commerce and boards of trade in the Province of Ontario, representing 60,000 businesses of all sizes, in all economic sectors and from every area of the province. The OCC’s madate is to advocate strong policies on issues that affect its membership throughout Ontario’s business community.

The OCC welcomes legislation which provides for economic renewal and opportunity and ensures a competitive business climate in Ontario.

While addressing economic renewal, the OCC wishes to provide input on Bill 191. The Far North Act is currently in the Standing Committee for General Government for review and nearing Third Reading.

The Government of Ontario has annouced that Bill 191 will set aside at least 225,000 square kilometers of the far north in an interconnected network of protected areas, by means of community based land use planning. This Act states that it aims to provide for community based land use planning in the Far North that directly involves First Nations in the planning and that supports the environmental, social and economic objectives for land use planning for the people of Ontario located there.

The OCC is strongly supportive of environmental protection.

We, however, have concerns that the Act could delay or prevent effective development of the region. The Act has the potential to paralyze future developments in Ontario’s far north, and hinder new opportunities for economic development that could lead to future growth opportunities and economic renewal for Ontario.

At the 2010 OCC Annual General Meeting, our membership voted unanimously to support a policy position which requests the withdrawal of Bill 191. Our members voted that in its place, the Ontario government instead develop a process through the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines & Forestry to consider how to address the issues of enhanced planning and sustainability without the removal of the prescribed 50 percent of the land base.

The Act, in short, will prevent investors in mineral exploration and mining from being able to pursue economic opportunities in those northern areas.

First, setting aside 50 percent of the land north of the undertaking, without specifically identifying which 50 percent, creates considerable uncertainty over all of the territory. This does not allow business to know where there is opportunity to responsibly explore and invest.

Second, these selected northern regions will see the undertaking of community land-use planning as proposed by the Act. Undergoing this planning process is also detrimental to strategic development of the region because it creates further regulatory burdens on business when seeking opportunities in mineral exploration and mining in the north. That is, Bill 191 will enshrine into law where there is no community-based land use plan in place for a designated area, then no one will be allowed to undertake any new mining, gas and oil developments in that designated area.

So, the land-use planning process within any given area will need to be undertaken prior to a decision even being made to undergo various exploration opportunities. This can take a significant amount of time and prevent immediate investment and possible economic opportunities.

Take, for example, the “Ring of Fire,” which contains one of the largest chromite deposits in the world,  a key ingredient in stainless steel, and is possibly the most promising mineral exploration opportunity in Canada in a century. The value of chromite mineral located in the McFaulds Lake “Ring of Fire” could be worth a reported $20 billion to $30 billion.

Certainly, the “Ring of Fire” project will foster considerable long-term economic growth for Ontario as a whole and Northern Ontario in particular. It is fair to say that such a project may have never been discovered had the Act already been in place years ago, because the land use planning process may have delayed, or even ultimately stopped the Ring of Fire opportunity from ever being discovered and/or explored.

Therefore, the OCC urges the Government of Ontario to consider our thoughts and not send the bill immediately to Third Reading. Rather, the OCC urges the Government of Ontario to continue to consult broadly and without haste, and strongly consider the economic interests of all stakeholders – such as business and the First Nation communities – in the process.

Thank-you for taking the time to consider our recomendations. Your staff may contact Stuart Johnson, Vice President Policy and Government Relations at 416-482-5222 ext. 232 or stuartjohnston@occ.on.ca, if you have any questions or would like to arrange a meeting.

Yours sincerely,

Len Crispino

President & CEO

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