The Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.
MPP Michael Gravelle has a new job in the minority Liberal provincial government. The Thunder Bay-Superior North member has been named minster of Natural Resources, a shift announced as part of a cabinet shuffle on Thursday.
Gravelle steps in to the role from his previous post as minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry. He’ll retain his forestry-related duties in the new job, while Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci takes over Northern Development and Mines.
“Natural resources is a very important ministry in our government, and certainly to people in Northern Ontario,” Gravelle said in an interview Thursday. “And the fact that we have our forestry portfolio added to that ministry once again, I think, is also very, very exciting.”
Moving the mining portfolio, however, pulls Gravelle away from development of the Ring of Fire, a potentially massive chromite deposit on traditional First Nations territory in the James Bay lowlands. “It’s nice for those people that hold these portfolios to be familiar with the North,” said Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy.
“But for First Nation people, we still have difficulty in regards to consultation and accommodation, because we do have treaties,’’ Beardy said Thursday.
“The Aboriginal treaty rights are recognized in the Canadian Constitution, and what we expect then is, in order to have certainty to continue to access the raw products to create wealth, is that the Aboriginal treaty rights must be respected.
“We have to be consulted, and we have to be accommodated.”
NAN is a political organization that represents and advocates for 49 Northern First Nation communities. Meanwhile, the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA) said it aims to build on its current relationship with the provincial Liberals.
“NOMA has worked hard to develop a constructive relationship with the Liberal government over the past eight years,” NOMA president Ron Nelson said.
“We are eager to work with Minister Bartolucci to quickly move forward with the implementation of the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario that was started by Minister Gravelle.
“We trust that an announcement regarding the next stage of development of the Northern Policy Institute will be forthcoming to ensure that policies for the North are based on research conducted in the North under the supervision of Northerners,” Nelson said.
“We also look forward to continuing to work with Minister Gravelle on important matters related to forest management and endangered species.”