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Premier Dalton McGuinty had a secret meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper this week to pitch for federal help in developing the mineral-rich Ring of Fire in northwestern Ontario.
McGuinty said he’s looking for aid on developing the arc of mining deposits — including chromite for stainless steel — in a project that could be Ontario’s equivalent of Alberta’s oilsands, resulting in billions of dollars in revenue.
“I think I piqued his real curiosity, if not his real interest, in developing the Ring of Fire,” the premier said of Harper, whom he met for an hour Tuesday in a downtown Toronto hotel. The meeting was not listed on McGuinty’s detailed daily itinerary.
The two men talked about the Ring of Fire “a great deal” with McGuinty noting Ontario needs help building roads, electricity lines and training local First Nations peoples for the thousands of jobs that would be available in mining and related fields.
“I impressed upon the prime minister we have a great natural resource in our own province, right here in our own backyard, that we need to develop together,” said McGuinty, whose cash-strapped government needs resource revenues to bolster its bottom line.
“This is a big project. We can’t do it on our own,” the premier told reporters in Woodbridge.
He asked Harper to consider ways the Ontario and federal governments could “partner together” in opening up the area northwest of Thunder Bay.
At Queen’s Park, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath stressed that McGuinty also needs to talk with native leaders.
“The Ring of Fire is an opportunity that we may not get the benefits of if the government’s not serious about talking to the other order of government in Canada and that would be First Nations,” said Horwath.
“Unfortunately, they continue not to talk to First Nations leaders about the Ring of Fire and the implications of the Ring of Fire on their traditional lands,” she said.
Deals with First Nations groups are yet to be hammered out as mining companies such as Cliffs Natural Resources of Cleveland look to develop what is North America’s only large-scale chromite deposit.
Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, who visited the Alberta oilsands this week, has warned high electricity prices in Ontario could mean the province will lose out on jobs smelting minerals from the Ring of Fire if miners ship it elsewhere for processing.
The Ring of Fire, named after a Johnny Cash song, also contains nickel, copper and platinum.
For the web version of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1183664–premier-dalton-mcguinty-seeks-harper-s-help-to-develop-ontario-s-ring-of-fire