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When Bob Rae’s job as interim Leader of the federal Liberal party ends next month, chiefs in Northern Ontario say they expect him to be their voice at the negotiating tables when first nations and governments decide how to proceed on the potentially massive Ring of Fire development.
The native leaders were in Toronto on Wednesday to talk about the resource project with Premier Kathleen Wynne.
They asked Ms. Wynne to join them in launching community-driven talks about the exploration and exploitation of minerals, including chromite, nickle and copper, that have been found in the region west of James Bay – an enterprise that could last decades, creating thousands of jobs and huge wealth for the province.
“As nine first nations, at a regional level, we will appoint one senior negotiator who will report directly to our chiefs’ council,” the chiefs told Ms. Wynne in a statement prepared in advance of the meeting. “Subject to final arrangements and his acceptance, we plan to appoint Bob Rae to this position. We are asking you to appoint your own senior negotiator who will report directly to cabinet.”
Mr. Rae refused to discuss the matter on Wednesday.
If he took the job, he would not necessarily have to step down as a Member of Parliament. Conflict rules state that an MP is allowed to carry on his or her “occupation” while working as a federal politician. If an MP is a lawyer, as is the case with Mr. Rae, he or she is not permitted to take a job that is paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Government of Canada. In this instance the funding for the process has not yet been established.
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