Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.
Bumps in the road regarding the Ring of Fire mining belt are not a sign the project is hitting a dead-end, says newly-minted FedNor Minister Greg Rickford.
Rickford, who spent his first day Tuesday as the head of FedNor as well as Science and Technology minister poring through background material, is also the federal government’s new point-man for the Ring of Fire file.
He said recent events like Ring of Fire proponent Cliffs Natural Resources airing its frustration over the environmental approval process are normal. “So I don’t see the project as stalling, it’s just one of the necessary movements that are going to take place,” said Rickford. “It also reminds us that this is a very complex file.”
Rickford (Kenora) said that while he plans to bring a “fresh perspective” to FedNor, he said the program was well-served by his predecessor, Industry Canada Minister Tony Clement.
Critics, like NDP MP John Rafferty, said FedNor wasn’t a high priority for Clement, who was also saddled with being Treasury Board president.
Since Clement oversaw the agency since 2006, FedNor has made its presence known in Thunder Bay.
Last year, the program provided $4 million to help purchase a cyclotron machine for the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute to produce radioisotopes, on top of the $14.7 million it kicked in for TBRRI in 2007.
FedNor’s overall budget for 2013-2014 is just under $54 million.
Rickford’s new ministry, Science and Technology, will continue to be relevant research-wise to Northern Ontario’s evolving mining and forestry sectors, he said.
Rickford said he’s up to the job. Though he’s a lawyer and MBA graduate, not a scientist or a technician, he also holds a bachelor of science degree in regard to nursing.
Rickford, 45, who was first elected as an MP in 2008, emphasized that he is now retired from nursing. But he said he benefited greatly from the experience of working in some of Northwestern Ontario’s remote First Nations.
Like his provincial counterpart, Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle, Rickford said development in the Ring of Fire must be a “collaborative” process between First Nations, governments and industry interests.
Following Rickford’s appointment to cabinet Monday, Gravelle said he looked forward to working with Rickford on the Ring of Fire file.