Erin Michael O’Toole is the MP for Durham and served as minister of Veterans Affairs. He is a retired Royal Canadian Air Force officer, lawyer and candidate for Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.
The Ring of Fire has been heralded as not only a world-class deposit of chromite but also the only known deposit in the entire western hemisphere. Currently, all of North America’s stainless steel manufacturing is supplied by Asian and African sources. Canada has a unique opportunity to become a global leader in chromite mining and potentially revitalize manufacturing with proudly Canadian minerals.
According to a recent study by the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, the current projected value of the Ring of Fire is more than $60 billion with known deposits significant enough to sustain a century of mineral development. Yet, after more than a decade of mineral exploration activity and findings of rich resources, no infrastructure has been developed.
The Wynne government recognized this potential enough to request $1 billion in infrastructure funding from the Government of Canada in 2014. But in the three years since, they have never provided the necessary plan to secure the funding. The Wynne and Trudeau governments have since allowed the Ring of Fire to all but go up in smoke.
My federal Conservative government will make the opportunities of the Ring of Fire a national priority by declaring chromite a nationally significant resource and the development of the Ring of Fire as a project of national significance.
This is in keeping with how the Athabasca oil sands were developed. It took extensive government and industry cooperation, and a true vision for the economic future of the Athabasca region for development to take off. Similarly, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney advanced development in the Hibernia oil field using the Canada Development Investment Corporation. This was one of a series of regional mega-projects Mulroney advanced across Canada. That same dedication, cooperation and vision is needed now in the Ring of Fire.
An O’Toole federal government will work with Indigenous communities, industry and scientists to streamline approvals for the transportation corridor. By increasing access to the region, mineral exploration companies can focus their scarce resources on what matters most: putting shovels in the ground and creating more jobs for northerners.
A transportation corridor is urgently needed to allow for more cost-effective exploration in the Ring of Fire, which will welcome more investment into Indigenous communities and the many Northern Ontario municipalities that sought to host the smelter as well as other associated infrastructure. Unfortunately, the Ontario government’s inability to negotiate terms for infrastructure and energy pricing meant that companies and Indigenous communities could not finalize their consultation efforts.
Those who live region must benefit from infrastructure construction, through jobs, training, economic opportunities for local business and, in some cases, an ownership or royalty interest. An O’Toole federal government will ensure that approvals guarantee that northern communities, particularly Indigenous communities, share in prosperity. To this end, I will work with Indigenous business leaders to develop and implement a National Indigenous Procurement Policy.
Once a transportation corridor is established, there is potential for expansion to include passenger travel for the remote Indigenous communities in the region. Connecting communities will improve access to health care, education, and reduce transportation costs for basic needs like groceries and fuel.
We will also prioritize connecting Indigenous communities to the electrical grid. Currently, most of the electricity in the region is provided through costly diesel generators with fuel often flown in at great expense. By connecting the remote communities to the grid, industry, Indigenous communities and the environment will benefit.
As Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, I will push for investments in the Ring of Fire and the economic development of Northern Ontario. By facilitating a transportation corridor, the opportunity of a century will not be squandered.
I know that I share this vision for a thriving Northern Ontarian economy with so many of you. It will take all of us to make it happen. I look forward to the opportunity to reignite the Ring of Fire and bring jobs back to the north alongside you.
For the original source of this column, click here: http://www.thesudburystar.com/2017/02/25/sudbury-column-time-to-reignite-ring-of-fire