OTTAWA – Premier Kathleen Wynne is warning fly-in First Nations in Northern Ontario they must quickly agree on the construction of a road into their region – one that would also serve mining interests in the so-called Ring of Fire – or she will negotiate unilaterally with those communities that want the project.
It has been three years since the Ontario government said it would spend up to $1-billion to create an all-season road that would make development possible in the massive cache of chromite and other minerals as it connects to some reserves that are not currently accessible by car.
But little progress has been made, in part because the First Nations do not agree among themselves on how to proceed and are concerned about losing jurisdictional rights in the process. Negotiations with provincial officials have not always been productive.
Last week, Ms. Wynne held a tense meeting at Queen’s Park with chiefs of the nine Matawa First Nations, five of which are fly-in reserves, to tell them that her patience is running out and she cannot guarantee the money will stay on the table if decisions are not made quickly. It was conspicuously missing from the Ontario budget in April.
She also told the chiefs that, if they could not come to a consensus on the road’s construction, she would work one-on-one with those communities that are prepared to move forward. On Wednesday of this week, the Premier wrote to the chiefs to reiterate her position.
“My government announced $1-[billion] to support infrastructure into the Ring of Fire three years ago and if we are going to deliver on that we can delay no further,” Ms. Wynne said in the letter, which was obtained by The Globe and Mail.
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