Thursday, April 24, 2014

Wynne optimistic on ‘Ring of Fire’

OTTAWA—Premier Kathleen Wynne emerged from a meeting with Stephen Harper satisfied that she has the prime minister’s ear on a massive mineral development in Northern Ontario.
“I’m more optimistic than I was before I went in to the meeting that we’ll be able to work together,” Wynne told The Canadian Press in a brief interview late yesterday.

The Liberal premier repeatedly has expressed frustration with what she termed a lack of engagement by a federal Conservative government that has strongly supported resource developments elsewhere in Canada—particularly Alberta’s oilsands.
But with a mineral-rich area in remote Northwestern Ontario known as the “Ring of Fire” facing its own infrastructure challenges, the Ontario government has been trying to force a commitment from the feds.
“This is a project of national interest in the same way that there have been projects in Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador that are projects of national interest,” Wynne told reporters just prior to her meeting with the prime minister.
“We’re looking for engagement.”
Relations weren’t helped when Wynne delivered a letter to Harper on Nov. 6 that listed up to $2.25 billion in transportation and industrial infrastructure needed in the remote region some 500 km northeast of Thunder Bay.
“We expect your government to come to the table with matching funds,” the premier’s letter flatly asserted.
Greg Rickford, the Northern Ontario Conservative MP Harper has tagged with shepherding the “Ring of Fire,” complained yesterday that Wynne’s letter was the first the federal government had heard of a proposed development corporation to build infrastructure.
“I’m confident that today’s meeting will reflect a willingness to be more collaborative,” Rickford said before the tete-a-tete.
Much of the difficulty has been over debate about whether a dedicated resource railway into the wilderness is the best option or a road that also would help connect a number of isolated First Nations’ communities in the “Ring of Fire.”
Ensuring a power grid to serve both industry and those communities also is part of the costly equation.

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