THUNDER BAY, ON --- June 11, 2010 --- The Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce supports the counter-proposal offered by the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) today regarding the Ontario Hearings on Bill 191 dealing with the Far North Act.
“Given the incredible impact of this Act on future development of the North, we were very surprised to learn of the hastily proposed dates for hearings which followed its equally hasty movement through second reading”, stated Harold Wilson, President of the Chamber of Commerce.
“Our Chamber was successful in having our resolution requesting the immediate withdrawal of the Far North Act adopted as policy by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce at their AGM last month. Our Resolution referenced NAN’s resolution of July, 2009 requesting Bill 191’s immediate withdrawal. It is very surprising that when the latest consultation dates were announced, it was done without consultation,” concluded Wilson.
The Chamber of Commerce asks that the government provide NAN with dates that work for all parties.
The Chamber has also learned recently through the media that the Minister of Natural Resources Linda Jeffrey is also interested in discussing the Act with our organization, and we welcome her staff contacting us directly about an opportunity to do so, in response to Chamber resolutions which have been previously forwarded to the Ministry.
The Far North Act, initiated by the Provincial Government to set aside “at least 225,000 square kilometres of the Far North in an interconnected network of protected areas” which represents 50% of the land under review, has been the subject of numerous requests to have the Act withdrawn before it moves to second reading, likely in the Spring of 2010, as it will detract and delay effective development of the region.
(Map identifying the Area under consideration for preserving 50% of the Far North, greater than 225,000 sq. km.
Source: MNR Website)
The Far North Act (Bill 191) was first presented in July, 2008.
The arbitrariness of setting aside 50% of the land north of the undertaking, without identifying which 50%, creates considerable uncertainty over all of the territory, and then embarking on a multi-decade planning process is also detrimental to strategic development of the region. Business investment and addressing new opportunities is hindered by uncertainty. As it is currently written, the Act has the potential to paralyze future developments in Ontario’s far north. These investments are coming at a time when the Provincial Government should be welcoming opportunities for new revenue generation.
In a News Release July 22, 2009, Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy, announced that “Chiefs across Nishnawbe Aski are calling on the Government of Ontario to immediately withdraw Bill 191.” Grand Chief Stan Beardy continued “This legislation will set aside 225,000 square kilometres as a protected area within our homelands without our consultation, accommodation or consent and will lock down the land to prevent First Nations, the poorest people of Canada, from achieving economic independence by preventing the development needed to build our communities and strengthen the Ontario economy”. A rally against the Act was held August 6.
The Act was imposed, not the result of consultations and recommendations coming from the North during the lengthy Northern Growth Plan consultations. It was requested by Municipal leaders and the Northwestern Ontario Associated Chambers of Commerce that reference to the Far North Act be removed from the Proposed Growth Plan for Northern Ontario.
A recent Fraser Institute study showed that Ontario was falling in our ranking on mining investment. There is a lot of competition for mining dollars throughout the world, and unless there are clear rules that are well-founded and implemented, the Province is not going to fully realize that investment.
In the 2010 Provincial Speech from the Throne delivered March 8, the Government referred specifically to the region known as the “”Ring of Fire”, “said to contain one of the largest chromite deposits in the world, a key ingredient in stainless steel. There is no substitute for chromite. There is no North American producer of chromite. It's the most promising mining opportunity in Canada in a century.” It immediately followed up with “Together, we will create Ontario jobs and support northern families as we continue to protect 50 per cent of the northern Boreal Forest.”
This continued framing of potential development within the Far North Act, which has yet to be passed, is not supporting investment.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce urges the Government of Ontario to:
1. Withdraw the Far North Act immediately; and
2. Set up a process through the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines & Forestry to consider how to address the issues of enhanced planning and sustainability without the arbitrary removal of 50% of the land base.