Pro­gres­sive al­lies for big projects

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION - John Roe

It is in the best in­ter­est of Canada and all Cana­di­ans that this coun­try get its act to­gether and get its nat­u­ral re­sources to mar­ket more quickly. But don’t take our word for it. The na­tion’s two most left-of-cen­tre pro­vin­cial pre­miers — Ontario’s Kath­leen Wynne and Al­berta’s Rachel Not­ley — have thrown down the gaunt­let to the op­po­nents of two vi­tal nat­u­ral re­sources projects that are in dan­ger of be­ing stalled or stopped.

Both lead­ers agree th­ese projects can pro­ceed in a way that is sen­si­tive to the en­vi­ron­ment and the com­mu­ni­ties that will be im­pacted.

Both in­sist the projects will pro­vide a needed pick-me-up for Canada’s econ­omy, too.

Ear­lier this month, a clearly im­pa­tient Pre­mier Wynne told First Na­tions com­mu­ni­ties in North­ern Ontario she’s ready to aban­don joint talks with them over build­ing roads into the min­eral-rich Ring of Fire re­gion.

Her gov­ern­ment, she stated in no un­cer­tain terms, is com­mit­ted to open­ing the area to min­ing very soon.

Also ear­lier in May, Pre­mier Not­ley warned Bri­tish Columbia politi­cians against try­ing to stop the Trans Moun­tain pipe­line, which would carry Al­berta oil to the West Coast and on to in­ter­na­tional mar­kets.

What gives? Cana­di­ans are ac­cus­tomed to hear­ing Con­ser­va­tive politi­cians and busi­ness peo­ple ex­tol the ben­e­fits of such nat­u­ral re­source projects.

But Wynne and Not­ley are both ar­dent en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists who have cham­pi­oned con­tro­ver­sial green poli­cies.

Both lead­ers have also worked hard to forge stronger bonds with abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties in their prov­inces.

In ad­di­tion to th­ese bona fide pro­gres­sive cre­den­tials, how­ever, both Wynne and Not­ley re­al­ize get­ting th­ese nat­u­ral re­source projects up and run­ning would not only cre­ate jobs and strengthen the econ­omy, it would help fund the gov­ern­ment ser­vices we all need.

That’s why Wynne told the chiefs of nine Matawa First Na­tions in North­ern Ontario she will tol­er­ate no more de­lays in her plan to build a road — with $1 bil­lion in pro­vin­cial fund­ing — into the Ring of Fire re­gion. That’s a tough but timely mes­sage. The Ring of Fire is a min­ing area 500 kilo­me­tres north of Thun­der Bay that boasts one of the world’s rich­est de­posits of chromite — which is used in stain­less steel — as well as nickel, plat­inum and cop­per.

The de­posits are val­ued at any­where from $30 bil­lion to $60 bil­lion.

But de­lays in get­ting the high­way built into the area and in win­ning First Na­tions sup­port for the ini­tia­tive jeop­ar­dize ev­ery­thing. One com­pany al­ready pulled out be­cause of the de­lays.

Yet if the Ring of Fire were ever opened up, lo­cal First Na­tions would be among its prime eco­nomic ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

Mean­while in B.C., the pro­vin­cial New Democrats and Green Party both want to stop the Trans Moun­tain pipe­line from be­ing built in their prov­ince.

Given the un­cer­tain re­sults of the re­cent B.C. pro­vin­cial elec­tion, they may at the very least hold up pipe­line con­struc­tion, which was due to start later this year and has al­ready won the bless­ing of the fed­eral Trudeau Lib­er­als.

Wynne and Not­ley say th­ese ven­tures can be done prop­erly and should pro­ceed. Both make a strong case. Let’s hope they con­vince other pro­gres­sive minds.

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