POLITICS

Kathleen Wynne, Stephen Harper, meet to talk Ring of Fire

12/05/2013 01:59 EST | Updated 02/04/2014 05:59 EST
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is on Parliament Hill to meet Prime Minister Stephen Harper, just after the Conservative majority on a House of Commons committee shot down an NDP proposal to have Ontario provincial officials appear to testify about the Ring of Fire resource development. 

The Ring of Fire is a development in northern Ontario that could be worth billions to the province. 

NDP MP Claude Gravelle introduced a motion on Wednesday calling on the House of Commons natural resources committee to "invite the government of Ontario on its Ring of Fire initiative with a view to understanding their specific policy concerns and to determine federal policy actions that would help move this multibillion-dollar project forward."

The committee went behind closed doors to assess Gravelle's motion on hearing from Ontario officials about federal help in developing the Ring of Fire, but sources tell the Canadian Press the government majority voted down the motion.

The Opposition New Democrats have been pushing to end what they describe as the government's "abuse" of secrecy in committee meetings. MPs are not allowed to disclose publicly what unfolds once the meeting goes in-camera or behind closed doors.

Members of the committee that were present on Wednesday were:

- Conservatives Mike Allen, Leon Benoit, Kelly Block, Joan Crockatt, Ryan Leef, Brad Trost, and Bob Zimmer.

- New Democrats Linda Duncan, Peter Julian and Gravelle.

- Liberal Geoff Regan. 

The motion was voted down just as Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was Ottawa on Thursday to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss the federal government's involvement in the Ring of Fire, a stalled mining project worth an estimated $60 billion.​

Wynne is hoping to convince the prime minister to match the costs associated with developing the project, which has been in limbo since Cliffs Natural Resources, a major U.S. mining company, decided to suspend its operations in the area last month.

The Ontario government has estimated the total capital investment for infrastructure in the range of $800 million to $1 billion, with the estimated costs of connecting the Ring of Fire communities to all-season access roads at $1.25 billion.

Wynne is also expected to discuss the issue of pension reform with Harper, another topic that has caused considerable tension between the province and Ottawa.

Ontario has said it will create a provincial retirement income plan if it can't convince Ottawa and the other provinces to enhance the Canada Pension Plan.

Provincial finance ministers will be meeting with federal finance minister Jim Flaherty to discuss the issue of pension reform at Meech Lake on Dec. 15 and 16.