Prime Minister Justin Trudeau poses for a photo with aboriginal youth dancers at a barbecue at the Liberal cabinet retreat in Sudbury, Ont., on Aug. 22, 2016. (Photo: Nathan Denette/CP)Trudeau pointed the finger at the previous Conservative government.
The Ontario Liberals promised to spend $1 billion on infrastructure in the area, and asked for the same pledge from the federal Conservatives in 2014, only to be turned down. The money would help pay for a costly road to finally connect mining sites deep in the boreal forest to highways farther to the south. Briefing material for Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, says the province has been told repeatedly that "transportation infrastructure for the Ring of Fire region should be supported by the private sector interests involved in the project." In March 2015, the federal government gave $393,814 to a road study, but that report has yet to be submitted to Infrastructure Canada. The CBC reported the study concluded that there needs to be more study. In the meantime, one of the mining companies in the region, KWG Resources Inc., announced this week it is partnering with a Chinese company to study the possibility of building railroad access to the Ring of Fire. THE EXPERTS Mining is an area of provincial jurisdiction, leaving the federal government with little room to help on that front, said David Robinson, an associate professor of economics at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont. What the previous government could have done was help build relationships between companies and the First Nations in the region, but the Conservatives themselves had a "crummy" relationship with aboriginals, further constricting their capacity to help. The previous federal government was not really involved in the region, said Chief Bruce Achneepineskum from Marten Falls First Nation, whose traditional lands include the Ring of Fire. Achneepineskum said the province has not been overly helpful either, citing ongoing concerns from the band council that it doesn't have enough funding to help it pay for things like business planning and company background checks required before signing agreements with mining companies.   Federal infrastructure money can't flow to the region without a specific funding request from the provincial government, and so far the Ontario Liberals haven't filed the necessary paperwork: Infrastructure Canada said it has yet to receive any applications for projects in the Ring of Fire, and the provincial auditor general criticized the Ontario Liberals for failing to apply for funding. Laure Paquette, an associate professor in the department of political science at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., said companies can't push ahead with mining operations until they have a way to get their metals to market, and the federal and provincial governments have continually pointed the finger at each other over why no road has been built. "It's sort of like the Chip 'n Dale, 'You first,' 'No, no, you first,' 'No, no, please, you go first.'" Complicating matters is the fact that there aren't many votes to be had in the region for either government, with more seats — and infrastructure like highways to fund — around southern Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area, Paquette said. THE VERDICT The previous Conservative government didn't do as much as people in the area would have liked, but did more than what Trudeau suggested, landing his statement firmly in the category of "some baloney" — the statement is partly accurate but important details are missing. Will things change with the Liberals in power in Ottawa? Trudeau said the federal Liberals "look forward to being positive partners on resource development" and "continue to look forward for opportunities to invest in the kinds of things that are going to bring jobs" to the region. Robinson said the Liberals are stuck in the same situation as the Tories. "The current government claims to be more activist. It still is in the situation where (mining) is a provincial jurisdiction and they're talking about infrastructure projects, but they don't actually have a plan as nearly as I can tell" for the area, Robinson said. METHODOLOGY The Baloney Meter is a project of The Canadian Press that examines the level of accuracy in statements made by politicians. Each claim is researched and assigned a rating based on the following scale:
No baloney — the statement is completely accurate A little baloney — the statement is mostly accurate but more information is required Some baloney — the statement is partly accurate but important details are missing A lot of baloney — the statement is mostly inaccurate but contains elements of truth Full of baloney — the statement is completely inaccurate SOURCES
"Clement walking on eggshells as he takes on Ring of Fire responsibilities" By Heather Scoffield, Canadian Press. Feb. 19, 2013.
Ontario Ring of Fire Secretariat
Ontario auditor general 2015 annual report, chapter 3, Mines and Minerals program.
"After 10 years, Ring of Fire remains just a smoking dream." By Matt Sookram, BayToday.ca.
"China to carry out Ring of Fire railway study." By Keith Barrow, International Railway Journal.
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