Developing the Ring of Fire was a hot topic just before the leadership debate on northern Ontario issues began on May 26.
While the NDP and Liberal party leaders have both promised to invest more than $1 billion to develop infrastructure in the Ring of Fire, New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horwath announced Ring of Fire revenue sharing negotiation plans just prior to the leadership debate.
“I believe that we need to move on the Ring of Fire right away,” Horwath said during a morning media event at the Oliver Road Community Centre in Thunder Bay. “New Democrats are going to make sure that we are putting that Ring of Fire development front and centre. We’re also going to make sure that as we do that, as we open up that new deposit, the minerals there, the chromite, we are going to make sure that we are negotiating revenue sharing agreements with First Nations.”
Horwath announced the NDP platform, which includes $1 billion to develop infrastructure in the Ring of Fire, about two hours before the leadership debate with Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne in Thunder Bay. Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak did not attend the debate.
The NDP plans also called for getting First Nation communities off diesel power and connected to the grid, investments in forestry and mining, reinstating the Northlander passenger service, implementing a strong Buy Ontario policy to create jobs and exploring options for the Thunder Bay Generating Station.
“New Democrats have a plan that will cut ER wait times in half, take the HST off hydro, keep schools open and reward companies that invest and create jobs here in Ontario,” Horwath said. “It’s a plan that makes sense.”
Wynne announced the Liberal platform, which also includes $1 billion to develop infrastructure in the Ring of Fire, in Thunder Bay on May 25.
“The Liberal plan is a positive vision for Ontario that will create jobs by building the province up, not by tearing it down,” Wynne said. “We will make crucial investments in infrastructure, partner with businesses to create high-skill, high-paying jobs and help the people of Ontario retire with the dignity and security they deserve.”
The Liberals plan to re-introduce the 2014 budget if they are reelected, which includes a 10-year, $2.5 billion jobs and prosperity fund, a 10-year, $130 billion commitment to infrastructure projects, an Ontario retirement pension plan, a primary care guarantee, a $4-per-hour increase in personal support worker wages over the next three years, a $2 per hour increase in early childhood educator wages and better services for people with developmental disabilities.
Eabametoong’s Raymond Moonias, an at-large executive member with the NDP’s Thunder Bay—Superior North riding association, raised concerns about how development in the Ring of Fire would impact the environment.
“There is a philosophy not to rush into it, but to look at it more closely (to see) how it will affect the traditional territories of the families that live up there,” Moonias said. “What’s the best route to go about it.”
Moonias was encouraged by the job creation aspect of development in the Ring of Fire.
“Revenue sharing was another one that may appeal to the listener,” Moonias said. “One other thing is accountability and where is all the money going to be used, how is it going to be used.”
Moonias encouraged people to get out and vote, noting he enjoys being part of the NDP.
“I like to know more about what is going on, the issues and focusing on the polls itself where more northerners can come out and vote and make that difference,” Moonias said. “Voters have a lot to say; voters have power in how decisions are made.”
During Hudak’s May 26 election tour in southern Ontario, the PC leader called for a wage freeze on public sector pay.
“Private sector workers are facing higher hydro bills and taxes while working longer hours for stagnant pay,” Hudak said. “At the same time government workers have it better than ever, with 97,000 of them already making six figure salaries. That’s why I am going to freeze wages for all government workers. Starting with politicians. Starting with me.”
The wage freeze is a key component of the PC plan to balance the budget by 2016. The PC platform also includes the creation of one million jobs over eight years, reduction of government spending, a reduction of 100,000 government employees, a smaller cabinet, creation of chronic care centres of excellence, an increase in home-based care and raising the bar of education for students.
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