Minister Tony Clement pledges support to industry at CIM 2013 Convention plenary address

Tony Celement

Hon. Tony Clement, president of the Treasury Board and minister for the Federal Economic Initiative for Northern Ontario (FedNor), pledged his support in developing the Ring of Fire in an opening address at the CIM 2013 Convention plenary, held Monday May 6 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Minister Clement also saluted the industry for its contributions to the nation.

“We know as a government how much this sector contributes both to the strength of our economy and to the quality of our lives,” he said, citing that 20 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product comes from oil, gas and mining. “It is not exaggeration to say that your success is critical to the future success of our nation.” Clement pointed out that the natural resource sector supports 1.6 million jobs in Canada, offering workers highly competitive wages, which average at $1,900 per week. “These are the kinds of jobs that Canada can be proud of and the kinds of jobs we should continue to encourage,” he added. “It continues to our long-term growth and prosperity.”

The minister announced government would stand behind industry in establishing environmentally and socially responsible approaches to developing projects in northern Ontario. “We understand that we need to get things right,” he said. “The right fundamentals, the right policies and the right regulations. And this is precisely what our government is doing.”

According to Clement, the government has already taken actions to support the sector. “We continue to lower taxes, to cut red tape and to promote free trade,” he said. But, he emphasized that more must be done to maximize the incredible development opportunities offered by the 30 to 50 billion dollars worth of mineral resources discovered in the 5,000 square kilometers surrounding James Bay.  The minister explains a focus on three key areas -- governance, environmental protection and consultation with First Nations -- will be his priority in the months and years to come.

The government has introduced a new approach to governance, “Responsible Resource Development,” which provides clear and predictable rules for development and establishes environmental protection as a must-have. “Economic development and environmental responsibility can occur simultaneously,” said Clement.

He also highlighted the importance of engaging with First Nations communities. “This is not just a legal requirement,” he said. “Before we move forward and realize the potential [of the deposits in the Ring of Fire] we must understand that the region’s marshy wetlands have been home to the First Nations for thousands of years. It is incumbent upon the mining sector to understand those circumstances and to continue to engage those communities and be able to appreciate their perspective.”

Clement recognized the industry’s work to foster responsible development and open dialogue, and announced government support in surmounting challenges. “It is a complex undertaking,” he said. “There are many stakeholders and there are many challenges to overcome, including infrastructure and environmental considerations. This is not new to an industry that has had the ingenuity and the perseverance to develop complex projects in the most challenging environments.” The minister, who is tasked with coordinating and leading federal engagement in the development of the Ring of Fire and addressing the development challenges, has taken first steps to support the engagement process by meeting with representatives of the Matawa First Nations near Thunder Bay to open dialogue around development.

“There is a lot at stake and we cannot let this opportunity pass us by,” he said. “I look forward to working with all of you so that we can continue our common mission to create wealth, to create jobs, and growth for our economy that is the foundation of Canada’s long-term prosperity.”