Tony Clement announced he will be leading the charge for the federal government with the Ring of Fire development.
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THUNDER BAY -- Minister Tony Clement has taken on a new role as the federal government’s lead minister in the Ring of Fire development.
The Treasury Board president and minister of FedNor officially made the new responsibility public at a news conference Tuesday. Clement explained his new role will be to lead the government’s engagement on the massive mining development in the lower James Bay area and work with stakeholders.
He called the Ring of Fire development a Rubik’s cube that he plans to solve.
“I think the first thing to do is hear from stakeholders,” he said. “All hands have to be on deck. All orders of government have to be a part of the solution as well as working with the business community and stakeholders.”
He said it was important that the federal government was part of the process to find solutions to develop the Ring of Fire. Prime Minister Stephen Harper wanted to bring all the ministries, including Aboriginal Affairs and Environment, and put them all under one roof.
Clement will work with those departments as well as the provincial counterparts in moving the project forward.
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He said he has already been in contact with recently appointed Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle.
Clement plans to meet with First Nation leaders on Wednesday.
“It’s a huge project,” he said. “It has a number of different facets to it; whether it is local Aboriginal populations or the environmental issues. The scope needed to get these types of projects off the ground we’re talking about large numbers.
“At the same time, the potential to transform Northwestern Ontario is historic in its proportions. Let’s make sure to get it done but let’s make sure it is done right.”
He added that the prime minister’s appointment of him in the new role shows that the Ring of Fire development is a high priority for the government.
Last week, John Duncan announced he was stepping down as Aboriginal Affairs minister. James Moore stepped in as the acting minister.
Glenn Nolan, vice-president of aboriginal affairs for Noront Resources, said having a minister appointed to the Ring of Fire shows just how important the project is for not only the province’s and First Nation community’s prosperity but also for the country.
Nolan described the federal government’s role as a broker for providing funding and giving Aboriginals training and opportunities to participate in the development.
“(Clement) isn’t a true northern but he’s close enough,” Nolan said. “I think he understands the issues that many First Nation communities and communities in Northern Ontario face. I think what we have is a minister who has that access to other MPs. I think he’s able to bring together the understanding of what northerners really want.”
John Mason, project manager for mining service with Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission, called it a significant move to have Clement as the lead minister for the project.
He said he’s excited by the announcement and hoped Clement would be working with the Ring of Fire secretariat at the provincial level.
Mason believes that having Clement onboard could mean federal dollars could flow more easily into infrastructure, energy and transportation projects.
“Minister Clement brings a lot to the table,” he said.
“The word collaboration was used today. It can be an overused term but I don’t think it was overused today in the context of working together with all the stakeholders. That’s a significant challenge. There’s a lot of work to be done yet at all levels of government.”
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