THUNDER BAY -- Nothing has happened in the Ring of Fire in nearly a decade and nothing will until the federal and provincial governments manage and make decisions with First Nations.
That’s according Howard Hampton, former Ontario NDP leader and current paid adviser on the Ring of Fire for the federal New Democratic Party.
Hampton, during an interview with tbnewswatch.com Thursday, said both levels of government have completely missed what First Nations have been saying all along, that all three need to co-manage the development and make decisions together.
"We've had about eight year about press releases about the Ring of Fire," Hampton said in Thunder Bay Thursday after returning from a trip to several Matawa communities.
"But if you look at the situation not much has happened."
Announcements like the development corporation and Cliffs' one-time plan to put a processor near Sudbury were done unilaterally, without any consultation with First Nations Hampton said.
The $1 billion for infrastructure was nothing more than a nice pre-election promise while a recent plan to get Matawa a feasibility study for an all-weather road is actually a re-announcement from 1999 when the federal government outlined a plan to build all-weather routes to several Northern communities. Both levels of government to this point have handled the Ring of Fire badly.
"If that's as far as we've gotten in eight years boy, this is a snail's pace," he said.
While the provincial government has pointed to its regional framework agreement with Matawa as a way forward on consultation, Hampton said it's all superficial.
"It's been very superficial consultation to give the non-native community an impression that something's happening," he said.
Hampton said the fundamental step, to work with First Nations, hasn't even been taken yet. That means decisions on infrastructure, revenue sharing and electricity are years away.
"We're not even close to that. I would say we're not even within five years of that," he said.
Hampton has been asked by NDP leader Tom Mulcair to run for the party in Kenora. He said he hasn't even discussed it with the riding association and right now he's focusing on the Ring of Fire.
"I've said to him I will think about that but I think this work is more important to do," Hampton said.
"I'll make a decision sometime down the road."