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Tories, NDP say RoF announcement underwhelming

Say Monday's announcement window dressing as provincial election nears
Ontario's opposition parties are less than impressed by Premier Kathleen Wynne's announcement Monday on plans to build a year-round road into the Ring of Fire development. (File)

Ontario's opposition parties are less than impressed by Premier Kathleen Wynne's announcement Monday on plans to build a year-round road into the Ring of Fire development. 

The province announced it's working with Webequie, Marten Falls and Nibinamik First Nations to plan and construct a year-round access road into the proposed mining development site being pursued by Noront Resources Ltd.

As part of the project, the province is also working with First Nations to build all-season access roads to their communities. The roads will link the three communities to the provincial highway system for the first time, meaning within a few years it will be possible to drive in and out of those remote communities by car, something that's never been possible before.

But in a statement released to the media, Sudbury Tory candidate Troy Crowder is quoted as saying that the Liberal government has never really made the Ring of Fire a priority.

“The Wynne Liberals promised to commit $1 billion for infrastructure in the Ring of Fire during the 2014 election campaign,” the release said. “We saw that same promise copied and pasted into the 2015 and 2016 budgets, but it was nothing more than lip service and window dressing. In this year’s budget, the Wynne Liberals removed any reference to the Ring of Fire whatsoever. 

“The sad truth is they are only in the North now because there is an election looming. And after a byelection loss in Sault Ste. Marie, formerly a safe Liberal seat in Northern Ontario, it is clear they have lost the trust of the region. They are going to try and buy back support with fancy announcements, empty promises and press releases, but no one should believe them.

“If the Wynne Liberals win the next election they’ll just go back to their old ways, and the North will be nothing but an afterthought.”

In her statement, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Monday's announcement fell well short of what the Liberals had promised.

“Months after Kathleen Wynne said she was trying to reach a deal with nine First Nations to move forward in agreement – particularly to start on the road into the region – Wynne announced Monday that she has only reached a deal with three of those First Nations,” Horwath is quoted as saying.

“That disappointment follows 14 years of Liberal government during which not one shovel has hit the ground. Not one kilometre of road has been built.”

“This is a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I want to build the infrastructure that is needed to spark the Ring of Fire,” the statement continued. “I want to unlock the thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity this project promises. And I want to do it right, ensuring we respect Indigenous nations in the region as partners. 

“Unlike Wynne and the Conservatives, I understand the urgency. There are people hurting because of the shortage of good jobs in their home community – jobs they can raise a family on. It doesn’t have to be this way. With a new government – one willing to take the Ring of Fire off the backburner and make it a priority – we will see action quickly.”