ANALYSIS: Kathleen Wynne said she’d take her time to get the road right. Jon Thompson asks what took her off course
Kathleen Wynne’s government says it likes to get relationships right: It pledged to get things right with the feds in the 2016 Ontario budget. In a 2015 address to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, Wynne herself committed to “getting it right” when it comes to Queen’s Park’s relationship with cities.
Wynne often uses the phrase when discussing Ontario’s relationship with the Matawa tribal council, whose lands and lifestyles the proposed Ring of Fire mining development — consisting of huge chromite and nickel deposits nearly 600 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay — could alter considerably.
When critics allege progress on that file has stagnated, Wynne again stresses the importance of “getting it right.”
However, in recent months the premier has tried to speed up the Ring of Fire’s development and events from last week suggest “getting it right” may have been a sound approach after all.
In May, the premier wrote an open letter to Matawa chiefs urging them not to “squander” the $1 billion commitment her government had made in 2014 to building transportation infrastructure on their territory — infrastructure that would also support the Ring of Fire. Wynne said she needed to see “meaningful progress in weeks, not months.”
Months later, Wynne appeared in Thunder Bay to announce the government had at last “reached an agreement to build a road into the Ring of Fire.”
On August 21, she announced that the government had commissioned a study considering electricity requirements, broadband connectivity, and year-round road access from the provincial highway grid near Pickle Lake east to Nibinamik and Webequie First Nations.
The study would determine the best course east from Webequie into Noront Resources’ proposed Eagle’s Nest mine, the first expected development in the Ring of Fire. A separate study would consider a road north from Greenstone to Marten Falls First Nation. Wynne said shovels would be in the ground within two years.
“Because there was a careful process,” she said, “because it was a thoughtful process; because it was one that meant there were many partners working together. We now have a plan and we’ve now got an ability to move forward in partnership that would not be possible if we hadn’t taken that time. That has been our objective all along.”