Open for Business?

Well folks, another election campaign has come and gone, this time municipal. I congratulate all those who bravely put their names forward as a candidate. Whether they were elected or not, their desire to make their community a better place to live gave rise to meaningful dialogue. To those who were elected I offer my best wishes as you assume your duties. The citizens of your community have shown confidence in your leadership experience and skills and look to you to work collectively for the good of all citizens. Congratulations also to those citizens who made the effort to participate to make your voice heard by casting a ballot.

In my role as MPP, one of the things I place great importance upon is maintaining a strong relationship with Municipal and First Nation leaders. It goes without saying that only by working together can we ensure the overall security and prosperity for all. Whenever I walk into a municipal or band office as MPP, I feel welcome and there is a clear understanding of mutual respect, trust and desire to work cooperatively.

To be clear, in the beginning this trust and respect was not something that was automatic just because I was elected. Trust, respect and understanding must be earned by sides through listening and acting with honour and dependability. Just like most things in life that are worthwhile, relationships take time and effort.

Every Northerner knows what a priceless gem with the potential of the Ring of Fire. The potential boom to Ontario’s and Canada’s economy is unfathomable. Knowing this, the reluctance of the previous Liberal government to take any real action was baffling. For years we listened to an endless string of announcements and re-announcements of what they planned to do- but never did. And now, the PCs have a chance to action to get things underway.

As I mentioned above, before anything can be done, the ground work must first be laid. The Government needs to establish good relationships with First Nations in Ontario. All the industry players – mining companies – are at the table. First Nations – Indigenous communities – are at the table. Municipalities – are at the table. They’ve been sitting at the table all along, ready to get the conversations started.

Doug Ford loves to point to the great success that he says he has made of his family’s sign and tag printing company. Business leaders well know the importance of relationships with customers and others in the business community. Knowing this, how can the PCs explain Doug Ford’s continued failure to establish a respectful working relationship with First Nations? This failure will definitely impede, or even prevent, the advancement of future mining projects like the Ring of Fire.

Just recently Premier Ford, the Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, and Indigenous Affairs were in White River to participate in the opening of Harte Gold’s Sugar Zone Mine. How could a premier, who claims to have so much business savvy, along side his prominent ministers, fail to acknowledge the traditional territory of the Pic Mobert First Nation during the opening?

What explanation can Doug Ford provide to us to explain why his government, just like the Liberal government before them, is not ready to come to the table or prepared to roll up their sleeves and get to work with all partners?

This occasion was a missed prime opportunity for the PCs to build those all-important relationships by acknowledging the lands of the traditional territory of the Pic Mobert First Nations people. However, neither Doug Ford nor any of the ministers took that opportunity, or offered that respect.
Let’s be clear, the only thing this government did was cut a ribbon.

I can’t help but recall how Doug Ford showed a true disregard for his responsibility to consult with First Nations on mining and development when he said, “If I have to hop on that bulldozer myself with Vic on the other one, we’re going to start building the roads to get to the mining.”

After such a display of indifference to developing effective and trusting relationships and after making such indifferent comments previously, it is hard to imagine that this government has any plans to come to the table fully prepared when they’re not willing or even interested in building a trusting relationship with Indigenous people.

So, Doug Ford says that Ontario is, “Open for business.” But I wonder if the PCs truly prepared as leaders to open the door.

Mike Mantha

Michael Mantha is a politician in Ontario, Canada. He is a New Democratic member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario who was elected in 2011. He's the NDP critic for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation and critic for Northern Development and Mines. He represents the riding of Algoma—Manitoulin.
Mike Mantha