- Category: news
- Created: Monday, 23 September 2013 15:39
- Published: Monday, 23 September 2013 15:39
- Written by Administrator 3
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By Wayne Snider, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS - First Nations and municipalities in the North face many of the same challenges in terms of economic development.
Now, it appears two key groups are ready to come together to foster growth.
Mushkegowuk Council, which represents eight First Nation communities, has approached the Northeastern Ontario Municipal Association (NEOMA) to develop a growth strategy.
Deputy Grand Chief Les Louttit of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) spoke to NEOMA members on Friday. Mushkegowuk Council is part of NAN, which represents 49 First Nations across Northern Ontario.
“We would like to propose an official entity of some kind to partner with NEOMA and Mushkegowuk Council,” Louttit said. “We would have an organization together, with people from your and our organizations, to foster business development, to take advantage of future business opportunities and economic development from the mining, forestry and tourism sectors.”
At the request of Mushkegowuk Council, NAN helped develop a proposal. This plan is currently being reviewed by Mushkegowuk Council and its member First Nations.
“We will send a copy of that to NEOMA for your next meeting,” Louttit said. “We would be happy to discuss it further and how to set it up at a minimal cost. But we need something set up so we can work together.”
He said such a partnership has been developed in Northern Quebec.
“We would like to set up a similar structure that already exists in Northern Quebec with the James Bay Cree and Abitibi-Témiscamingue municipalities,” he said. “We can do that here too and benefit our municipalities, First Nations and citizens.”
When it comes to natural resources, Louttit said municipalities and First Nations are in the same boat. Industry collects a large profit and the province gets taxation, but there is very little revenue at the local level.
“For so long, all we have been receiving is a minimal percentage from the net profits of a mine over the life cycle of the mine,” he explained. “As an example, in negotiations with De Beers and the (James Bay) coastal communities, they only receive less than 1% of the net profits ... and also business and employment opportunities ... while the Ontario government gets a percentage of the gross, right off the top.
“We consider ourselves a government just like municipalities. We don’t want to be an expense item on the income statement, as we are right now.”
With all eyes of the mining world focused on the development of the Ring of Fire in Northern Ontario, Louttit said First Nations and municipalities stand to benefit.
“The Ring of Fire is huge. I’ve heard it has an estimated value of $120 billion,” he said. “There is a lot of revenue to be shared among government and industry — and also First Nations. We want our fare share of that. We are the most impacted by the Ring of Fire. We have to have a say.
“There are so many opportunities to provide services to the mines. I understand there could be up to seven mines over 25 to 30 years. Not only chromite, which is the largest single deposit in the world, but other precious metals including gold and diamonds, and base metals, copper, zinc, nickel. I have also heard there is potential for oil and gas.
“These are huge opportunities and we need to work together.”
NEOMA members showed a keen interest in the potential partnership.
“I think it’s an excellent idea,” said Timmins Mayor Tom Laughren, chairman of NEOMA. “It’s one that we have been talking about the last little bit.
“We believe that many of the issues that we raise are very similar. I think we’ve been really trying to work to build these relationships over the last number of years and this is just another step for us.”