'Critical time' for new northern Ont. ministers
Northern leaders ready themselves to work with Ontario's newly appointed resource ministers
Posted: Feb 12, 2013 9:09 AM ET
Last Updated: Feb 12, 2013 3:40 PM ET
When it comes to northern Ontario representation, Premier Kathleen Wynne's new cabinet features both a long-time minister and a first-time minister.
Thunder Bay MPP Michael Gravelle is now Minister of Northern Development and Mines — a cabinet post he once held for four years. Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci announced his retirement from that post last week.
Wynne assigned Gravelle's old role as the Minister of Natural Resources to rookie cabinet minister Sault Ste. Marie MPP David Orazietti.Thunder Bay-Superior North MPP Michael Gravelle is the new minister of Northern Development and Mines, while Sault Ste. Marie MPP David Orazietti is the new minister of Natural Resources. (Supplied)
The mayor of Kapuskasing and head of the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities, Al Spacek, said both those appointments are good news for the north.
"I'm thrilled that Minister Gravelle has been moved in MNDM,” Spacek said. “David Orazietti … is a northerner [and] very familiar with the challenges that are in the forestry sector.”
Thunder Bay's mayor, Keith Hobbs, said making Gravelle the new Minister of Northern Development and Mines is the right move, as mining will play a huge role in the city's future.
Hobbs noted the MPP for Thunder Bay-Superior North has the depth of experience that's needed.
“He's held that portfolio before,” he said. “He's been in Natural Resources now, and back to MNDM … you can't get better than that.”
Orazietti ‘going to have to reach out’
Sarah Campbell, MPP for Kenora Rainy River, said she's sorry to see Gravelle leave Natural Resources, but believes he will do a good job with the mining portfolio.
However, Campbell said she has concerns about the incoming Natural Resources Minister Orazietti, as she feels he is among the most partisan Liberal MPPs.
For his part, the NDP MPP for Timmins-James Bay also said he's not sure of how Orazietti will adapt to his new role.
“Mr. Orazietti is an individual who has been around for a while but doesn't have much of a relationship with members of the opposition,” Gilles Bisson said. “[Now that] he's a minister, he's going to have to reach out."
Bisson said Orazietti's biggest challenge will be dealing with the Endangered Species Act, as well as the forestry industry.
The president of the Ontario Forest Industries Association said she's looking forward to working with Orazietti, however.
Jamie Lim said Orazietti understands resource issues and “has a significant forest sector operating in and around [his riding]. We look forward to meeting with him ASAP, because he is walking in at a very critical time.”
Lim said the association will miss Gravelle in the role of Natural Resources minister, but is pleased he remains in cabinet as what she calls "a champion for the forest industry.”
Bisson added that he is glad to see both resource posts staying in the north.
"We've seen in the past where we've had people from southern Ontario run those ministries,” Bisson said.
“It's not always been the best for us because sometimes it's an uphill battle to understand where the communities are and what the issues are.”
‘Issues haven’t changed’
Regardless of where the ministers come from, much work needs to be done when it comes to First Nations issues, says a First Nations leader.Grand Chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation Harvey Yesno said he'd like to meet with Premier Wynne as many of the issues affecting First Nations cross several ministries. (CBC)
The Grand Chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation said he’d like to see Ontario’s new government remove the Far North Act and re-think the Northern Policy Institute — moves that would show the new Liberal cabinet is taking a new approach to First Nations.
“[We] got our issues, our issues haven't changed,” Harvey Yesno said.
“But we recognize it's a minority government and we'll have to deal with them … In short order I'll probably look at and understand the approach.”
Yesno added he'd like to sit down with the premier to make his point, rather than dealing with cabinet ministers. The issues facing remote First Nations cross several provincial ministries, he said, so the Premier's instructions to her cabinet are key.
“I think if the Premier would make the call and sit down with me and go over this, because otherwise I'll be sitting with six different ministers.”
Toronto-area MPP David Zimmer is the new minister of Aboriginal Affairs — a stand-alone ministry in the new provincial cabinet. Yesno added the change could be a positive step forward, however the ministry’s proficiency will depend on the instructions Zimmer receives from the Premier.
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