Ontario opposition parties vow to reverse decision to approve mining permits

The leaders of Ontario’s opposition parties say the Progressive Conservative government’s decision to approve new mining permits in northern Ontario came about thanks to “trickery and bad faith” on the part of the Liberal…

Ontario opposition parties vow to reverse decision to approve mining permits

The leaders of Ontario’s opposition parties say the Progressive Conservative government’s decision to approve new mining permits in northern Ontario came about thanks to “trickery and bad faith” on the part of the Liberal government.

In a press conference on Monday afternoon, Kathleen Wynne and Andrea Horwath promised to scrap the government’s decision to approve 20 new mining permits for a company that is backed by Desmarais family members, saying they were on a track for conflict of interest.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail this weekend, David Marquart, the independent member of Ontario’s legislature representing the riding of Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, said he’ll soon bring in a bill that would extend the regulatory process from one to three years to make sure there aren’t conflicts of interest. He also argued the government’s entire decision-making process should be reviewed.

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On Tuesday, Global News reported that Ms. Wynne wrote to the chair of the board of the Ontario Mining Board in June, ahead of an announcement in October that the province had approved permits for the acquisition of a mine project owned by Imperial Metals Corp. (which was formerly owned by the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Trust).

On Monday, Ms. Wynne defended her actions, saying she contacted the board chair about the appointment of the board’s newest member to “carefully question her makeup” and asked for her bio and previous employment history.

“It may be that she wasn’t the right person for the job,” Ms. Wynne said, citing family ties to her former board chairman. “I sought out that information.”

Ms. Wynne defended the decision to extend the regulatory process from one to three years for companies seeking to open mines in Ontario, saying companies should have the ability to apply for a permit on an accelerated timeline and have more certainty about how their work will be reviewed by provincial regulators. The Liberal government had only agreed to extend the deadline to one year, she said.

“The right thing to do is to give companies more time to work on their applications,” Ms. Wynne said. “We all know there’s no harm in taking a little bit of time to make sure the people are looking at the information properly.”

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The Ontario Mining Board is a government-appointed statutory authority that regulates mining, processing and metallurgy in the province. Mr. Marquart represents the constituency of Lambton-Kent-Middlesex on the province’s provincial legislature. He was asked whether he believes the company that won the bid to develop a mine in northern Ontario using the provincial government’s approvals – Thornaloe Metals – had any conflict of interest as it secured new permits.

“There is every reason to believe that it would have done,” Mr. Marquart said in an interview.

“There is no question that someone in this company has direct political and financial connections to government in Ontario,” he said. “In my view, anyone looking at these sort of approvals could identify any kind of conflict.”

He said he will be meeting with Ontario’s Minister of Natural Resources, Randy Hillier, on Tuesday to inform him of his plans to extend the regulatory process and urge him to have two qualified board members on the board.

“Why isn’t this decision process run as it should be?” he said. “Why isn’t the process operated properly?”

Asked why Ms. Wynne hadn’t asked why the boards are recommending granting the permits in question, Greg D’Avignon, a spokesman for Mr. Hillier, wrote in an e-mail that the initial approval of the permits was part of a set of regulations “that makes allowances for accelerated timelines and considers feedback.”

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The Ontario Conservative Party issued a statement defending the decision to approve the permits.

“While the NDP’s (sic) petty political stunts are uninformed and often flat-out wrong, the truth remains,” the statement read. “The NDP’s opposition to today’s decision pales in comparison to their earlier concerns that (sic) were rooted in fear and wishful thinking.”

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