The issue of whether the Ring of Fire is still being pursued by the Ontario Liberals continues to rage, only now the setting has become the Legislature. In last Thursday’s budget, there was no mention of the chromite project even though the Liberals had announced their commitment to it in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 budgets. Northern MPPs, like Vic Fedeli, the P.C. member for Nipissing, John Vanthof the New Democrat for Timskaming-Cochrane and his colleague in Algoma Manitoulin, Mike Mantha quickly let the public know the Ring of Fire was dropped from the budget. Mantha has kept the debate rolling at the Legislature by asking what’s happened to the project. Mantha has been very critical of the Liberals for first announcing a $1 billion commitment in 2014 to develop the James Bay site where the chromite was discovered and then re-announcing that commitment in the two following budgets without spending any of the money.
Bill Mauro, the interim Minister of Northern Development and Mines, turned Mantha’s attack tactics around. “When (the Ring of Fire) is in the budget, he (Mantha) frames it as a re-announcement and asks when are we going to do something,” said Mauro. “This time the money is not mentioned in the budget and the member takes that to mean the government isn’t interested in the project. And if it had been in there, the member would be criticizing it as another re-announcement.” Mauro told Mantha and all MPPs in the Legislature that the claim the government is no longer committed to the Ring of Fire is “nonsense and unfounded.” He says the government remains committed to helping develop the massive chromite discovery and furthermore the stakeholders connected to the Ring of Fire know the Liberals remain committed.