January 11, 2016

The Honourable Kathleen Wynne
Premier of Ontario
Room 281, Main Legislative Building
Queen’s Park
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 1A1

Dear Premier Wynne:

I am pleased to report that my ministry has made very significant progress on meeting the mandate you set out for us in 2014. As always, my goal is to ensure that the North continues to realize its potential as a sustainable, diverse, stable, innovative region that significantly contributes to the overall growth of Ontario’s economy.

I am delighted to provide you with a report on our progress.

Developing the Ring of Fire

  • Discussions between Ontario and the Matawa-member First Nations continue and are guided by the Ring of Fire Regional Framework Agreement (RFA), which sets out principles and objectives that will help us chart a path forward. The agreement outlines key priorities for negotiations including enhanced First Nation participation in the Environmental Assessment (EA) process (currently underway), regional long-term environmental monitoring, infrastructure planning and implementation, socio-economic supports and resource revenue sharing in the Ring of Fire.
  • Since September 2014, my ministry has contributed $8.7 million to communities and tribal councils as part of Ontario’s ongoing commitment to support community readiness and capacity building activities related to the Ring of Fire development.
  • Within 60 days of the 2014 Speech from the Throne, we established the Ring of Fire Infrastructure Development Corporation (ROFIDC). In 2015, the ROFIDC advanced the work of its mandate by building internal capacity, meeting with stakeholders, and facilitating five technical studies. The ROFIDC will continue to work to gather necessary technical information and put in place the corporate structures and accountability mechanisms that will position the corporation to play a key role as we drive towards progress in the Ring of Fire region.
  • We are working closely with our provincial colleagues to respond to and prepare for potential future developments. For example, to date over 1,950 First Nations clients have participated in Ontario’s skills and training programs in order to ensure communities are prepared for Ring of Fire mining and related development opportunities.
  • In addition to the RFA, we are working closely with those First Nations closest to the proposed minesite development under bilateral agreements such as the Memorandum of Understanding with Marten Falls First Nation and the Memorandum of Cooperation with Webequie First Nation. We are currently negotiating similar agreements with Neskantaga and Eabametoong First Nations.
  • In March, I announced a $785,000 investment with the Government of Canada, which enables Webequie First Nation, along with the First Nations of Eabametoong, Neskantaga and Nibinamik, to complete a regional study considering an all-season transportation corridor. This study will examine options and benefits of connecting these communities to existing and proposed transportation systems.
  • In June 2015, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) approved the Terms of Reference for Noront’s environmental assessment (EA), with amendments. This represents a key project milestone and my ministry will continue to work with MOECC to move this file along.
  • We remain steadfast in our work with industry and First Nations to align interests in development of a road network that provides access to communities, as well as access for mineral development within the region.
  • We are committed to working collaboratively with the federal government to ensure that development moves forward in a way that maximizes the benefits for First Nations communities, as well as for Ontario and Canada.

Promoting Ontario’s Mining Sector

  • We released Ontario’s Mineral Development Strategy 2015, a 10-year vision to position Ontario as the global leader in sustainable mineral development. The strategy confirms the province’s commitment to attracting new exploration investment and supporting innovation in the mineral exploration and development sector. Our renewed strategy is anchored by a new $5 million funding program to spur investment in the junior exploration sector; a program that has been warmly welcomed by our ministry stakeholders and partners.
  • The ministry led investment missions to Australia, Colombia, Chile, Peru, India, Mexico and England. We are coordinating another seven missions, which will take place in 2016 and will help strengthen the international interest in Ontario’s mining sector.
  • My ministry also announced it will co-sponsor and host the first ever Mines and Money Americas, which will take place in Toronto in September of 2016 and 2017. These events will bring the international mining investment community together to learn about mineral development opportunities in Ontario.
  • To encourage and enhance the capacity of Aboriginal communities to participate in — and take advantage of — mineral resources and other economic development opportunities, we have developed an Aboriginal Affairs Strategy. This strategy will more effectively deliver northern economic and mineral development programs, services and assistance to Ontario’s Aboriginal peoples.
  • As part of our ongoing efforts to modernize the Mining Act, the ministry will implement a provincewide, online claim-registration and integrated land management system. In 2015, we conducted engagement and outreach sessions with industry and Aboriginal groups, as well as posted on the Environmental and Regulatory registries for public feedback. The amending bill was tabled in fall 2015.

Transforming the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission

  • We have continued to work with the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) to achieve transformation objectives. Through transformation efforts, we are ensuring sustainable employment, continued economic growth and a strong transportation network in northeastern Ontario.
  • The ONTC is modernizing its labour agreements through collective bargaining, identifying and implementing operational changes, and making key investments in vital transportation infrastructure. We remain committed to monitoring the progress of these efforts.
  • In February 2015, I also appointed a new ONTC Chair and board members with strong expertise and experience in financial management, organizational restructuring and governance and the transportation sector. They are providing guidance and leadership to support transformation.

Driving Growth in Northern Ontario

  • We have continued the important work to implement the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario — a 25-year plan which guides provincial decision-making and investment. My ministry and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) have aligned our priorities and work with the Growth Plan. Our ongoing collaboration with partner ministries is helping to ensure that priorities for the North align with the objectives of the Growth Plan.
  • We continue to engage and dialogue with northern municipal and Aboriginal leaders on a regular basis to discuss the ongoing implementation of the Growth Plan, with our latest dialogue held in November 2015.
  • We are partnering with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs on the development of a strategy for the agriculture, aquaculture and food processing sector in the North.
  • Last year, the NOHFC supported 469 projects, directly helping businesses and entrepreneurs with competitiveness, innovation, start-up and expansion. Since October 2003, the NOHFC has approved over $1 billion towards 6,956 projects, leveraging more than $3.6 billion in investment. Through this, we are helping to create or sustain 26,000 jobs across the North.

Supporting a Dynamic Business Climate in the North

  • I remain steadfast in my work with the Minister of Transportation in developing a multi-modal transportation strategy in the North. The strategy will establish a blueprint for transportation systems to support long term economic and community development opportunities in Northern Ontario over the next 25 years.
  • We committed ongoing permanent funding of up to $120 million per year for the Northern Industrial Electricity Rate Program.

I am pleased that our achievements have advanced both my ministry’s and our government’s strategic priorities, and I look forward to continuing our work.

Sincerely,

Michael Gravelle signature

Michael Gravelle
Minister of Northern Development and Mines

Results achieved

Mandate Letter Commitment Progress to Date
Continue to support strong, prosperous northern communities.
  • The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) Strategic Economic Infrastructure and Capacity Building programs provided a $36.5 million investment for 94 projects, supporting a net leverage of $76.6 million.
  • Continued engagement with municipalities and Northern businesses on Ring of Fire (ROF) readiness initiatives and economic development opportunities.
Work to increase the competitiveness of business and industry, foster innovation and entrepreneurial prospects — and create new jobs in the North. Your goal is to ensure that the North continues to realize its potential as a sustainable, diverse, stable, innovative region that significantly contributes to the overall growth of Ontario’s economy.
  • NOHFC Northern Business Opportunities and Northern Ontario Innovation programs invested $67.9 million that will target the creation/retention of 1,548 jobs, and a leverage of $216 million.
  • Since September 2014, the NOHFC has supported 174 projects that directly helped businesses.
  • In April 2015, the government committed ongoing funding of up to $120 million per year for the Northern Industrial Electricity Rate program.
Co-ordinating and leading the development of the Ring of Fire to create opportunities in Northern Ontario’s resource and mineral sector. Your goal is to maximize economic and social opportunities for Ontario, First Nations and Canada.
  • Since 2014, MNDM has contributed $8.7 million to communities and tribal councils for community readiness and capacity building activities.
  • Over 1,950 First Nations clients participated in Ontario’s skills and training programs.
  • In March 2015, MNDM, with the Government of Canada, provided $785,000 to remote Ring of Fire communities to undertake a study considering an all-season transportation corridor.
Continuing to collaborate directly with other ministers, First Nations and key stakeholders to develop the Ring of Fire. You will establish a Ring of Fire development corporation within 60 days of the Speech from the Throne. The development corporation will be responsible for constructing, financing, operating and maintaining infrastructure to support access to strategic resources in the Ring of Fire. I ask that the corporation bring together private and public partners — including key mining companies and First Nations.
  • In August 2014, MNDM established the Ring of Fire Infrastructure Development Corporation (ROFIDC). The corporation is structured to bring together the key partners, including mining companies, First Nations, and the provincial and federal governments. In 2015, the ROFIDC advanced the work of its mandate by building internal capacity, meeting with stakeholders, and facilitating five technical studies.
Working with the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Matawa First Nation communities and other ministers on the next phase of negotiations under the Ring of Fire Regional Framework Agreement, which our government signed earlier this year.
  • Ontario remains committed to, and provides funding for, Matawa-member First Nations engagement in Phase 2 implementation of the Regional Framework Agreement (RFA). Discussions between Ontario and the Matawa-member First Nations continue and are guided by the RFA, which sets out principles and objectives that will help chart a path forward.
Continuing to work with the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry on decisions relating to environmental assessments, cumulative and regional environmental impacts — and long-term monitoring in the Ring of Fire.
  • In June 2015, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change approved the terms of reference for the environmental assessment for Noront Resource’s Eagles Nest project, with amendments.
Continuing to work with the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure to promote Ontario’s mining sector, including the development of international opportunities.
  • MNDM led trade missions to Australia, Colombia, Chile, Peru, India, Mexico and England.
  • MNDM announced it will co-sponsor and host the first ever Mines and Money Americas, to take place in Toronto in September 2016 and 2017.
  • Released Ontario’s Mineral Development Strategy 2015, a 10-year vision to position Ontario as a global leader in sustainable mineral development.
Continuing to encourage and enhance the capacity for Aboriginal communities to participate in — and take advantage of — mineral resources and other economic development opportunities.
  • MNDM continues to work with Ontario’s Aboriginal peoples to deliver our northern economic and mineral development programs, services and assistance.
  • Conducted engagement with public, Aboriginal communities and the mining industry to gain feedback on the Mineral Development Strategy and Mining Act Modernization Phase III.
Moving forward with a balanced approach to transforming the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) to ensure sustainable employment, continued economic growth and a strong transportation network in Northern Ontario. I ask that you maintain our government’s commitment to keep in public hands the remaining ONTC business lines (motor coach, Polar Bear Express, rail freight and refurbishment services) — vital transportation services and infrastructure that support economic growth in the North.
  • In March 2015, MNDM appointed a new ONTC Chair and board members to provide guidance and leadership to support transformation efforts.
  • Supported the ONTC while undergoing modernization of labour agreements through collective bargaining efforts, identifying and implementing operational changes, and making key investments in vital transportation infrastructure.
Supporting the ONTC through new investments. These include improving the service and accessibility of motor coach services and refurbishing passenger rail coaches for use on the Polar Bear Express. This will sustain jobs and ensure that vital service between Cochrane and Moosonee can be delivered more effectively and efficiently.
  • Provided capital funding for the purchase of new wheelchair accessible motor coaches and refurbishment of the Polar Bear Express rail coaches, creating new work for the ONTC's refurbishment division.
Continuing to drive the implementation of the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario. You will consult with the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure and work with partner ministries, municipalities, Aboriginal communities and key stakeholders. Your goal is to ensure that priorities for the North align with the objectives of the Growth Plan.
  • Hosted Growth Plan implementation talks with municipal and Aboriginal leaders at the Northern Leaders’ Dialogue.
  • MNDM funded $30 million for advanced manufacturing in Sault Ste. Marie to ESSAR Steel Algoma’s capacity expansion and modernization project.
  • NOHFC committed $42.2 million in funding to forestry, agricultural and broadband projects, leveraging $84.2 million in other funds and creating/retaining 806 jobs.
Continuing to work with the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation. Together, you will work to create jobs, improve productivity, promote diversification in the region’s economy — and stimulate innovation, entrepreneurship and business development investments in the North.
  • Since September 2014, the NOHFC has approved over $135.7 million, leveraging over $352.4 million toward 884 projects in Northern Ontario, targeting 2,834 jobs for creation or retention.
Leading our government’s efforts to integrate and co-ordinate northern policy and planning activities, informed by the Growth Plan.
  • MNDM continues to work on new policy development, including collaborating with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change on the Climate Change Strategy, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry on the Far North Land Use Planning Update and the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure on the Cluster Strategy.
Conducting a five-year review of the Growth Plan in 2016 to assess progress and achievements to date.
  • Planning is underway for the five-year review of the Growth Plan in 2016.
Continuing to support the Minister of Transportation in developing a Multi-Modal Transportation Strategy in the North. Your goal is to support a more integrated transportation infrastructure system for air, rail, road and water.
  • Facilitated communication between the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) and northern municipal and Aboriginal leaders through the Northern Leaders’ Dialogue.
  • MNDM continues to support MTO on Phase 3 of the Northern Ontario Multi-Modal Transportation Strategy and has assisted with a draft working paper on a social economic assessment of Northern Ontario, as well as the completion of a Municipal Airport Survey.
Updated: June 01, 2021
Published: January 10, 2016