by Frank Giorno
Doug Ford, the feisty Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leader, boldly proposed a $20 to $30 million revenue sharing framework to provide Northern Ontario a cut of the profits from its resource based mining and wood products industry.
Ford made the proposal in Timmins when he visited that city on May 1st and it attracted front page coverage of the local daily Timmins Daily Press, television and radio.
“We’re going to introduce real, formal revenue sharing for northern Ontario,” Ford is quoted in the TimminsToday.com the online daily that covers Timmins.
Problem is Ford is about 14 years late in making such a proposal which first surfaced as an Ontario New Democratic Party private members bill sponsored by Gilles Bisson in 2004
“A private member’s bill designed to cut First Nations in on the profits being reaped from the harvest of resources within their territories is stalled in committee because the Ontario provincial government (Liberal government headed by Premier Dalton McGuinty) doesn’t want to see it pass, claims Gilles Bisson, ” George Young, a writer for Birchbark wrote in 2005.
“It’s been more than a year since Bisson, NDP member of provincial parliament for Timmins-James Bay, introduced Bill 97, the First Nations Resource Revenue Sharing Act, 2004,” Young added.
If passed into law, the bill would guarantee First Nations a share in the revenues from natural resources extracted from their traditional lands.
Bisson and the NDP’s 2004 Private Members would have required representatives of resource companies, First Nations, the provincial government “and any other parties that they mutually agree should be represented” would be required to work together to negotiate a comprehensive agreement on revenue sharing. In cases where an agreement can’t be reached within three years of the start of negotiations, an arbitrator would be brought in, and would have one year to arrive at an agreement, which would then be binding on all parties.
The bill received first and second reading in June 2004 and then was sent before the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.
David Ramsey, who was then the minister of Natural Resources and minister Responsible for Aboriginal Affairs, opposed to the bill because “it involves business in the discussion of resource sharing.”
“The private sector doesn’t own the resources, doesn’t manage the resources. As the government … we assess royalties to the use of resources. The companies … have been granted a privilege to extract resources. Directly, it doesn’t involve the companies. It’s the government’s responsibility,” said Ramsey.
The purpose of the Bill 97 as introduced by Bisson was an attempt to bring funds into impoverished communities.
Back in 2005, Bisson said he would support a bill giving First Nations their piece of the pie, no matter what party banner flies over it.
The NDP again promised to introduce revenue sharing on April 18, 2018 two weeks prior to Ford’s announcement on May 1 in Timmins.
NDP leader Andrea Horwath promised to give First Nations all of the province’s revenue from Ontario’s mining tax amounting to about $41 million per year. Horwath said the thought that Indigenous peoples should benefit from the resources taken from their traditional lands has long been a policy of the Ontario NDP.
Horwath said the lost revenue will be made up mainly by raising taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations.
On May 1, 2018, Ford pledged $20 to $30 million to Northern Ontario per year, but wasn’t clear on what exact percentage that would be or whether it would be a fixed or sliding scale amount depending on the revenue generated by mining and other resource based industries.
The promised Ford revenue sharing bill would be much broader and include a piece of the pie for all northern Ontarians to “receive fair benefits from Northern resources.”
“I believe in letting northerners keep their own money. Do what you want. Fix roads,” he said. “I believe in just letting them do what they want.”
Ford said Northern Ontario communities, including Indigenous communities, would receive a portion of provincial revenues collected from aggregate licenses, stumpage fees and the mining tax.
“Your resources. Your benefits. I think that’s only fair,” said Ford.
Representatives from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines when asked about what currently exists, said that Northern municipalities receive revenue from general revenue fund for items such as road repairs and other programs available to them.
When confronted by reporters that this was a ploy similar to Mike Harris’s dividend payment from the 30 percent tax cuts, Ford denied it.
“No, I don’t do that. My name’s not Kathleen Wynne,” said Ford. “I don’t have to do that. My whole platform is for the people. For the people – reducing Hydro rates by 12% for the people, getting rid of the carbon tax to create good-paying jobs for the people, reducing taxes on business for the people, putting money back into the communities for the people to do what they want.”
But two days later, on May 3, 2018, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, announced her government had signed a revenue sharing agreement with Mushkegowuk Council, the regional council that coordinates the seven Cree First Nations including, Attawapiskat, Kashechewan, Fort Albany, Moose Cree, Tayga Taga Mou, Chapleau Cree and Missanabie Cree.
The province as part of the agreement pledges to share 45 percent of government revenue from forestry stumpage, 40 per cent of the annual mining tax and royalties from active mines and 45 percent from future mines the traditional territories of First Nations partners — Grand Council Treaty #3, Wabun Tribal Council and Mushkegowuk Council. The three councils represent a total of 39 First Nation communities across them.
The First Nations will have full control over the allocation of its share into initiatives that support economic development, education, health and other priorities.
Gilles Bisson, the veteran MPP from Timmins-James Bay who is now running in the new riding of Timmins, earlier in the day said northerners wouldn’t “be fooled” by the PC’s leaders promises, stating Ford has promised more than $6 billion in cuts.
But the ever precise, Ford said “I don’t believe in the word ‘cuts.’ I’m going to drive efficiencies, as we did with the City of Toronto.” Ford did not explain who the Harris era downloading which crippled Toronto was actually made more efficient.
“The last PC government closed community schools, shut down emergency rooms and privatized road clearing and maintenance,” Bisson added.
The MPP claimed that Ford will cut hospital budgets in northeastern Ontario by $160 million, close down schools, fire thousands of teachers and continue with the “disastrous” privatization of snow removal and road maintenance.”
But Ford denied Bisson’s charges.
“I’m not going to be closing anything,” Ford declared. “I’m going to put money back into the community,” he said.