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Letter: Reader questions what should come first — industry or environment?

'The far Northern cities such as Timmins, Thunder Bay, etc. need to look at growth and development. Why would we send the minerals from our northern communities to the south when the expansion of our economy by building or storing batteries, for example, can happen here ... Made in Northern Ontario?'
2022-01-10 computer stock

What came first, the chicken or the egg? Without the egg, there would be no chicken and without a chicken there would be no egg. We are faced with this same conundrum when it comes to industry versus environment.  

Environment is life — clean air, water and soil. We need industry for jobs and luxuries such as electric vehicles, batteries, smartphones, laptops, solar cells, etc.  What comes first — industry or environment? What good are luxury items or money if there is human suffering or no life?

There is a push for electric vehicles in order to circumvent climate change. If the trees are cut down, waterways are diverted, mountains of waste rock from open pits appear where they never existed, heavy metals are disturbed creating toxic leaching into the air, soil and water then how is this supposed to help with climate change? Why would we create more damage to what the world is working on protecting? 

Premier Ford is seeking to remove “red tape” in order to make it easier for industry. Environmental assessments will not be required or enforced. An announcement was made that he wants to push for more industry but where are these “precious” metals located? They are found up North in our communities and where there is “virgin” land — not touched yet by industry.

The Progressive Conservative government is looking at taking raw material resources from the north and bringing them to manufacturers in southern Ontario but at what cost to Northern Ontario residents? What are the protocols and protections that will be put in place in order to ensure that industry and the environment can work side by side when there is little evidence that this is presently happening?

Mining is a $3.5 billion-a-year industry in Ontario but where does this money go? It is rare to see much government funding given to the Northern communities located above North Bay, Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie. We may see more recent funding coming our way since the election is in 10 weeks, however, the amount taken out of our environment versus the amount put back into our communities does not appear to justify the cost to the damage made to our environment.  Our environment would be further destroyed in order to remove the minerals which would then be sent to Brampton, Ottawa and Port Hope (where they will still have all of their trees, fresh water, clean soil) for processing or refining by a “world-class manufacturing section in the south”.  

Minister Rickford stated, "We believe we have an incredible opportunity to connect and vertically integrate our northern and southern economies to build a made-in-Ontario supply chain for innovative technologies like electric vehicles and battery storage."  

The far Northern cities such as Timmins, Thunder Bay, etc. need to look at growth and development. Why would we send the minerals from our northern communities to the south when the expansion of our economy by building or storing batteries, for example, can happen here, i.e. Made in Northern Ontario? What is the cost-benefit for Northern Ontario when it is our environment being impacted? What are the returns? 

Apparently “promised” regulatory changes “aim to reduce the burden and realize cost savings for the mineral development sector" and "reduce the time an application takes in government processing." This is all good for industry but where are the protections for the environment and the health and safety of those living in mining communities in the North?

The question remaining is how will these plans help with the climate change crisis? New mining, Ring of Fire, for example, will release additional carbon into the atmosphere. Where will the electricity come from in order to power the cars — build more dams that would further impact environment, build more nuclear plants, more natural gas? Would these not go against climate change initiatives? 

As Minister Rickford stated, “Without mining there is no such thing as a green economy. Without those critical minerals, you will not be able to drive a clean, green automobile of the future."  The question is will any of us be around in order to drive a “clean, green automobile” if our air, water and soil is contaminated from toxic heavy metals under the pretense of fixing climate change? 

What should come first – industry or environment (life)?  The only way that both can work together is by having strict environmental protections in place so that industry is held fully responsible for any damage caused to the environment and/or human life.  

We are not connected to the Great Lakes or the Greenbelt wetlands which already have protections. We are part of the Arctic Watershed. How will these changes impact Hudson Bay/James Bay? Where are the protections to protect our communities and the Arctic?

The only colour of “green” in this plan is the colour of money.  It has nothing to do with our environment and climate change or how it impacts those living further North.  

In 2019, Brazil’s rollback back of environmental protections was raised at the G7 summit. The Amazon forest was being burned to make room for mining operations and agriculture.  Why would these concerns be any different for our ecosystem?

Please send your comments and concerns to Premier Ford at premier@ontario.ca and Minister Greg Rickford at greg.rickford@pc.ola.org.  If you don’t say anything today it will be too late to say something tomorrow.

Carol Tanguay,
Porcupine