By: The Working Forest Staff
Resource revenue sharing is on the minds of Ontario’s three provincial leadership hopefuls as they roll through Northern Ontario during the election.
Allowing First Nations to benefit from mining and forestry operations on their traditional land has been a contentious and unresolved issue for many years.
The Wynne Liberal government revealed a potential landmark deal – pending their re-election – by announcing that agreements had been signed with three First Nations organizations, representing 32 communities across the North.
Lauding the deals as “the first of their kind,” the Liberals said the partnering First Nations will receive 45 percent of government revenues from forestry stumpage, 40 percent of the annual mining tax and royalties from active mines, and 45 percent from future mines in the areas covered by the agreements.
According to a report in the Northern Ontario Business, three agreements were negotiated with Grand Council Treaty No. 3, Wabun Tribal Council and Mushkegowuk Council. Those organizations administer the funds which must be plugged into economic development, education, health, community and cultural projects.
If the Wynne government returns, the agreements would go into effect in the fall of 2019.
Wendy Landry, president of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA)applauded the signatory communities, calling it a “long time coming.”
Landry, who is the mayor of Shuniah Township, outside Thunder Bay, and a member of the Red Rock Indian Band, categorized the signings as “definitely a win for First Nations after all those years of being have-nots.”
But she said the province’s largesse needs to be spread around to all communities, some of which are struggling to maintain infrastructure.
“If you’re going to be talking about revenue sharing, you definitely should be talking about it to all the communities in the northwest.”
At NOMA’s annual conference in Kenora in early May, Landry and other mayors tried to pin down the three party leaders to adopt her group’s Fair Share proposal to raise the Harmonized Sales Tax by one percent to fund work on roads, bridges, transit and maintain other critical community services.
The reductions in industrial and commercial assessments and fewer provincial dollars in the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund have some Northern communities facing exasperating financial issues.
Days before the Liberals delivered their announcement, Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford kicked off the revenue-sharing talk by promising that all Northern communities would get a significant chunk of the money collected in stumpage, mining taxes and aggregate licences, which, he claimed, could be in the range of $20 million to $30 million.
In the NDP’s Northern Ontario platform, Andrea Horwath inserted a paragraph pledging to “transfer Ontario’s share of mining taxes” to First Nations, without getting into specifics.
Landry said revenue sharing did not generate a great deal of discussion at the conference.
She was reluctant to side with any party until after the election. NOMA intends to lobby the new government for the same type of revenue sharing arrangement for municipalities.
Northwestern Ontario is witnessing a resurgence of resource development activity.
See full report here.