(Image Credit: ‘Blurred vision’ by Karri Huhtanen, via flickr.com; the image is at this link. Used without modification under Creative Commons Licence)
The Ford govt’s approach to inquiries about the stalled Grassy Narrows mercury remediation plan is to produce canned responses. The long-term advantage to the Conservative Party of getting the job done isn’t visible to them.
As many of my readers know, I have been pushing for the successful completion of the mercury remediation exercise at Grassy Narrows since July 2021. I came upon this issue by chance, and a set of developments led me to make it a personal project to keep pushing for this work to get done. Over the course of my efforts, I discovered that neither the governing Conservatives nor any of the opposition parties were particularly interested in the 5 decades-old tragedy at Grassy Narrows. For the latter group, however, it is certainly useful to make noises about the issue when they need to push the Conservatives into a corner.
If one is of a cynical mind, none of this should come as a surprise; there is a sizeable portion of the population that believes that things that are to the benefit of the people at large are not a priority for politicians. However, for the governing Conservatives, there is a significant advantage in taking this issue seriously and seeing the project to completion. This $85 million funded plan was created by the former Liberal government of Premier Kathleen Wynne in the dying days of their 15 years long tenure at the provincial helm. Right from the beginning, I have been telling the Ontario Conservatives that (a) there is a widespread belief that Conservatives are racist (for the record, I don’t subscribe to this belief and think that it is wrong) and (b) given the prominence of the Grassy Narrows issue at the national stage, they can put this allegation (of being racist) to rest for a long time. In light of these, Premier Wynne had left them ‘with a goldmine’ (my exact words to MPP Sarkaria and others) in the form of this funded plan.
As chance would have it, recently I came in touch with someone who is well-networked in the Conservative circles and who was willing to help me make one more push to get the mercury from the English and Wabigoon rivers removed. This contact asked me to write to Ontario’s Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Greg Rickford, with the promise that they would ensure that I would get a response.
I did get a reply from Minister Rickford – in which he continued the inglorious record of his government. It is clear that the approach of the Ford government to inquiries relating to the Grassy Narrows mercury issue consists of producing canned statements and reiterating historical facts that are widely known; any demonstration of concrete steps – whether already taken or in the offing – is conspicuous by its absence. My conclusion at this point – and has been for some time – is that the Ontario Conservatives aren’t particularly desirous of removing the ‘racist’ tag that many people apply to them. However, the effect of this may also fall on their federal counterparts, to which both the provincial and federal cousins remain equally oblivious.
You can see this for yourself in the images of my email and his reply below (in the interest of greater legibility on mobile devices, I have taken the screenshots in parts).
MY EMAIL TO ONTARIO MINISTER OF INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS, GREG RICKFORD
MINISTER RICKFORD’S REPLY
Many of you know this already, but let me reiterate it nevertheless: if they think that they can fob me off on this by using word salads and delaying tactics, they couldn’t be more mistaken. I am going to keep after this until the job gets done. I hope to have your support along the way.