Outgoing Fort William First Nation Chief Peter Collins has landed a new job leading an Indigenous construction company tasked to take on a major transmission line project in northwestern Ontario.
The board of directors of Chi Mino Ozhitoowin (CMO) announced the appointment of Collins as its CEO, effective Sept. 19.
A limited partnership entity, CMO is owned by the First Nations communities of Eagle Lake, Wabigoon Lake, Lac La Croix First Nation, Fort William, Seine River, Lac Seul, Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation, and Ojibway Nation of Saugeen.
The organization was created to provide First Nation employment, training, procurement, environmental monitoring, cultural awareness, and other services to the successful construction contractor on the Waasigan Transmission Line Project, a new power line to be constructed across northwestern Ontario to feed the increasing electrical demand from the resource industry.
The name Chi Mino Ozhitoowin came from the Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation elders and means “everyone building (anything) in a real good way.”
The Waasigan Transmission Line is a proposed new double-circuit 230 kilovolt transmission line between the Lakehead Transformer Station in the municipality of Shuniah, north of Thunder Bay, and the Mackenzie Transformer Station in the Town of Atikokan. A new single-circuit 230 kilovolt transmission line will also be erected between the Mackenzie station and the transformer station in the City of Dryden.
There is increasing demand for more power in northwestern Ontario from the forest products and mining companies with the stable of existing and new mines that will be brought into production over the course of this decade.
A news release said Collins will be responsible for developing and implementing training, employment, and procurement initiatives for First Nations members to benefit from the power line project.
Collins, a popular and regionally well-known leader, has owned and operated a successful construction business. He recently announced he was stepping down as chief, effective Sept. 18, before the end of his term on April 2023.
First elected to local politics as a councillor in 1986, Collins served 13 years as chief. During his tenure, Collins has stressed economic development, including building an administrative building to host the band offices and in leasing space to other corporate tenants.
Located across the Kaministiqua River from Thunder Bay, the community runs a successful hockey arena and hosts many popular gas bars and convenience stores. Fort William also operates a heavy industrial park that leases land to companies, including Resolute Forest Products, a tenant for 20 years.
Collins was instrumental in organizing First Nations participation by the communities along the path of the construction of the recently-finished East-West Tie transmission line along the north shore of Lake Superior.
“I would like to thank the board of directors and eight partner First Nations for giving me this opportunity to lead CMO,” Collins said in a statement.
“While construction is several years away, there’s a lot of work ahead to get our people and businesses ready to capture opportunities from the Waasigan Transmission Line Project. I will work hard to make sure Hydro One and the contractor fulfill their commitments to meaningful Indigenous participation on the project.”
Industrial demand is expected to increase 180 per cent over the next five years in the region. Waasigan will bring an additional 350 megawatts of power to the region, enough to supply approximately 11 new average mining operations.
The environmental assessment (EA) process along the corridor began last March. A tentative construction decision is tentatively scheduled for sometime in 2023 or 2024, but project timelines could change depending on feedback coming from the EA.