EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared on The Trillium, a new Village Media website devoted exclusively to covering provincial politics at Queen’s Park
Premier Doug Ford said he isn't worried about a lawsuit from Treaty 9 First Nations saying they weren't properly consulted on Ring of Fire plans.
"No, not at all," he said on his way into a meeting between premiers and Indigenous groups in Winnipeg on Monday.
"We want to move forward and we want to work collaboratively with our Indigenous communities, and it's gonna benefit everyone."
Every Canadian premier is in Winnipeg for the Council of the Federation (CoF) meeting, running from Monday to Wednesday. Monday's meeting between premiers and Indigenous groups was the first event on the schedule.
Treaty 9 First Nations recently filed a lawsuit against the federal and Ontario governments alleging they hadn't been properly consulted on resource extraction and other issues on their territory.
The Ring of Fire has become a sticking point as many First Nations feel they haven't been treated as equal partners.
"We're in non-stop consultation," Ford said with a chuckle, adding that Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford has "done a great job."
The theme extended to Monday's meeting, Métis National Council President Cassidy Caron said, noting that she only had 15 minutes for her presentation on Métis issues.
"I represent a nation. Fifteen minutes just simply is not enough time to engage with these governments on a government-to-government, nation-to-nation basis," she said.
Cassidy said she would talk to the premiers about "conditions for future participation" in these types of meetings.
Ford and Quebec Premier François Legault also confirmed The Trillium's reporting that the pair are planning to pressure the federal government over the deal to replace Canada's military surveillance planes.
Ottawa has hinted it will give the contract to American company Boeing, but Ford and Legault want the feds to open up the competition so Bombardier, which has a large presence in Ontario and Quebec, has a chance to win it.
Ford said he's a "big believer in making sure that we manufacture everything we can in Canada or Ontario."
"And we just want to endorse them to have a fair process. If Boeing's better, then Boeing gets it. If Bombardier's better, they get it. But there has to be a fair and transparent process," he said.
Heading into three days of meetings with fellow premiers, Ford said his top priority is getting more infrastructure money from the federal government.
He said he wants to get things built more quickly, including the Ring of Fire and Highway 413, as Ontario welcomes hundreds of thousands of people per year.
Infrastructure is his top Indigenous issue as well, Ford said. "And you know something, I love (federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister) Dominic Leblanc. He's a great guy. I look forward to working with him. We're good pals, and hopefully he can come to the table for the rest of the country," he said.