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Provincial cabinet appointments applauded, panned by forestry, Indigenous leaders

Northerners take prime leadership positions in Doug Ford government
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Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli is Ontario's new finance minister (BayToday photo)

Two Northern Ontario MPPs will take up prominent positions in the new cabinet of Premier Doug Ford.

Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli was sworn in June 29 as finance minister and cabinet chair.

Kenora MPP Greg Rickford, a former federal natural resources minister in the Harper government, has achieved superminister status as minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and as minister of Indigenous Affairs.

Sault Ste. Marie MPP Ross Romano will be a parliamentary assistant under Rickford for both ministries.

The new Natural Resources and Forestry minister comes from southwestern Ontario in Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek.

“We have an all-star team that’s ready right now to give the people of Ontario the kind of leadership and direction they deserve,” said Ford in a statement.

In extending congratulations, the Ontario Forest Industries Association (OFIA) hopes Yurek will “make Ontario for open for business.”

“We are eager to begin work with Premier Ford’s government and deliver on a commitment to attract investment and create good jobs in Northern and rural Ontario,” said OFIA chair Erik Holmstrom, the timberlands manager for Weyerhaeuser in Kenora, Rickford’s home riding.

“We look forward to working with the new PC government and Kenora’s newly elected, Honourable Greg Rickford, to grow Ontario’s only naturally renewable resource - forestry.”

OFIA director Dan Bowes, Ontario Woodlands Manager for Columbia Forest Products with mills in Hearst and Rutherglen, congratulated Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli, the new finance minister, for his support.

“I am hopeful that by working together with the PC government, Ontario’s forest products sector will continue to thrive and grow.”

OFIA president Jamie Lim believes that by working with the new government the industry’s competitive challenges can be addressed.

“By maximizing the full potential of Ontario’s renewable resource through a provincial forestry strategy, we can create good-paying jobs and bring hope and prosperity to every region of this province.”

But a northwestern Ontario First Nation leader believes Indigenous relations in Ontario took a “step backward” with the decision to fold the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation into a “joint ministry” overseen by Rickford.

In a statement, Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said it “sends a clear signal that improving relations with Indigenous Peoples is not a priority for the Ford government.

“It is difficult to see how progress can continue to be made when our interests are reduced to only be of importance insofar as they relate to the government’s ability to access the resources within our lands. This government is advised that any effort to undermine the Treaty, ancestral or territorial rights of NAN First Nations will be decisively fought at both the political and legal levels. Our leaders are united in their resolve to protect and assert our rightful authority and jurisdiction over our homelands.”