Integrity and credibility
At the end of this year, 61-year-old Patrick Reid will complete a 20-year career as president of the Ontario Mining Association, to be succeeded by Chris Hodgson, formerly a member of provincial parliament and Ontario’s mines minister.
Gregarious and cheerful, Reid has been a fixture at nearly every public gathering of mining interests in Ontario during his term, besides his work away from the public eye, but his previous life was quite separate from mining. “I grew up in Atikokan, an iron mining community in northwest Ontario, in a very political family, with the ambition of becoming a Member of Parliament.” He studied Economics at university; he was 24 years old and two years into a Masters degree in 1967 when he was first elected to the Ontario legislature, as the Liberal-Labour member for Rainy River.
His older brother John already occupied the federal seat for the district. The Reid brothers’ party was a Liberal/Labour amalgamation peculiar to northwest Ontario, dating from the 1930s. The local constituency dropped the Labour designation after Reid retired as MPP, after five elections and 17 years.
Why did he quit the legislature? “I got married in 1979 and we had our first child in 1981. It got so I was never home. We wanted to have more kids. Seventeen years is a long time in elected politics; the average political career is eight years.”
When OMA president Jim Hughes resigned, Reid applied for the job. Reid says it was a perfect fit for him, because of his being raised in a northern mining community and understanding the workings of government. “I wanted to remain connected to my northern roots.”
As OMA president, Reid says, “Ninety percent of what I do is to communicate, within the industry and with other stakeholders. You are seen either to be credible or not, by industry, the government and the general public. I have been very fortunate to have had the support of the industry and credibility with the government of the day and all three parties in the Legislature.” He adds, “In my 20 years at the OMA, there have been six different governments and at least twice that number of ministers of mines.”
The OMA gets industry feedback from its board and committees; each committee has one OMA staff member plus industry volunteers. One of the association’s challenges is that the industry is not at all homogenous; there are different size companies that explore for or mine industrial minerals, metals and diamonds; the high prices of commodities across the board today is unusual.
“When things are tough, their attention is on surviving, not on government initiatives. That’s when they really depend on the OMA. Board members are extremely busy people, sometimes wearing two or three hats. The president has to know the industry and take the initiative on many files, partly due to the fact that the government of the day wants feedback on their policy initiatives before it is possible to get everyone’s input. I have to take the lead, such as addressing Bill 97 about sharing profits with native people, and get the board’s opinions.
Reid points out accomplishments of the OMA during his term of office. “One thing has been to work on the orphaned and abandoned mines issue for many years. Many of them were closed before we knew the science and the environmental effects that we know now. This legacy of abandoned mines harms the image of the mining industry, as well as sometimes being a threat to human health and safety.” The work is not over; the OMA is currently involved in the National Abandoned and Orphaned Mines Initiative (NAOMI). “If we could get a sustained funding regime across Canada, we could clear up these abandoned sites in 10-15 years.”
Another achievement was to convince the Ontario government to cut the mining tax from 30% to 20% and finally to 10% to make Ontario more competitive. “It makes a big difference to profitability, and enhances Ontario as a place to invest in and explore.”
If Reid has gained any wisdom from his time at the OMA it’s this: “Do your homework, try to reach fair and equitable solutions, and maintain your personal integrity, and that will be reflected in the success you have. A good sense of humour helps.”
Once he retires, he plans to spend more time at his cottage “in God’s country” on Rainy Lake, but he won’t be entirely out of the business. He will remain on the boards of two juniors, Candor Ventures Corp. and Probe Mines Ltd. “A lot of the fun and action is at the junior exploration level.” Reid intends to remain active in the mining industry and hopes his expertise and experience will be used in a consulting capacity by the industry.