What a lovely day in Ottawa on Nov. 4 to swear in a new Prime Minister and his Cabinet. It was all warm sunshine and a renewed hope for better days ahead for PM Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government.
Trudeau’s Cabinet includes Jim Carr (Winnipeg South Centre) as Minister of Natural Resources Canada. Educated at the University of Manitoba and McGill University, Carr has been an oboist and a trustee with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. He won his first seat in the Manitoba legislature in 1988, and served as deputy leader of the provincial opposition. He resigned his seat in 1992 and became a columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press and CBC Radio. He is also the president of the Business Council of Manitoba. Carr made his successful first foray into federal politics this year.
Carr seems to have lots of business and political experience, but does any of it align with the mining industry? This writer found nothing specific to link him and mineral production, but being from Manitoba he is certainly aware of Vale’s Thompson operations and Hudbay’s projects at Flin Flon and Snow Lake.
The question becomes one of whether or not he is aware of the exploration projects in the province. Much can be done at the federal level to encourage success for these ventures – flow-through shares, unified environmental assessments, and support for consultations between the industry and indigenous peoples. And there is nothing wrong with the federal government urging the provinces that they pick up their pace on these topics, in particular aboriginal consultation.
Most of the daily news writers are saying Carr’s brief will be a tough one, and we cannot disagree. But those authors mention only the oil and gas aspect of his portfolio. Dealing with weak oil prices and the future of the oil sands will never be easy.
Here’s hoping that Carr does not forget the mining industry as he tackles his portfolio. Good wages and hefty contributions to Canada’s gross domestic product are features of both segments. Export markets are of primary importance to both. But, in terms of employment, mining is bigger – 400,000 people employed in mining and mineral processing compared to 300,000 in oil and gas (NRCan figures).
Here’s hoping that NRCan under new minister Jim Carr can get both engines of his portfolio contributing effectively to our economy.