Attawapiskat’s Secondary Economy
The Victor diamond mine, 90 kilometers west of Attawapiskat, saw its royalties effectively double just as it approached production. The increase occurred without prior discussion, buried deep in the Liberal Government’s budget of Spring 2007. According to De Beers: “As of May 22, 2007, diamonds were taxed at 10%, and the Victor Mine was recognized as a remote project and eligible for a 5% rebate. This was the case when Victor was discovered, and when the the decision was made to build a $1 billion diamond mine.” Only now, that remote status designation was lost. De Beer’s immediate reaction was to issue a press release alerting northerners to the foreseeable negative economic impacts that these ‘arbitrary changes’ portended.
One month later, Attawapiskat’s Chief Carpenter stated the following in a letter addressed to Premier McGuinty referenced in the Globe & Mail:
“You and your officials are well aware that the only diamond mine in Ontario, and thus the only one to be immediately impacted by your decision, is located in the traditional territory of the Attawapiskat First Nation. Given the obvious importance of this project to our community and to future exploration in our lands, we should have been consulted.” (G&M April 10 2007)
From the Chief’s perspective, here was critically needed resource development revenue that might have fostered a secondary economy in his struggling community – but now siphoned off.
No media report on Attawapiskat’s present state-of-emergency plight has made this 2007 budgetary connection. If Ontario hopes to develop its Ring of Fire, this arbitrary tax-grab (most certainly at Attawapiskak’s expense) may well come back to haunt it.