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Wynne and Harper meeting to discuss Ring of Fire development, pensions

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne speaks in Toronto on Dec. 3, 2013.


Developing Northern Ontario's Ring of Fire and pumping up the Canada Pension Plan are expected to top the agenda when Prime Minister Stephen Harper sits down with Premier Kathleen Wynne in Ottawa Thursday.

The pair will hunker down at 4:30 p.m. on Parliament Hill for their second formal meeting since Ms. Wynne took power earlier this year.

The Premier is expected to press Mr. Harper to help pay for infrastructure to the Ring of Fire, a vast mineral deposit 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.

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The region promises to yield $60-billion for the province's economy, according to Ms. Wynne's government's calculations, but lacks a road or rail link to transport ore out. The area also requires electricity and water utilities to service mining operations. Ms. Wynne wants Ottawa to split the cost of paying for all these projects evenly with her government.

"The Prime Minister and his Ministers have sung the praises of the opportunities in the Ring of Fire. That's why it is incumbent upon them to take part in the project and to be full partners at the table, as they have been full partners in other projects across the country," Ms. Wynne's spokeswoman, Zita Astravas, wrote in an e-mail. "Premier Wynne has been clear that Ontario is prepared to make a substantial contribution to the infrastructure needed to access the resources."

Ontario is also pushing for an enhancement to CPP, which would see people pay higher premiums in exchange for richer benefits at retirement.

The matter was central to two meetings of provincial premiers in Ontario over the last six months. Most provinces are on side with Ontario's position, but Alberta has not yet made up its mind whether to support an increased CPP or not.

Ottawa has left the door open to the possibility, but has expressed concern higher CPP premiums would impose a difficult burden on employers in a tough economy.

The provinces have not yet agreed on how large an enhancement to CPP would be, or on when it would be implemented.

Ms. Wynne will also renew her call for a national infrastructure-building plan. Currently, the federal government pays for individual projects on a one-off basis, but Ms. Wynne wants a more detailed plan to show exactly how much infrastructure will be built over a given period of time.

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