Prentice snubs Ontario counterpart
----- Original Message -----
From: Peter Di Gangi
To: Peter Di Gangi
Sent: Tuesday, October 31, 2006 8:36 PM
Subject: G&M: Prentice snubs Ontario counterpart
Prentice snubs Ontario counterpart
KEITH LESLIE AND TOBI COHEN
TORONTO - Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice is blaming "political grandstanding" by his Ontario counterpart and the province's premier for his last-minute decision Tuesday to cancel a meeting aimed at resolving an eight-month aboriginal standoff in southern Ontario.
David Ramsay, Ontario's minister responsible for aboriginal affairs, had travelled to Ottawa on Tuesday to present Mr. Prentice with a bill for costs incurred by Ontario as a result of the land dispute in Caledonia, Ont. Mr. Ramsay also planned to ask Mr. Prentice to take a larger role in negotiating an end to the standoff.
But Mr. Prentice called off the scheduled 7 p.m. meeting.
"The recent persistent stories quoting both the premier and the minister created an atmosphere of political grandstanding that disturbed Mr. Prentice," said Mr. Prentice's spokeswoman, Deirdra McCracken.
"Mr. Prentice decided it would be better to cancel (Tuesday's) meeting and reschedule it when there is an atmosphere more conducive to constructive discussions that will lead to progress in resolving the dispute."
Mr. Ramsay was unaware that the meeting had been cancelled until he arrived in Ottawa.
He said in a statement late Tuesday that he was "disappointed" Mr. Prentice was a no-show, and called it "another example of the federal government failing to live up to its obligations to the people of Ontario."
Six Nations protesters have been occupying the disputed land, a residential development just south of Hamilton, since February. A number of heated confrontations involving the occupiers and non-aboriginal residents have led to violence and a number of arrests.
Earlier Tuesday, Premier Dalton McGuinty called on Ottawa to "step up to the plate" and help end the standoff.
Mr. McGuinty said his government doesn't have the power to settle the issue and can no longer be expected to absorb the mounting economic costs of the occupation.
"The only people who are in a position to wrap up this negotiation are the federal government, and to a very large extent, they have been missing in action," Mr. McGuinty said before entering a caucus meeting.
"We would welcome them coming to the table with concrete proposals and any kind of an effort that would accelerate these negotiations."
The premier said that three-way talks between federal, provincial and aboriginal representatives aimed at ending the occupation have been dragging on without much headway.
"I'd like to see the federal government acknowledge that we have a situation in Caledonia, which the provincial government cannot address," Mr. McGuinty said.
"The Six Nations community would be the very first to tell you that."
Mr. McGuinty said the province has spent more than $25-million to buy the disputed land and compensate local businesses, plus millions more in overtime for Ontario Provincial Police officers who remain on the scene around the clock.
"We're asking ourselves, 'How long are we going to have to have a police presence there? How long will we have to continue to incur additional costs?' " Mr. McGuinty said.
In the Ontario legislature Tuesday, Opposition Leader John Tory promised to call a public inquiry into the government's handling of the Caledonia occupation if his Conservatives win next year's provincial election, and blasted the Liberals for failing to reveal the total cost to date of the standoff.
"They said they were working very well with the federal government, but now they're saying something quite different," Mr. Tory said.
"This government will say anything they can get away with in this matter, and do as little as possible in the meantime."
Mr. McGuinty responded by suggesting Mr. Tory call Prime Minister Stephen Harper to help convince his federal cousin to help the province pay some of the Caledonia costs.
"The federal government has not spent a single penny in order to provide assistance to the people of the community of Caledonia," Mr. McGuinty said.
The protesters claim the contested land was taken from them more than two centuries ago. They say Six Nations agreed to lease the property for a road in 1835, and dispute arguments that it was later sold to the Crown.
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