Bob Zimmer: Many First Nations eager to play role in natural gas development


Recently, LNG Canada reaffirmed its commitment to build its proposed liquefied natural gas export terminal with plans to start construction in 2018.

Not only is this great news for British Columbia and Canada, it also highlights what many of us already knew, that there is a growing number of First Nations in British Columbia that support the responsible development of natural resources.

As Ellis Ross, Skeena MLA and former chief councillor of the Haisla Nation, has put it in the past:

“For us to be truly successful, we need to see our people among the first in line for the permanent skilled jobs — pipefitters, electricians, millwrights — that will come if LNG projects move ahead. In Kitimat’s boom-and-bust economy, that will be the only way for us to make good on the promises we’ve been making to our youth — that if they get an education, they will get good jobs and build fulfilling careers.”

In fact, according to the B.C. government, in 2017 the province had entered into 64 natural gas pipeline benefits agreements with more than 90 per cent of eligible First Nations located along four proposed natural gas pipeline routes.

Since that time, however, there has been a shift in power in the province and while the Trudeau government says they support projects like the Kinder Morgan pipeline, they continue to introduce unnecessary regulations that are effectively killing potential projects.

I know in our region there is a sense of growing anxiety and frustration among those communities that would directly benefit from natural resource projects going forward. It often seems as though we are taking one step forward and two steps back.

That’s why, in January, I was happy to read that the Chiefs’ Council, representing 30 communities engaged in the First Nations-led Eagle Spirit energy corridor, is raising funds to challenge in federal court the Trudeau government’s proposed Oil Tanker Moratorium Act, which would ban oil tankers from shipping oil through Northern B.C. ports.

One of the reasons given to mount this legal challenge was that, “These government actions harm all our communities and deny opportunity to create hope and a brighter future for their members.”

I also recently read a letter to the editor from Chief Councillor Crystal Smith of the Haisla Nation in which she outlines why, after working closely with LNG Canada and participating in the environmental review process, the Haisla Nation is supportive of the project. One section that I think is very important to highlight from her letter is:

“We know exactly what we need – the ability to govern ourselves, take care of our families, and ensure our young people have the kind of opportunities that allow them to remain in our community and become self-supporting.

“What we need are well-paying jobs and economic development opportunities, so we can dramatically reduce unemployment.

“LNG development has offered that path for the Haisla Nation.”

I think it’s important to get the word out that there is a large contingent of First Nations people who want our natural resources to be developed and know that this can be done in an environmentally safe and responsible way.

Many times, those saying no are not from the region, and do not understand the economic impact the responsible development of these resources will have on our communities.

We must continue to show our support for these projects to help ensure that they move forward, as they will benefit all Canadians.

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Bob Zimmer is the Member of Parliament for Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies.

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