THE FROG LAKE DILEMMA

Think all First Na­tions op­pose re­source de­vel­op­ment? Not even close

Alberta Venture - - Thebriefing] - Michael Gan­ley

>>> Joe Dion has a vi­sion for en­ergy de­vel­op­ment in Canada, and it in­cludes First Na­tions. He is pro­mot­ing the First Na­tions Na­tional En­ergy Strat­egy, which has been signed by nine oil and gas pro­duc­ing First Na­tions and pro­motes en­vi­ron­men­tally re­spon­si­ble en­ergy de­vel­op­ment. It also calls for eq­uity stakes in ma­jor projects for First Na­tions.

AL­BERTA VEN­TURE: What sup­port do you see for the First Na­tions Na­tional En­ergy Strat­egy? JOE DION: It has wide sup­port among First Na­tions, even though some won’t say they sup­port it. It has good sup­port from the oil in­dus­try folks. They may not want to give up eq­uity but the fact is that if they don’t give up eq­uity, they don’t get any projects. The pre­mier read it. I had a chance to talk with her dur­ing the Cal­gary Stam­pede. She didn’t say she would sup­port it but I think she knows that with­out a broad con­sen­sus of First Na­tions sup­port for some­thing like this, these pipe­line projects – any mega-projects in Canada – are in jeop­ardy of stalling. And I think Ot­tawa would ac­cept it if we had enough con­sen­sus among First Na­tions that this is the way to go.

AV: How much con­sen­sus would be enough? JD: There will al­ways be the diehards who, by virtue of their strong be­lief in the en­vi­ron­ment, are op­posed. But we’re all on that page, all Cana­di­ans, that the en­vi­ron­ment should be pro­tected. At the same time, we have re­sources that need to be ex­ploited, whether it’s gold, coal, nickel or oil. It needs to be moved. When I say “con­sen­sus,” that might be 60, 70 or 80 per cent, but I don’t think any sin­gle First Na­tion can hold up a project and risk the other First Na­tions or, for that mat­ter, our prov­ince and coun­try. AV: Why the fo­cus on eq­uity po­si­tions? JD: I’ve been on this track for eq­uity in lieu of land claims, money, rev­enue shar­ing, even cash pay­ments. Cash pay­ments can hap­pen one time, but then be used up quickly. When it’s gone, then what? This is a sus­tain­able way of build­ing com­mu­ni­ties and our coun­try. And the pride of own­er­ship is huge. If we can achieve this on pipelines, it be­comes a tem­plate for other projects across the coun­try, for hy­dro, for min­ing, for forestry, you name it.

AV: What if the project is a pipe­line cross­ing un­ceded ter­ri­tory in B.C.? JD: I think there’s a way to get around it. That’s why I’ve said, “You give First Na­tions the ben­e­fit from these projects, the long-term ben­e­fits, and I don’t see them op­pos­ing them.”

AV: But 50 First Na­tions lead­ers re­cently signed a “treaty” op­pos­ing oil sands and pipe­line de­vel­op­ment. What of them? JD: They have a po­si­tion, and you re­spect that. We need to get a com­pro­mise with them and with First Na­tions like us who want to ex­port oil, be­cause if we ex­port oil and get a bet­ter price for it, our profit mar­gin im­proves and we can build more houses and more roads in our com­mu­ni­ties. If there’s own­er­ship by First Na­tions along the pipe­line route, if there’s rev­enue shar­ing at the well­head, that’s what’s re­quired. We need a fair rev­enue shar­ing ar­range­ment with First Na­tions across the board.

AV: What is your ul­ti­mate goal? JD: We want to lift the First Na­tions out of poverty, and you achieve that by get­ting money into their hands to be able to af­ford their health care, hous­ing, ed­u­ca­tion. That’s what’s re­quired. The $8.4 bil­lion [over five years] that the fed­eral govern­ment has pro­posed for First Na­tions is a drop in the bucket. –

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