Thursday, November 8, 2018

Ellis Ross calls for more clarity on EA process than what NDP government has put forward

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross offered up some thoughts on the NDP government's
proposed Environmental Assessment changes on Wednesday evening

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross has taken the spotlight in the early days of debate related to the NDP government's new Environmental Assessment legislation, speaking to his concerns in the Wednesday afternoon session of the Legislature.

Earlier this week, we outlined the nature of the new legislation that the Provincial government introduced on Monday, providing for a range of changes that George Heyman, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change strategy noted would help pursue reconciliation with the Indigenous peoples of the province.

Yesterday Mr. Ross called on some of his experiences as the Chief Councillor of the Haisla Nation to frame some of his concerns over the NDP's bill, particularly in the way that it adopts some of the elements of the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous People, a document which Mr. Ross has had much to say about in the past.

I'll give this to the NDP government. At least, in forming this new bill, the NDP government decided to continue to follow existing case law as a priority. UNDRIP, the United Nations declaration on the rights of Indigenous people, is a political document that's undefined. You can't legislate it. But the case law you can. That's what this bill does, for the most part. 

 For the most part, when I was looking through this bill, the template was set already, over 14 or 15 years of the LNG industry establishing a base in B.C. Everything I've seen in this bill, in terms of the measures, I experienced over the last 14 years. A lot of it was successful. Some of it failed. Dispute resolution, mediation, the protection of the bill to take legal action, even strength of claim and trying to figure out how to define it — it's all in this bill. But it's actually what I experienced at the working level in Kitamaat Village over the last 14 years.

The main backdrop for the Skeena MLA's review of the Government's plans for Environmental Assessment was through review of his work with the Haisla and how the proposed legislation may impact on how communities and First Nations move development forward.

In terms of early engagement, it's not clear what this bill talks about in terms of early engagement. It's actually different from what I experienced. From what I experienced with the LNG industry — even before they made an application, even before they made mention to B.C. — they came to our office. That is early engagement. 

 Once they understood our issues and once we had a protocol, then they went and applied for the environmental certificate, a section 10. From then on, they kept coming back and getting our interest before any single permit was applied for. It was easier for them. I don't see that wording in this bill. I see a technical, complicated bunch of clauses that talk about early engagement. That is not early engagement, based on what made LNG successful in Kitimat.

In the conclusion to his comments for the Legislature of Wednesday, the Mr. Ross observed that the NDP document has a number of flaws that should be addressed, noting that as it stands at the moment it could have a serious impact on the economic development of the province.

We need a cleaner bill with more clarity to get more LNG projects built. We don't need more obstacles like more taxes. Carbon tax. The United States doesn't have one. We don't need a climate action plan that's going to limit emissions but continue to allow Asia or the United States to increase theirs. We don't need this stuff. Canada is a leader in environmental protection. We're the leader in reducing emissions.

We need a bill that can get the LNG projects built. We need a bill that can get other projects built quickly and that can lift all of us up, First Nations and non-First Nations alike. The revenues that we get from these projects can turn around and help with our highways and our hospitals. We don't need obstacles. We don't need this bureaucratic language that talks a mean game but is really designed to shut down the economic fabric of B.C. and Canada. We don't need that.

 We've got a lot to be proud of in Canada. It was built by people that wanted a better life for their citizens. This bill should actually promote that, build on that and build a stronger future for tomorrow and for tomorrow's children. Not a bill that is designed to shut down or slow down the economy of B.C.

The full transcript of his remarks is available from the Legislature Record for Wednesday afternoon starting at the 17:15 mark.

The Video presentation is also available from the Legislature website, viewed through the Chamber video for Wednesday afternoon session at the the 5:15 PM mark

You can review more on the work of the Skeena MLA in the Legislature from our archive page here.

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