Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Energy development theme for Ellis Ross commentary in Legislature Monday

A call to keep the progress on energy resource development was the main focus for Skeena MLA Ellis Ross on Monday, with the BC United member tracing the development of LNG in the province, noting how it had been First Nation Driven over the last decade. 

Speaking in the morning session, Ross was taking up the discussion point of the morning of Indigenous Economic Development and provided a history lesson of sorts for the Chamber on the path for resources over the decade, noting of both the challenges and successes of that period.

We're talking about Indigenous economic development. This conversation is 20 years too late. I'm glad the NDP government finally caught up to the rest of B.C. and Canada, but this is exactly what the Haida court case was about in 2004: the inescapable economic component that has to be addressed when you're dealing with rights and title. 

And when we were dealing with this, with the government at the time, the B.C. Liberals, and the First Nations across B.C., it wasn't easy. We were trying to figure out what consultation and accommodation meant. And we made mistakes, and there were bad feelings, but we stuck to it. We kept going back to the table.

The Skeena MLA also noted for the Chamber how the NDP had not always been advocates for the development of LNG, noting of the days in the past of declarations against development. 

That likely a nod towards his fellow Northwest MLA's in the Chamber.  

Back in 2016, Nathan Cullen who at the time was the federal MP, along with North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice had both  signed the Lelu Island Declaration related to the Petronas led LNG development. 

"It didn't help that the NDP were in the background actually opposing LNG. 

The NDP are now talking about how they support Indigenous economic development, and yet LNG was First Nations-driven. 

It was our idea. We forced this on B.C. and Canada. So for the NDP to sign LNG anti-declarations kind of goes against what they're talking about here today."

Mr. Ross also noted of some of the current challenges facing Indigenous led projects today, observing of three initiatives in the work, including one with plans to use Port facilities in Prince Rupert for shipment.

"This narrative still exists. The last time we debated LNG in a context of Indigenous economic development, a member of the NDP government said: "If we want forward-looking and effective economic independence for First Nations, if we want good jobs for our children's children in a world that is safe and secure, then all indicators are that future LNG expansion isn't the answer." 

That is not supporting Indigenous economic development, especially when you consider Nisga'a LNG's pipeline certificate is going to expire this year. If it doesn't get renewed, they've got to start over, and getting a certificate in B.C. costs millions and millions of dollars. This can be fixed easily by an order-in-council. Renew Nisga'a's pipeline certificate. 

McLeod Lake. They're going to take a by-product from LNG and produce ammonia and hydrogen. Fast-track them. If you truly believe in the words that you're saying, fast-track McLeod Lake's ammonia plant. Frog Lake First Nation plans to ship ammonia to Prince Rupert. That can be fast-tracked, and it can be done in partnership with Canada because it's going to come by rail. 

Kitselas First Nation, my territory, has been waiting for approval for a geothermal for close to ten years. They can't get an approval. 

Geothermal, the cleanest energy possible: issue their permit."

His final comments on the topic one of a cautionary tale for the Legislature to continue to move forward when it comes to developing resources.

"We should build what was being built in B.C. by First Nations and the Crown for the last 20 years and build on it. And don't exclude gas and oil projects. If you truly believe in the economic development of First Nations and you want to finance and loan guarantees, don't exclude oil and gas, because it's hard to replace one First Nations community's funding agreement that could be at minimum $5 million to $7 million with economic development. 

We've come a long ways. For the last 18 years, we've had peace of the forest or the forest and range agreements that were signed between the B.C. Liberals and the First Nations. We had the LNG Canada agreement, the Chevron agreement that left town, and now we've got Haisla Cedar. 

We've come a long ways. Let's not destroy it."

In response, the  NDP's Ravi Parmer, observed on the progress the government is making on resource development and Indigenous development, as well as to note that this is likely the final session for Ross as MLA for Skeena, noting of his upcoming run for Federal office.

"It's always a pleasure to be able to respond to the comments from the member across the way, the MLA for Skeena. 

I want to thank him for his words and thank him for his leadership. I know that this is going to be his last session before, hopefully, in his case, bigger and better things at the federal scene, if things work out for him. 

But I just want to thank him for his words and, of course, the important work that he's been doing on Indigenous economic development his entire life, whether that is in this House or as the Chief of his nation."

The MLA's commentary for Monday can be reviewed through the Legislature video starting at the 10:39 AM mark of the session.

More notes from the Legislature can be reviewed here.

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