B.C. First Nation will accept LNG project – on their terms – by Brian Lee Crowley (Globe and Mail – May 15, 2015)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

Brian Lee Crowley is the managing director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, an independent non-partisan public policy think tank in Ottawa.

What a brave new natural resource world it is that has such players in it. What else but the Bard’s Tempest could be brought to mind by the storm of consternation and controversy surrounding the decision by one B.C. First Nation to turn down more than $1-billion for their agreement to a liquefied natural gas project on their territory?

Is that tempest justified? If the media narrative around the decision were correct, the answer is probably yes. According to that account, yet another First Nation has refused a hugely generous benefits package in order to indulge their environmental and anti-development hobby horses. If this kind of behaviour is allowed to continue, it will spell the end of new natural resource investment in Canada.

That investment, already made nervous by Canada’s high costs, ponderous regulatory apparatus and politicized decision-making, was already close to concluding that Canada doesn’t want to develop its resources and going elsewhere. Adding unreasonable and capricious aboriginal demands to the mix is simply the straw that will break the camel’s back.

There is, however, a different narrative that leads to very different conclusions.

In that narrative, natural resource development in British Columbia – ground zero for First Nation muscle-flexing – is in rude health. According to a just-released report by Resource Works, a B.C.-based group that supports responsible development of the province’s natural wealth, “resource development in British Columbia has proceeded at an historic pace in recent years. This boom has been facilitated by unprecedented co-operation between the resource industry and First Nations.”

There have been stumbling blocks. But what could we expect as First Nations, governments and project proponents gingerly feel their way to understanding aboriginal power and influence over resource development, especially after the 1982 constitutional reforms and many judicial decisions have given new life to aboriginal rights and authority?

The reality on the ground is that a new modus vivendi is gradually emerging and aboriginal Canada is enjoying unprecedented economic and social progress as a result, with more to come. Soon several aboriginal development corporations will boldly shoulder their way into the 100 largest companies in Canada. You cannot achieve such progress by being anti-development.

For the rest of this column, click here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-commentary/executive-insight/bc-first-nation-will-accept-lng-project-on-their-terms/article24443908/

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