OPINION: First Nations can prosper through resource development – by Tom Flanagan (Globe and Mail – March 2, 2018)


Tom Flanagan is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Calgary and a senior fellow of the Fraser Institute. He is the author of a newly released report, The Community Capitalism of the Fort McKay First Nation.

Located in northern Alberta in the heart of the oil sands, the Fort McKay First Nation is an outstanding example of community capitalism in action.

Its business portfolio generates gross revenue of about $500-million a year and creates about 2,000 jobs. Only about 5 per cent of its annual net income is derived from government transfers; the other 95 per cent is own-source revenue from business activities.

And the wealth is shared. Fort McKay’s Community Well-Being Index, based on income, employment, housing quality and education, has steadily risen until it is almost as high as the average for all Canadian communities. The average aftertax income for Fort McKay residents was $73,571 in 2015 – significantly higher than for Alberta ($50,683) and Canada ($38,977).

This is an outstanding achievement for a First Nation whose people just a generation ago were hunters and trappers in a remote wilderness area.

All this has been done without producing a drop of oil or earning a dollar in royalties. Fort McKay has prospered by selling services to oil sands corporations, starting with janitorial care, then expanding into trucking, earth moving, well-site maintenance, and work force lodging. In short, they seized the opportunities presented by one of the biggest industrial developments on the planet.

For the rest of this column: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/first-nations-can-prosper-through-resource-development/article38161446/