Ottawa opening BC office to woo First Nations on energy projects

The feds are also establishing a forum with the BC government to encourage aboriginal participation in energy developments.

PRINCE RUPERT, BC — The federal government will set up a major projects management office in BC to try to woo West Coast First Nations for the myriad of energy projects proposed in the province.

The announcement was the third in as many weeks from the federal government as it prepares to make a decision on the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline proposal through BC.

Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford said Ottawa will also establish a forum with the provincial government and First Nations to work toward aboriginal participation in energy developments.

“This is an important time and it’s an important opportunity for Canada and its natural resource sector, a time that potentially means hundreds of thousands of jobs for Canadian families, jobs in every sector of our economy and every corner of our country,” Rickford said in Prince Rupert, on the north coast.

He said energy developments proposed in BC could generate hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions in tax revenues throughout Canada.

“There’s no denying there’s a lot at stake here.”

Though Rickford said the measures are not related to any specific project, opponents of the Northern Gateway said the minister is clearly paving the way for approval.

Over the past few weeks, Ottawa has also announced improvements to marine and pipeline safety.

“It’s all lining up for approval,” said Art Sterritt, executive director of Coastal First Nations, which represents nine bands along the proposed Northern Gateway tanker route.

“If they were going to reject it, they wouldn’t waste so bloody much time on process here. They wouldn’t be opening new offices in BC for the sake of a project that wasn’t going ahead. They wouldn’t be announcing world-class cleanup for oil if there was no oil.”

The two measures were among the recommendations last fall by Douglas Eyford, appointed by the federal government to consult First Nations as the Northern Gateway proposal foundered.

Indeed, Sterritt said the major projects office, which will be located in Vancouver, and the forum are good ideas that go beyond the northern pipeline proposed by Calgary-based Enbridge and the proposed expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain line to Metro Vancouver.

“But they’re going to have to get in the room and do some hard work,” said Sterritt. “It hasn’t been done well, the interaction with First Nations.”

© 2014 The Canadian Press

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