Thank you very much.
Thank you, Chair and committee members, for the opportunity to speak to you today.
My name is Delbert Wapass and I'm the former chief of Thunderchild First Nation and currently a board member on the Indian Resource Council. Our organization represents over 130 first nations that produce oil and gas or that have a direct interest in the oil and gas industry. Our mandate is to advocate for federal policies that will improve and increase economic development opportunities for first nations and their members.
I'm very pleased your committee is studying barriers to indigenous economic development, because we face a great many, not least from federal policies and legislation. Our communities benefit from involvement in oil and gas. The relationship has not always been perfect, but now it is positive and getting better. We are more involved in oil and gas jobs in reclamation, in procurement and in equity shares than ever. There isn't another industry in the country that has engaged indigenous peoples more meaningfully, in terms of the scale of own-source revenues, than the oil and gas industry have, and that's a fact.
That's why it is so important to our economic development and self-determination that Canada have a healthy and competitive oil and gas sector, but it often feels as though Canada is trying to eliminate the sector instead of support it. The cost overruns on TMX that indigenous groups want to buy, the cancellation of Keystone XL, the cancellation of Northern gateway, the tanker ban, the Impact Assessment Act, Bill C-69, the lack of LNG export capacity, the cancellation of Teck Frontier mine, the tens of millions in royalties that we lost in the past decade due to the differential in price between WCS and Brent crude—these have directly harmed our communities. These have cost first nations hundreds of millions in lost own-source revenues. I think everyone on this committee knows that none of our communities can afford that.
The lost own-source revenues and royalties are one big thing, but on top of that, these missed opportunities have cost our people procurement opportunities that probably would have numbered in the billions. When you talk about economic development, that's what's important: Giving our people well-paid jobs, getting first nations-owned businesses big contracts from trucking and catering to earth moving and reclamation so they can grow their businesses and hire more people and create opportunities for our entrepreneurs. There is no sector—no solar panel installation, no tourism, no golf courses—that can replace the economic opportunity that oil and gas provides for first nations, so you can eliminate the biggest barrier for indigenous economic development if you stop hampering our oil and gas industry.
I note that government is even now considering a cap on emissions, which is poorly drafted and which will in practice be a cap on production. Instead, I ask that you promote and encourage our involvement by making sure that first nations have the access to capital we need to be real partners in new projects.
I know you've heard in this study how [Technical difficulty—Editor]. I and our chairman are also involved in the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation. We've been able [Technical difficulty—Editor] in power plants, carbon capture facilities, pipelines and more, but at the federal level some people consider government-backed loans to indigenous communities to get involved in these things to be fossil fuel subsidies.
If the federal government is truly committed to reconciliation and the principles of UNDRIP, then you should be supportive of whatever kind of economic development we want to be part of, regardless of what industry it's in. You shouldn't be picking and choosing for us. You don't know better than we do what the right balance is for development in our territories. For our members, for many other first nations, oil and gas provide the best opportunity. It doesn't mean that we aren't interested in other sectors or that we don't want to be part of the net-zero economy, but this week of all weeks it should be obvious that having a strong oil and gas sector that has meaningful indigenous involvement and ownership and that is a global leader in environmental, social and governance principles is in the interests of all Canadians. I can tell you that it is in the interests of the Indian Resource Council.
Regarding the just transition, that's been put forward without consulting nations and their communities. It was handed down without any discussion. These discussions need to take place at the chief and council tables, not simply in Ottawa, for moving oil gas to alternative energy.
Thank you very much.