Mr. Speaker, I would like to note that I will be sharing my time with the member for Cariboo—Prince George.
I am glad to have the opportunity to stand up on this emergency debate. I am not glad that we have to have it, but I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on such an important issue, an issue that is critically important to people in my riding.
It was shortly after I was elected in 2008 that I first remember being briefed on the plans of Kinder Morgan in terms of its expansion. I have been elected now for almost 10 years. Over those 10 years, and not just since the Liberal government came into place but eight years previously, I have watched the extraordinary efforts of the National Energy Board, the federal government, and the company itself as it went up and down the pipeline to every single community in its consultation process. It has been tireless in working with these communities.
Tonight we are hearing a lot in terms of indigenous rights and titles, and I would like to focus a lot of my comments in that particular area.
It was about two years ago that I went on one of our national TV shows. The person ahead of me, who was a band member, said that this pipeline would never be built and that his band was against it absolutely. He left, and there was a little bit of time before I was to talk. I asked the person hosting the show why they were only bringing on the few communities that were dead set against the project and telling the national audience what a difficult project it was going to be and that it would not be supported. Why were they not talking to the people in my riding?
I never did get a good answer. I was willing to put forward names of communities that were working towards resolution, but never, certainly two years ago, did I see any effort put into educating Canadians about the communities that were very interested. However, we certainly had significant coverage of the communities that were opposed.
I can understand why many Canadians would think that there has not been consultation and that rights and titles are not being respected, because that is what they see in the media and in the paper, so what I am hoping to do tonight is give voice to those communities who are the title and rights holders.
This is not the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. These are not people far afield who have decided that they do not want this project to go through. These are the people who are the title and rights holders of the territory that this pipeline is going to pass through.
I have a relationship with many of these people and I reached out to them tonight through social media, which is a great resource in terms of private messaging. I asked if they would mind if I shared some of their thoughts and some of the public and private posts. Each one said, “Please do.”
I will start with a first nation councillor, Don Matthew, who retweeted an article the other day saying that communities deserve consultation. He agreed absolutely, and that they have been given that.
One-third of the pipeline will go through his community's traditional territory. They have had meeting after meeting, and this community took it to a vote. He said that there was not 100% consensus, but 85% of the community that will have one-third of the pipeline go through it voted to accept and endorse the pipeline as well as the agreement that came with it. He said that his community was a member of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, but that it is not the decision-maker on this particular issue. This is their community, and they are the title and rights holders.
The next community I will talk about is Whispering Pines. Again, it is a significant area that the pipeline goes through, and this is what Chief LeBourdais had to say. Again, I do not presume to say things; what I am going to say in the House is on behalf of the people, in their quotes.
This is from an interview he had today with the media. He said, “We put a lot time and energy into negotiating this agreement. You know, we wanted Kinder Morgan to respect our jurisdiction. We wanted the federal government to respect our jurisdiction, and they did.”
He went on to say, “When the feds came and said 'we are here to help', we said 'no, thank you.' We asked them to leave, and invited Kinder Morgan in. It wasn't just us; there were 11 communities along the pipe. For the first five years, we met with Kinder Morgan trying to figure out the rights entitled to the pipeline. When our lawyers couldn't agree on who owns the right of way, we decided to negotiate some mutually beneficial agreements.”
He talked about the environment. He said that these were difficult conversations. He said, “At one meeting, Ian said, 'What do you want?' We were frustrated. We kicked our lawyers out of the room, and he said, 'What do you want?' I said, 'I want you to respect my jurisdiction. I want you to invest in my community, but most above all, I want you to keep the oil in the damn pipe.' The answer from Kinder Morgan was, 'That is what I want: to respect your jurisdiction, help invest in the community, and keep the oil in the pipe.”
From that place, they went on to negotiate an agreement. They met a number of times. Again the communities said yes, they supported this particular agreement.
He said, “It's fascinating for us to watch these people who weren't there in the beginning talk about our agreement and our jurisdiction. It kind of annoys us.” For people who sit here and presume to talk to the title and rights holders about what has been negotiated and the fact that they have not been consulted, he said that is incredibly disrespectful and annoying.
If they did not have the pipeline go through, he said, “It will be the same old, same old: same pipe, same jurisdiction; no jurisdiction, no benefits, no economic benefits, no fiscal benefits, and no increase in tax benefits. What we looked for personally on my side and what I wanted in the agreement was the economic benefits, jobs. I wanted to put my youth and my middle class, my working class guys on the pipe, and get them out of Alberta and North Dakota where they are working.”
He went on to have some significant conversation around the additional environmental protections that they thought were very important and that Kinder Morgan agreed to, again working directly with the title and rights holders. He said, “When people ask how we can support the pipeline, I ask, 'Did you get gas today?' When they say yes, I say, 'Then you have to support it also.'”
That particular interview went on for about 10 minutes, but it was significant. For anyone who is wondering what has been happening on the ground for the last number of years, it was not the government not doing its job, not the company not doing its job, not the communities not doing their job. There was hard work put into coming up with agreements that were going to benefit everyone.
The Peters First Nation said that it has lived with the pipeline for over 40 years seated at the base of their mountain above their homes, and went on to talk about the pipeline and its being the safest way to transport. We all know right now there is only so much capacity on our rail lines. The more we transport oil by rail, the less we have in terms of capacity for getting our lumber and wheat products to market. Not only is a pipeline safer, but it is freeing up capacity to keep our supply chain going that is going to keep our country solid and moving forward.
People have talked about Chief Ernie Crey, and he is saying that the cancellation costs hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits, training, employment, and business opportunities. We have here the communities along the pipeline most impacted saying that these are good things. They worked hard to get to a place where they believe this can be done in a way that will benefit their people, in a way that is going to be environmentally productive.
The final thing I would say is that one chief was asked about the meeting that happened, and he said, “Well, we looked upon it a little bit disappointed because we expected some kind of resolution. That is what leaders are supposed to do, right?” On that note, we should all look at ourselves as leaders and create some sort of resolution because that is what we are here for and it is what we are supposed to do.