Mr. Speaker, I am certainly grateful for this emergency debate tonight, because Canada is facing a crisis of leadership that is threatening the whole economy.
This crisis is not really about whether indigenous communities support Coastal GasLink, because every local first nation does support it. A majority of the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs support it too. One of them, Theresa Tait-Day, said their whole community voted on it and “85% of our people said yes” to this project.
Chief Larry Nooski of the Nadleh Whuten said “Coastal GasLink represents a once in a generation economic development opportunity” for his nation, and that they “negotiated hard...to guarantee that Nadleh people, including youth, have the opportunity to benefit directly and indirectly...while at the same time, ensuring that the land and the water is protected....”
Chris Sankey, a former elected band councillor for the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation, said, “We need jobs. We need to build homes and roads and schools for our kids and care centres for our elders. These projects will help us do that.”
This crisis really hangs on the question of whether Canada is a country where the rule of law is respected and upheld, or whether Canada has succumbed to the rule of the mob. It is about whether Canadians will let our entire economy be held hostage by a small group trampling the legal system that has governed our country for more than 150 years.
This morning, the Prime Minister's statement was a complete and sad abdication of responsibility and leadership. The Prime Minister himself has emboldened and encouraged this kind of behaviour by cancelling other big projects based on political and activist considerations, like vetoing northern gateway, imposing Bill C-48 and funding TMX pipeline opponents, instead of on science and facts, and on the best interests of the whole country.
As an MP for an oil and gas riding and for nine indigenous communities, and as a person who happens to be part Ojibwa, I suggest his actions look a lot like those of a centralist, colonialist government imposing its views against the wishes and the priorities of local indigenous governments and the majority of directly impacted indigenous people, such as those in my riding, which are all involved in the oil and gas sector.
Every single person in this country has the right to freedom of speech and the freedom to protest, but they do not have the right to break the law or to hold the Canadian economy hostage. Because the Prime Minister has yet to clearly denounce the actions of these radical activists as illegal, or to provide an action plan that will end the illegal blockades, rail lines continue to be shut down. Bridges, roads and highways are blocked. The commutes, jobs and livelihoods of farmers, small business owners, workers and families across the country, thousands of kilometres away from beautiful British Columbia, are at risk.
Bonnie George, a Wet'suwet'en member who formerly worked for Coastal GasLink, said, “It’s disheartening now to see what’s happening. Protesters across Canada should ask our people who are out of work what they think. As a Wet’suwet’en matriarch I’m embarrassed....”
Who is really behind it?
Ellis Ross, the B.C. Liberal MLA for Skeena and elected official for the Haisla First Nation for 14 years said:
Professional protesters and well-funded NGOs have merely seized the opportunity to divide our communities for their own gains, and ultimately will leave us penniless when they suddenly leave.... It is therefore truly ignorant for non-Aboriginals to declare that elected Aboriginal leaders are only responsible for “on reserve issues” or are a “construct of the Indian Act meant to annihilate the Indian”.
I was an elected Aboriginal leader for 14 years and I never intended to annihilate anyone.
My goal was to do everything I could to make sure my kids and grandkids didn't grow up knowing the myriad social issues that accompany poverty. I'm pretty sure all chiefs — elected and non-elected — feel the same way.
However, if the Liberals and the protestors claiming solidarity and shutting down rail lines in eastern Canada do want to talk about the Coastal GasLink pipeline and the LNG Canada plant it will supply, let them take note that all 20 of the local first nations want this pipeline built. When indigenous communities have access to revenues independent of the government they can invest in their own priorities without having to get approval from a civil servant in Ottawa or a big lobby group, or fit their plan into a federally prescribed program application.
Empowering first nations economically provides the tools for indigenous communities to manage their core needs, to invest in their cultures, and to preserve and nurture their heritage and their languages for future generations.
Chief councillor Crystal Smith from Haisla Nation, who supports Coastal GasLink and opposed Bill C-48, said, “Our nation's goal is to be an independent, powerful and prosperous nation. We can't get there without powerful, prosperous, independent people.”
There is no stronger example of the patriarchal, patronizing and quite frankly colonial approach of these lawless activists, and of the current Liberals, than their treatment of these first nations who want to develop, provide services, and supply and transport oil and gas.
Another person said that all too often, indigenous people are “only valued as responsible stewards of their land if they choose not to touch it. This is eco-colonialism.”
Crystal Smith further said:
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’m tired of managing poverty. I’m tired of First Nations’ communities dealing with issues such as suicide, low unemployment or educational opportunities. If this opportunity is lost, it doesn’t come back.
The Liberals' and the activists' anti-resource, anti-business, anti-energy agenda from outside these indigenous communities are sabotaging the best hopes and all the work of all the first nations along the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
Hereditary chief Helen Michelle of the Skin Tyee First Nation said, “Our own people said go ahead.” She also said, “A lot of the protesters are not even Wet’suwet’en....”
Troy Young, a member of one Wet'suwet'en community, and general manager of Kyah Resources Inc. , a company working to clear trees and build roads along Coastal GasLink's proposed pipeline route, said the history of the Wet'suwet'en is one of outsiders telling them how to do things, and if they are successful in stopping Coastal GasLink, “it will be one of the biggest cultural appropriations in British Columbia's history.”
MLA Ellis Ross said:
We’ve always had to cope with outsiders and so-called experts telling us who best represents First Nations, or what we should do within our own territory. Yet none of these people have ever lived on reserve or spent any significant time with the people who actually live there....
Allowing outsiders to undermine and dismiss years of careful consideration and consultation with elected chiefs who want nothing more than to secure a brighter future for their membership, is quite unacceptable.
He said he will continue to speak out against it.
Of course, Coastal GasLink does not just offer opportunity for indigenous communities. It is good for all of Canada, and it will benefit the world. Clean Canadian natural gas will reduce global emissions and deliver the affordable energy the world requires to reduce poverty and to increase the quality of life of the 2.6 billion people without access to electricity or clean cooking fuels.
The International Energy Agency projects the average global energy demand will increase approximately 30% by 2040 as world populations and economies expand, adding the equivalent of another China or India to the current level of global energy consumption. Natural gas is projected to meet one-third of that new demand.
As the fourth-largest natural gas producer with the fifth-largest reserves in the world, Canada can and should help meet that need.
Canadian natural gas is abundant, and it is the most viable fuel for reducing domestic and global emissions. Life-cycle emissions associated with LNG can be 20% lower than diesel, 60% lower than coal, 20% less than gasoline, and, crucially, emit less particulate matter, meaning less smog.
Canada LNG and the associated Coastal GasLink pipeline is the largest private sector commitment to the energy sector in Canadian history. It will give Canada the long-sought opportunity to export clean Canadian gas to foreign markets.
However, over $100 billion in LNG projects alone have been cancelled since the Liberals came to power, and that is not including other major oil infrastructure they killed. When LNG projects like Pacific Northwest, Grassy Point and Aurora are cancelled, it is devastating to the indigenous communities, local municipalities, service and supply businesses, and all the workers who were counting on them.
The lack of new pipeline access and LNG facilities in Canada is forcing natural gas producers to sell their product at a massive discount, and natural gas prices have even gone negative, meaning that producers have had to pay someone to take their product.
Liberal policies already left Canada out of the loop the first time, and could cause Canada to miss out on the second wave of the huge opportunity of LNG. In fact, the B.C. government had to agree to exempt LNG Canada from the Liberals' job-killing carbon tax hike in order to ensure that it went ahead. This is just another example of how Liberal policies are impeding resource development and driving private sector investments and businesses out of Canada. This is costing Canadian workers and indigenous people their jobs, and undermining their aspirations, work and hopes for self-sufficiency. It is driving increasing poverty rates in rural and remote regions and diminishing Canada's role in the world.
Canadians are looking for action from their government. It has taken almost two weeks for the Prime Minister to get back to Canada and to really say anything about it at all. Today it was just more words and an impotent call for dialogue. It is exactly this “do nothing” approach that has created the crisis we face today.
It is time for the Liberals to tell Canadians how they will lead for all of Canada, restore the rule of law and end these illegal blockades.