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October 28, 2017 4:25 am

Forget Alberta, we had our own dramatic vote here in B.C.

Monday, May 11, 2015 @ 3:44 AM

By Bill Phillips

While most of the country was agog with the historic vote in Alberta, another equally dramatic and economically far-reaching, vote was held right here in B.C.Last week about 180 members of the Lax Kw’alaams band voted, by all accounts unanimously, against accepting a $1 billion compensation package for a proposed liquefied natural gas plant in their territory on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert. The deal, which would have seen the $1 billion paid out over 40 years, was proposed by Pacific Northwest LNG, primarily owned by Malaysia-based Petronas.

Band members expressed concerns over the possible environmental impact of the plant, which would be located at the mouth of the Skeena River.

It should be pointed out that the band’s voting is not yet complete, as about 3,700 off-reserve members will be voting this week. But, the unanimity of those who have voted thus far, will likely sway those yet to vote.

It is truly a significant step in resource development in British Columbia. And there is a certain amount of irony.

When Premier Christy Clark was trying to find a way to scuttle the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline without actually saying ‘no,’ she devised the five conditions necessary for all pipeline proposals in B.C.

Number four on that list demands that “legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights are addressed, and First Nations are provided with the opportunities, information and resources necessary to participate in and benefit from a heavy oil project.”

I suppose Pacific Northwest LNG could argue that simply making the $1 billion offer meets the condition that First Nations are “provided with the opportunities, information and resources necessary to participate and benefit.” It doesn’t say the “opportunity” has to be accepted, but that’s a different story.

Certainly in light of the Tsilqot’in decision last year, meeting the legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights remains a stumbling block.

Clark’s five conditions were drafted in response to a proposal to ship bitumen. Since then the province has been betting the farm on a burgeoning LNG industry, although talk of eliminating the provincial debt and following Alberta’s lead with a prosperity fund aren’t front-and-centre anymore. All of those LNG projects need pipelines.

The irony will be if conditions set to make life miserable for bitumen shippers becomes an insurmountable obstacle for LNG proponents.

Given that the band vote is not yet complete, Pacific Northwest LNG has not yet commented. The question, of course, is whether the band can actually scuttle the project or force it to locate elsewhere.

The other amazing thing about the vote is that an elected government turned down such an offer. I’ve covered municipal councils and regional districts for 30 years. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a city council or regional district board that would reject a $1 billion proposal. In fact, most of the politicians I’ve encountered over the years would be salivating profusely if someone dangled $1 billion in front of them.

It’s refreshing, although likely chilling for some, to see that there may be politicians in B.C. for whom community has more value than money.

Bill Phillips is a freelance columnist living in Prince George. He was the winner of the 2009 Best Editorial award at the British Columbia/Yukon Community Newspaper Association’s Ma Murray awards, in 2007 he won the association’s Best Columnist award. In 2004, he placed third in the Canadian Community Newspaper best columnist category and, in 2003, placed second.


It is refreshing for sure! The environmental concerns are trumping financial concerns! Financially that 1 billion dollar “carrot” isn’t such a great deal. It is only 25 million dollars annually. Divide that by 4,000 members and it amounts to about 6 grand per member per year.

Forty years from now what will a dollar buy considering inflation? Will Pacific Northwest LNG (Petronas) still be around?

At least the Lax Kw’alaams should insist on being made equal partners in the ownership, operation and profits of the plant, imho.

Princegeirge..but the money is never shared equally throughout the people..so mist will see nothing but the Chiefs family will be laughing all the way to the bank.. As per usual it’s all about the mighty dollar.. They have a price in mind..once it’s met then it’s sell out time..

What a missed opportunity for this community!
LNG has it’s risks but the industry has proven, time and again, they can successfully control the risks.
Community leaders have to take responsibility for their decisions (I know, I know, since when do they!) and turning down such a deal as this is a poor decision. Live well my friends!

The reserve may want to stay Dependant on government handouts for their survival.

It would be interesting to see what these contracts looked like. I sure hope there’s no signing bonus involved, as we have yet to see any revenues from this project. Oh I forgot, there’s the $30 million in training funds that the province announced a few weeks ago. on top of the tens of millions that the federal government has already paid out in training. These guys are going to be experts on pipeline construction LOL.

well we can see who the racists are!
some folks on this site would see all environmentally questionable projects pushed trough regardless of what the locals think. Do you want this stuff in your backyard?!

If you think nothing is more important than money I feel sorry for you!

It is their land (they never gave it away!) so they can do (or not do) with it whatever they want! Show some respect! P Val, they can also divide up any money they way they choose to! In the rest of Canada money is not equally shared either! If it were we wouldn’t have any food banks!

Interesting problem now. They’ve stated it’s not about money, it’s about the environment. I think the offer was a joke, – payable over 40 years – but what happens if they get a better offer, how do the accept it and reconcile it with their environmental concerns. Guess what they’re saying is there is no amount of money they will accept to make this happen.

Yeah, like Clark was really trying to scuttle the Northern Gateway Pipeline.

The Haisla have already accepted their port on traditional territory in Kitimat and it has been under prep work for the last 2 years. Now that Apache has been replaced with a company that already exports LNG abroad that project can get moving. Is there enough natural gas to go around if the Pacific Trails Pipeline is delayed or does not get built?

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