Northern mayors speak out in favour of Canada's future as a maritime country

The Senate of Canada's Standing Committee on Transportation and Communications looking at Bill C-48 heard from these two mayors hailing from north east British Columbia.

The committee's consultation process saw it travel across the country to listen to Canadians, leading to its extraordinary move. Here are two presentations made to the committee when it stopped in Terrace, B.C. on April 17, 2019. (All transcripts are being posted at the Senate's website.)

Mayor Lori Ackerman, Fort St. John

Good afternoon. I want to thank the Senate committee for this opportunity to speak on an issue that is vital to the economy of Canada. I also want to acknowledge that we are gathered here on the traditional territory of the Tsimshian First Nations, the Allied Tribes of the Lax Kw’Alaams, and the Nisga’a First Nations.

By way of introduction, my name is Lori Ackerman. I am the mayor of Fort St. John, and I have had the pleasure of living in all four western provinces. Our city has carried the title of Clean Energy B.C.’s Community of the Year, and we are B.C.’s energy capital. We also work with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in Peru on building sustainable communities, and we have linked our strategic plan with the United Nations sustainable development goals

In a nutshell, we understand the fragility of communities in the face of national and provincial decisions.

What I want to share with you is a story of our community and how we managed in the face of industrial development on our doorstep outside of our jurisdiction, and that’s the B.C. Hydro, Site C hydroelectric dam, the third dam on the Peace River. The other dams had been developed decades prior, and we had no knowledge of the construction and how that would impact a community.

We could have immediately joined the Make the Lake Committee or the Damn the Dam Society, but as policy makers, it’s our job to provide an opportunity for a safe environment to listen to those who are going to be impacted, so we took a pragmatic approach. Most residents get up in the morning, and they don’t really know who provides their services to them. They just expect the water to be there, the water to leave; they expect the roads to be there; they expect that all levels of government are going to work together well to provide them with health care, education, and public safety. They don’t know how we do that, and there are days we don’t, either, but it remains our job to listen to our residents.

The environmental assessment process allowed us to be the voice of our community and the residents to engage and voice their concerns. The job of the Environmental Assessment Office is to make the recommendations on the impacts of each individual project, based on what they have heard and what the real science tells them. With engagement, involvement, and dedication, Fort St. John has managed to show how we could be impacted by that project, outside of our jurisdiction and outside of our sphere of influence as a local government.

Armed with these facts, we negotiated a community measures agreement that works. It’s possible, and I would be more than happy to provide your staff with an electronic copy of our community measures agreement and our Peace River agreement with the province.

We have seen projects where proponents are not able to manage those recommendations within the financial framework, and therefore the investment stops. Projects need to be managed on their own merit. I cannot imagine why any sort of moratorium would constrain opportunities, should they be initiated. It’s a very slippery slope.

Any community fighting for a share of revenues should understand that the projects have to happen first. We negotiate for jobs and a sustainable community, supported by responsible resource development. In other words, we negotiate for prosperity, not poverty. It is our goal to protect an enhanced sustainable development, to provide a high quality of life for our citizens. We ensure that economic, social, community, and financial impacts of any project are fully mitigated and compensated by government and industry. We promote the value of local workforce content and advocate for investment for our youth in skill development.

This bill unfairly inhibits the opportunity for First Nations communities and non-First Nations communities to understand and develop their communities to become sustainable economies and offer the social programs that improve their quality of life.

I understand you’re concerned about safety. I am, too. In Canada, we have some of the strictest safety regulations. There is no recognition of advanced technology and the stricter regulations that have made tanker traffic a highly reliable and increasingly safe way of transporting oil.

Canadians have a right to expect consistent and fair legislation and regulations that are not contradictory, arbitrary, and discriminatory toward one region of Canada.

We can protect all the coastlines of Canada and any threat of impact, while at the same time working to develop sustainable economies for our local communities. From my perspective, Bill C-48 is not the way forward.

Thank you for your time.

Mayor Dale Bumstead, City of Dawson Creek

Thank you. Bonjour. My name is Dale Bumstead. I am the mayor of the City of Dawson Creek, and a proud member of the Métis Nation of British Columbia. [Indigenous language spoken]. Thank you for giving me the opportunity today to present to the Senate committee.

Dawson Creek, on Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway, is a small city in northeastern British Columbia, founded in the early 1900s. It might seem unusual, why we would be here today requesting an opportunity to speak to the Senate committee on Bill C-48.

We’re a little city that was founded in the early 1900s based on agriculture. That’s the foundation of our community. The railway came into Dawson Creek in 1931 to serve the agricultural products and distribute them across North America.

After the Pearl Harbour bombings in 1941, the U.S. needed an overland route to Alaska to protect their homeland, and the only way to build that Alaska highway was to bring those troops into Dawson Creek at the end of the railway, the end of the line. Some 10,000 troops came into Dawson Creek in March 1942, and away went the construction of a 1,500-mile highway that opened up northern British Columbia, Yukon, and Alaska. It was completed in nine months; an engineering marvel.

Over the years we’ve progressed as a small city, with transportation being, obviously, a key component of our community, our economy. Tourism and agriculture came through the years, then mining and forestry became components of our community.

With the evolution came the natural gas sector and the shale gas, the unconventional resource development of natural gas in the Montney. The Montney is a huge natural gas reserve. It’s probably one of the top five reserves in North America today. It was looked upon as being one of the top five when it was first discovered in the early 2000s.

I want to expound upon that, as that’s really the purpose of my appearing here today, to talk about how prolific those resources have proven to be for our region, our province, our country. It is now one of the largest natural resources and one of the most prolific. There are five in North America that are looked upon as providing the unconventional resource to the world: the Montney; the Duvernay in Alberta; the Marcellus in the eastern States, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York; and down in Texas, the Permian and the Eagle Ford.

Part of what happens in the natural gas development in this unconventional resource development, in the shale gas, in the rock, are these reserves, these resources. I want to talk a little bit about this today. I didn’t realize there would be so many here today, so I don’t have enough copies for everyone. I do have an electronic version that we’ve passed on. It talks about the age of the ultra-liquid resource, the Montney. This resource contains these prolific reserves of natural gas. Along with it come these natural gas liquids, and at the bottom of that scale is condensate, light oil.

I listened to some of the testimony earlier today about Saskatchewan and Alberta, and how to get that oil to the world. In northeastern British Columbia, there is probably in excess of 20 to 30 billion barrels of oil within the natural gas, and it’s that prolific. Gas Metro in Quebec produces and distributes probably 200 billion cubic feet of gas per year. The Montney today, in proven reserves, has in excess of 100 years’ worth of proven reserves, producing 8 to 10 billion cubic feet of gas per day. So if LNG Canada, Kitimat LNG, and one other LNG project were built and could produce 8 to 10 billion cubic feet of gas per day, the Montney has in excess of 100 years’ worth of reserves, with proven potential.

These world-class reserves are giving us the opportunity to provide the world with fossil fuels. We touch fossil fuels in every aspect of our daily life. I think the perception is that we touch fossil fuels only in home heating and the fuel for our vehicles, but everything that we touch in our daily world as a consumer touches the petrochemical industry and the fossil fuel industry. Over 100 years ago, man first started using hydrocarbons for heating, for transportation, for cooking, or for light, and those same hydrocarbons are in use today. Man is using them a lot more efficiently.

When you take the natural gas out of the ground to provide it for the liquefied natural gas industry, that we hear so much about LNG, we don’t get those reserves out of the ground without the associated liquids — the propane, the butane, and the condensate. The light oil finds that exist in northeastern British Columbia today are matching those that exist in Alberta and Saskatchewan today.

If we don’t have access to the global market, it impacts our regions, communities, province, and our country. The medical costs in the province of British Columbia are expected to rise by $3 billion in the next three years. That money is coming from the development of the resource sector. The social programs that are provided by our communities, the province and to the country are built upon those reserves. LNG Canada accounts for $7.5 billion in GDP.

It is about allowing global access. We need to ensure that these resources have global access. Without global access, we are going to lose so much opportunity, and we do it the best.

The one thing that I do want to stress is that the British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission that regulates the development of the industry in British Columbia — it’s not through any other process — is the best regulatory system in the country and in North America, in the development of this reserve. For us, it is absolutely about the development of these world-class reserves for the benefit of global access.

Thank you so much for giving me the time today.

The Chair: You’re welcome and thank you. Mr. Ellis Ross, MLA for Skeena. Welcome, Mr. Ross.

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