Coastal First Nations leaders have shown they are not constrained by existing business or governance models.
We believe innovation is the new strategic imperative for our organization and our communities. The economic prosperity of our communities is dependent on our continued efforts in developing new models to create a sustainable economy.
Historically, First Nations carefully managed the abundant natural resources of both land and sea, relying on their knowledge of seasonal cycles to harvest a wide variety of resources without depleting them. However, modern times brought resource industries to the Great Bear Rainforest.
They came to trap furs, log the vast tracts of forest and fish the abundant salmon runs. In a relatively short period of time all these renewable resources were nearly wiped out because of mismanagement and over-exploitation.
Over the years, this boom-and-bust cycle has proven difficult for First Nations communities and British Columbia’s rural areas. The path we are taking to create a sustainable economy on British Columbia’s North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii is both strategic and forward-looking.
We stand today on the brink of another British Columbia resource boom: the provincial government’s proposed liquefied natural gas industry. It presents us with a unique challenge and opportunity. LNG is a non-renewable industry so we can and should do things differently to avoid the boom-and-bust cycle of the past.
The provincial government could require LNG developers to use a significant portion of the power the plants will need from renewable energy instead of fossil fuels. First Nations would then join private-sector companies to build the wind farms and hydro-electric plants that would meet this need.
Once the boom is over, North Coast communities will be left with more than a series of mothballed plants and pipes. They will still have valuable assets — wind farms and small hydro plants — still generating clean electricity and revenue for first nations, far into the future.
According to a recent report by Clean Energy Canada, such a move would not only leave a lasting legacy in the north, it would cut carbon pollution by a third and boost permanent in-region jobs by 40 per cent, without threatening the LNG sector’s competitiveness.
The government could not only reduce our vulnerability to the boom-and-bust cycle and provide a lasting legacy for first nations, it could create more jobs along the way and the LNG industry won’t take a big hit.
No one wants to hear about the bust when everyone is enjoying the boom. Money and promises are currently raining down on the North Coast.
It is incumbent on us all to seize this opportunity and ensure the North Coast’s economy and environment remain healthy. Coastal First Nations are ready to work in partnership with established clean energy companies and responsibly develop the renewables needed to deliver on the promise of the cleanest LNG in the world.
This article first appeared in the Vancouver Sun.