BY BILL PHILLIPS
No one is more qualified to speak for the Kitselas First Nation more than Chief Joe Bevan.
And when it comes to developing major projects in the band’s traditional territory, particularly liquefied natural gas, the band is fully supportive. Bevan takes exception to outside groups and organizations who claim First Nations in the area aren’t supportive.
“If you speak to the First Nations, you speak to them direct,” he said during a break in the First Nations Major Projects Coalition conference Tuesday. “If you’re going to ask ‘how do you feel about this development?’ you need to talk to the actual chiefs. I question some of the environmental organizations who are saying First Nations oppose developments. I question all of their reports. None of them have spoken to me. For them to come into my territory and say I don’t support it almost borders on negligence.”
The band’s traditional territory is near Terrace and it has benefit agreements with both the Pacific Trails Pipeline project and LNG Canada. He adds the Pacific Trails Pipeline project is a prime example of First Nations in the area supporting development, as 16 of 17 First Nations in the area came together to support the Chevron development.
“I don’t know where these groups are getting their information from,” he said. “I would question them as where are they getting their funding from? Who’s funding you? Is it another LNG corporation down in the States?”
Bands in the area see liquefied natural gas as a huge opportunity.
“We’ve seen the downturn in forestry and the fishing industry,” he said. “In the Terrace area we’ve always been resource extractors. This is a different resource. The Kitselas people saw it as a great opportunity. There is potential for jobs and business procurements.”
He said some of the band’s environmental concerns were addressed and there are direct benefits to the community as a whole.
“When you put that all together in a legal binding agreement, it means we would have a decent living off of these agreements,” he said. “For some of chiefs who have seen three generations from one family, under social assistance, it’s time that we stopped managing poverty and start managing wealth.”
Bevan is supportive of the tax regime brought in by the provincial government for natural gas development.
The new framework, to which LNG Canada will be subject, provides:
Relief from provincial sales tax (PST), in line with the policy for manufacturing sectors, subject to repayment in the form of an equivalent operational payment.
New GHG emission standards under the Clean Growth Incentive Program, announced in Budget 2018.
General industrial electricity rates consistent with other industrial users in B.C.
Elimination of the LNG income tax that had required LNG-specific tax rates.
“We lobbied government that things needed to change,” Bevan said. “When they had put their tax regime in place, it was a different time, it was a different market value, different global value. We suggested maybe it’s time to take a staged approach. We’re elated by that approach because what it means is maybe one of these projects will get off the ground if the prices are right.”