Connect with us
[the_ad id="89560"]

Fraser Institute

Yes, B.C.’s Land Act changes give First Nations veto over use of Crown Land

Published

7 minute read

From the Fraser Institute

By Bruce Pardy

Nathan Cullen says there’s no veto. Cullen, British Columbia’s Minister of Water, Land, and Resource Stewardship, plans to give First Nations joint decision-making authority over Crown land. His NDP government recently opened consultations on its proposal to amend the B.C. Land Act, under which the minister grants leases, licences, permits, rights-of-way and land sales. The amendments will give legal effect to agreements with Indigenous governing bodies. Those agreements will share decision-making power “through joint or consent models” with some or all of B.C.’s more than 200 First Nations.

Yes, First Nations will have a veto.

Cullen denies it. “There is no veto in these amendments,” he told the Nanaimo News Bulletin last week. He accused critics of fearmongering and misinformation. “My worry is that for some of the political actors here on the right, this is an element of dog-whistle politics.”

But Cullen has a problem. Any activity that requires your consent is an activity over which you have a veto. If a contract requires approval of both parties before something can happen, “no” by one means “no” for both. The same is true in other areas of law such as sexual conduct, which requires consent. If you withhold your consent, you have vetoed the activity. “Joint decision-making,” “consent,” and “veto” come out to the same thing.

Land use decisions are subject to the same logic. The B.C. government will give First Nations joint decision-making power, when and where agreements are entered into. Its own consultation materials say so. This issue has blown up in the media, and the government has hastily amended its consultation webpage to soothe discontent (“The proposed amendments to the Land Act will not lead to broad, sweeping, or automatic changes (or) provide a ‘veto.’”) Nothing to see here folks. But its documentation continues to describe “shared decision-making through joint or consent models.”

These proposals should not surprise anyone. In 2019, the B.C. legislature passed Bill 41, the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA). It requires the government to take “all measures necessary” to make the laws of British Columbia consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).

UNDRIP is a declaration of the U.N. General Assembly passed in 2007. It says that Indigenous people have “the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired… to own, use, develop and control.”

On its own, UNDRIP is non-binding and unenforceable. But DRIPA seeks to incorporate UNDRIP into B.C. law, obligating the government to achieve its aspirations. Mere consultation with First Nations, which Section 35 of the Constitution requires, won’t cut it under UNDRIP. Under Section 7 of DRIPA, agreements to be made with indigenous groups are to establish joint decision-making or to require consent of the Indigenous group. Either Cullen creates a First Nations veto or falls short of the goalposts in DRIPA. He is talking out of both sides of his mouth.

Some commentators warned against these dangers long ago. For example, shortly after DRIPA was passed in 2019, Vancouver lawyer Robin Junger wrote in the Vancouver Sun, “It will likely be impossible for government to live up to the expectations that Indigenous groups will now reasonably hold, without fundamentally affecting the rights and interests of third parties.” Unfortunately, few wanted to tackle that thorny question head on at the time. All three political parties in B.C. voted in favour of DRIPA, which passed unanimously.

For a taste of how Land Act changes could work, ask some B.C. residents who have private docks. In Pender Harbour, for instance, the shishalh Nation and the province have jointly developed a “Dock Management Plan” to try and impose various new and onerous rules on private property owners (including red “no go” zones and rules that will make many existing docks and boat houses non-compliant). Property owners with long-standing docks in full legal compliance will have no right to negotiate, to be consulted, or to be grandfathered. Land Act amendments may hardwire this plan into B.C. law.

Yet Cullen insists that no veto will exist since aggrieved parties can apply to a court for judicial review. “[An agreement] holds both parties—B.C. and whichever nation we enter into an agreement (with)—to the same standard of judicial review, administrative fairness, all the things that courts protect when someone is going through an application or a tendering process,” he told Business in Vancouver.

This is nonsense on stilts. By that standard, no government official has final authority under any statute. All statutory decisions are potentially subject to judicial review, including decisions of Cullen himself as the minister responsible for the Land Act. He doesn’t have a veto? Of course he does. Moreover, courts on judicial review generally defer to statutory decision-makers. And they don’t change decisions but merely send them back to be made again. The argument that First Nations won’t have a veto because their decisions can be challenged on judicial review is legal jibber jabber.

When the U.N. passed UNDRIP in 2007, people said they can’t be serious. When the B.C. legislature passed DRIPA in 2019, people said they can’t be serious. The B.C. government now proposes to give First Nations a veto over the use of Crown land. Don’t worry, they can’t be serious.

Todayville is a digital media and technology company. We profile unique stories and events in our community. Register and promote your community event for free.

Follow Author

Business

Canada’s economy has stagnated despite Ottawa’s spin

Published on

From the Fraser Institute

By Ben Eisen, Milagros Palacios and Lawrence Schembri

Canada’s inflation-adjusted per-person annual economic growth rate (0.7 per cent) is meaningfully worse than the G7 average (1.0 per cent) over this same period. The gap with the U.S. (1.2 per cent) is even larger. Only Italy performed worse than Canada.

Growth in gross domestic product (GDP), the total value of all goods and services produced in the economy annually, is one of the most frequently cited indicators of Canada’s economic performance. Journalists, politicians and analysts often compare various measures of Canada’s total GDP growth to other countries, or to Canada’s past performance, to assess the health of the economy and living standards. However, this statistic is misleading as a measure of living standards when population growth rates vary greatly across countries or over time.

Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, for example, recently boasted that Canada had experienced the “strongest economic growth in the G7” in 2022. Although the Trudeau government often uses international comparisons on aggregate GDP growth as evidence of economic success, it’s not the first to do so. In 2015, then-prime minister Stephen Harper said Canada’s GDP growth was “head and shoulders above all our G7 partners over the long term.”

Unfortunately, such statements do more to obscure public understanding of Canada’s economic performance than enlighten it. In reality, aggregate GDP growth statistics are not driven by productivity improvements and do not reflect rising living standards. Instead, they’re primarily the result of differences in population and labour force growth. In other words, they aren’t primarily the result of Canadians becoming better at producing goods and services (i.e. productivity) and thus generating more income for their families. Instead, they primarily reflect the fact that there are simply more people working, which increases the total amount of goods and services produced but doesn’t necessarily translate into increased living standards.

Let’s look at the numbers. Canada’s annual average GDP growth (with no adjustment for population) from 2000 to 2023 was the second-highest in the G7 at 1.8 per cent, just behind the United States at 1.9 per cent. That sounds good, until you make a simple adjustment for population changes by comparing GDP per person. Then a completely different story emerges.

Canada’s inflation-adjusted per-person annual economic growth rate (0.7 per cent) is meaningfully worse than the G7 average (1.0 per cent) over this same period. The gap with the U.S. (1.2 per cent) is even larger. Only Italy performed worse than Canada.

Why the inversion of results from good to bad? Because Canada has had by far the fastest population growth rate in the G7, growing at an annualized rate of 1.1 per cent—more than twice the annual population growth rate of the G7 as a whole at 0.5 per cent. In aggregate, Canada’s population increased by 29.8 per cent during this time period compared to just 11.5 per cent in the entire G7.

Clearly, aggregate GDP growth is a poor tool for international comparisons. It’s also not a good way to assess changes in Canada’s performance over time because Canada’s rate of population growth has not been constant. Starting in 2016, sharply higher rates of immigration have led to a pronounced increase in population growth. This increase has effectively partially obscured historically weak economic growth per person over the same period.

Specifically, from 2015 to 2023, under the Trudeau government, inflation-adjusted per-person economic growth averaged just 0.3 per cent. For historical perspective, per-person economic growth was 0.8 per cent annually under Brian Mulroney, 2.4 per cent under Jean Chrétien and 2.0 per cent under Paul Martin.

Due to Canada’s sharp increase in population growth in recent years, aggregate GDP growth is a misleading indicator for comparing economic growth performance across countries or time periods. Canada is not leading the G7, or doing well in historical terms, when it comes to economic growth measures that make simple adjustments for our rapidly growing population. In reality, we’ve become a growth laggard and our living standards have largely stagnated for the better part of a decade.

Continue Reading

Fraser Institute

Powerful players count on corruption of ideal carbon tax

Published on

From the Fraser Institute

By Kenneth P. Green

Prime Minister Trudeau recently whipped out the big guns of rhetoric and said the premiers of Alberta, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan are “misleading” Canadians and “not telling the truth” about the carbon tax. Also recently, a group of economists circulated a one-sided open letter extolling the virtues of carbon pricing.

Not to be left out, a few of us at the Fraser Institute recently debated whether the carbon tax should or could be reformed. Ross McKitrick and Elmira Aliakbari argued that while the existing carbon tax regime is badly marred by numerous greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations and mandates, is incompletely revenue-neutral, lacks uniformity across the economy and society, is set at an arbitrary price and so on, it remains repairable. “Of all the options,” they write, “it is widely acknowledged that a carbon tax allows the most flexibility and cost-effectiveness in the pursuit of society’s climate goals. The federal government has an opportunity to fix the shortcomings of its carbon tax plan and mitigate some of its associated economic costs.”

I argued, by contrast, that due to various incentives, Canada’s relevant decision-makers (politicians, regulators and big business) would all resist any reforms to the carbon tax that might bring it into the “ideal form” taught in schools of economics. To these groups, corruption of the “ideal carbon tax” is not a bug, it’s a feature.

Thus, governments face the constant allure of diverting tax revenues to favour one constituency over another. In the case of the carbon tax, Quebec is the big winner here. Atlantic Canada was also recently won by having its home heating oil exempted from carbon pricing (while out in the frosty plains, those using natural gas heating will feel the tax’s pinch).

Regulators, well, they live or die by the maintenance and growth of regulation. And when it comes to climate change, as McKitrick recently observed in a separate commentary, we’re not talking about only a few regulations. Canada has “clean fuel regulations, the oil-and-gas-sector emissions cap, the electricity sector coal phase-out, strict energy efficiency rules for new and existing buildings, new performance mandates for natural gas-fired generation plants, the regulatory blockade against liquified natural gas export facilities” and many more. All of these, he noted, are “boulders” blocking the implementation of an ideal carbon tax.

Finally, big business (such as Stellantis-LG, Volkswagen, Ford, Northvolt and others), which have been the recipients of subsidies for GHG-reducing activities, don’t want to see the driver of those subsidies (GHG regulations) repealed. And that’s only in the electric vehicle space. Governments also heavily subsidize wind and solar power businesses who get a 30 per cent investment tax credit though 2034. They also don’t want to see the underlying regulatory structures that justify the tax credit go away.

Clearly, all governments that tax GHG emissions divert some or all of the revenues raised into their general budgets, and none have removed regulations (or even reduced the rate of regulation) after implementing carbon-pricing. Yet many economists cling to the idea that carbon taxes are either fine as they are or can be reformed with modest tweaks. This is the great carbon-pricing will o’ the wisp, leading Canadian climate policy into a perilous swamp.

Continue Reading

Trending

X