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Federal emissions cap a slap in the face to Indigenous peoples: Stephen Buffalo


7 minute read

From the MacDonald Laurier Institute

By Stephen Buffalo

We are sick and tired of being poor and welfare dependency. We have, particularly in the past 20 years, established hundreds of companies and partnerships and trained thousands of our people for work in the energy industry. Now the government is cutting our feet out from under us again.

It’s hard to remain quiet. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has long said that relationship and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples is a top priority for his government.

And then he ignores us again. The Government of Canada is on the verge of doing it once more, this time on the emissions cap.

The government is preparing for COP28, the world climate event being held, seemingly without a touch of irony, in Dubai. The latest attempt at global attention grabbing is anticipated to be a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions which, in Western Canada, is a code for a sharp drop in authorized fossil fuel production.

Over the past four decades, Canadian governments urged and promoted Indigenous peoples to engage in the natural resource economy. We were anxious to break our dependence on government and, even more, to exercise our treaty and Indigenous rights to build our own economies. We jumped in with far more enthusiasm and commitment than most Canadians appreciate.

Well over 100 First Nations are substantially invested in oil and gas production as employees, employers, partners and equity participants. Dozens more have approved pipeline construction across their traditional lands. Many more have solid investments in oil and gas development and infrastructure. And we seek a greater and more meaningful role.

Of course, we do not support unchecked exploitation of natural resources. We insist on careful attention to environmental protection and remediation. And we expect and deserve fair compensation for the extraction of oil and gas from our lands. We are sick and tired of being poor and welfare dependency. We have, particularly in the past 20 years, established hundreds of companies and partnerships and trained thousands of our people for work in the energy industry.

Now the government is cutting our feet out from under us again. Over the past decade, Ottawa slowed pipeline development, passed legislation that hampered resource development, imposed increasingly strict controls on fossil fuel development, and created new levies and taxes to thwart our efforts.

They did all they could to shame the industry that, more than any other, sustains Canadian prosperity. Rapid population growth, manufacturing and urban sprawl, all major contributions to greenhouse gas emissions, have been largely untouched.

And now, in a bid to make Canada look ecologically virtuous on the world stage, the Liberal government is poised to impose further restrictions on the oil and gas sector. This is happening as Indigenous engagement, employment and equity investment is growing and at a time when our communities have had their first taste of real and sustainable prosperity since the newcomers killed off all the buffalo. Thanks for nothing.

We are astonished by Canada’s seemingly limited understanding of the role of oil and gas in Canadian prosperity. We get — and embrace — the concern about climate change and emissions. We support logical, collectively developed measures that will contribute to a reduction in Canada’s ecological impacts. But let us do this with our eyes wide open and by looking at all possible ways of meeting our climate targets. Norway gets little pushback for major expansions of its oil production; Canada, ever and undeservedly the global environmental doormat, takes intense criticism while operating one of the most environmentally sound and regulated energy sectors in the world.

All of Canada will pay a big price for our faux stewardship of the country’s remarkable energy resources. The federal government, wrestling with growing debt and staggering interest payments, collects billions annually in oil and gas revenues. The three western provinces contribute billions to federal equalization payments, with Quebec receiving the largest share.

But the western contribution earns little sympathy from Quebec, which stopped discussion of the Energy East pipeline in its tracks, closing off a new market for Canadian producers and retaining Eastern Canada’s dependence on imported oil. We are still waiting for a national “thank you” for access to the resources and the cash harvested from our oil and gas-rich lands.

It is fair to say that Canadians and the national government do not understand the seething anger building up in our communities. I know that I am not the only one who is truly upset. We followed government signals and found our feet economically in the past two decades. We created a space for ourselves in an industry that is fundamental to Canadian prosperity.

Indigenous people demonstrated their entrepreneurial skills and their ability to invest in both community development and long-term wealth creation keeping in mind both our present and future generations. The government seems willing to overturn our carefully won opportunities and prosperity, without the courtesy of full conversation acting as a colonial power.

Indigenous people have been betrayed many times over the last 200 years, but the most recent betrayals always hurt the most. We thought Canada had turned the corner in its respect for Indigenous peoples and our rights. Watch carefully over the next few days. If the prime minister talks about emissions controls, he really means production rollbacks. This is a slap in the face of Indigenous peoples.

Stephen Buffalo is a proud member of the Samson Cree Nation. He is president and CEO of the Indian Resources Council of Canada, chair of the board of directors of Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation, a senior fellow at the MacDonald Laurier Institute, and the first ever Indigenous governor of the Canadian Energy Executive Association.

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Government policies diminish Alberta in eyes of investors

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From the Fraser Institute

By Julio Mejía and Tegan Hill

Canada’s economy has stagnated, with a “mild to moderate” recession expected this year. Alberta can help Canada through this economic growth crisis by reaping the benefits of a strong commodity market. But for this to happen, the federal and provincial governments must eliminate damaging policies that make Alberta a less attractive place to invest.

Every year, the Fraser Institute surveys senior executives in the oil and gas industry to determine what jurisdictions in Canada and the United States are attractive—or unattractive—to investment based on policy factors. According to the latest results, red tape and high taxes are dampening the investment climate in the province’s energy sector.

Consider the difference between Alberta and two large U.S. energy jurisdictions—Wyoming and Texas. According to the survey, oil and gas investors are particularly wary of environmental regulations in Alberta with 50 per cent of survey respondents indicating that “stability, consistency and timeliness of environmental regulatory process” scared away investment compared to 14 per cent in Wyoming and only 11 per cent in Texas.

Investors also suggest that the U.S. regulatory environment offers greater certainty and predictability compared to Alberta. For example, 42 per cent of respondents indicated that “uncertainty regarding the administration, interpretation, stability, or enforcement of existing regulations” is a deterrent to investment in Alberta, compared to only 9 per cent in Wyoming and 13 per cent in Texas. Similarly, 43 per cent of respondents indicated that the cost of regulatory compliance was a deterrent to investment in Alberta compared to just 9 per cent for Wyoming and 19 per cent for Texas.

And there’s more—41 per cent of respondents for Alberta indicated that taxation deters investment compared to only 21 per cent for Wyoming and 14 per cent for Texas. Overall, Wyoming was more attractive than Alberta in 14 out of 16 policy factors assessed by the survey and Texas was more attractive in 11 out of 16.

Indeed, Canadian provinces are generally less attractive for oil and gas investment compared to U.S. states. This should come as no surprise—Trudeau government policies have created Canada’s poor investment climate. Consider federal Bill C-69, which imposes complex, uncertain and onerous review requirements on major energy projects. While this bill was declared unconstitutional, uncertainty remains until new legislation is introduced. During the COP28 conference in Dubai last December, the Trudeau government also announced its draft framework to cap oil and gas sector greenhouse gas emissions, adding uncertainty for investors due to the lack of details. These are just a few of the major regulations imposed on the energy industry in recent years.

As a result of these uncertain and onerous regulations, the energy sector has struggled to complete projects and reach markets overseas. Not surprisingly, capital investment in Alberta’s oil and gas sector plummeted from $58.1 billion (in 2014) to $26.0 billion in 2023.

The oil and gas sector is one of the country’s largest industries with a major influence on economic growth. Alberta can play a key role in helping Canada overcome the current economic challenges but the federal and provincial governments must pay attention to investor concerns and establish a more competitive regulatory and fiscal environment to facilitate investment in the province’s energy sector—for the benefit of all Canadians.

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Proposed legislation seeks to suppress speech about climate change and fossil fuels

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NDP MP Charlie Angus

From the Fraser Institute

By Kenneth P. Green

Canada is a constitutional parliamentary democracy where differences of opinion are to be resolved through elections, which people are persuaded by words and ideas, not threats of violence. Stripping people of the right to express themselves freely will introduce violence into the democratic process, disenfranchising some people and disenchanting others.

It’s rare, in today’s political world, for someone in power to whip off the velvet glove and show the iron fist beneath. It’s a bit gauche for our times. But that’s what happened recently when federal NDP natural resources critic Charlie Angus tabled a member’s bill that would clap anyone who says negative things about the government’s fossil-fuel-phobia into the pokey—and rob them on the way to jail. We’re not talking about a slap on the wrist, but about million-dollar fines and years in jail for simply expressing a positive thought about fossil fuels. So much for the fundamental freedom of expression in Canada.

Angus’ Bill C-372 would fine and jail people for the most innocuous of speech relating to climate change or fossil fuels. Even daring to speak the obvious truths such as “natural gas is less polluting than coal” could land you in jail for one year and cost you $750,000. If you produce fossil fuels and are found guilty of “false promotion,” you’d face two years in jail and a $1.5 million fine.

Enacting such speech restrictions would be destructive of the fabric of Canadian society, and even though this member’s bill (like most) will go nowhere, it should trouble Canadians that we’ve reached a level of political discourse where members of Parliament feel they can blatantly propose stripping Canadians of their freedom of expression, obviously convinced they’ll not pay a price it.

Specifically, Bill-372 and its pernicious idea of speech control would cause harm to two major elements of Canadian civilization—our democracy, which depends on the free exchange of ideas as Canada elects its leaders, and our mixed-market economic system where actors in the market require a free flow of information to make informed decisions that can produce positive economic outcomes and economic growth.

Let’s start with that democracy thing. Canada is a constitutional parliamentary democracy where differences of opinion are to be resolved through elections, which people are persuaded by words and ideas, not threats of violence. Stripping people of the right to express themselves freely will introduce violence into the democratic process, disenfranchising some people and disenchanting others. Canada already has to work hard to promote engagement by the public in the political process. Things like Bill C-372 would not make this easier. A less politically engaged public cedes ever more power to entrenched politicians and political activists, and leaves power in the hands of smaller minorities with extreme enough views who think opposing ideas must be suppressed with force.

Regarding free speech, consider this. Without a robust mixed-market economy, the voluntary exchange which leads to economic activity does not happen. Productivity declines and scarcity, the eternal scourge of humanity, resurges and people suffer. Freedom of expression is central to the operation of market economies. People must be free to share information about the value of things (or lack thereof) for decisions to be made, for prices to manifest, and for markets to function effectively. Without open communication in markets, diversity of goods and services will diminish as some goods and services won’t be promoted or defended while others are freely to advertised.

Bill C-372 should and likely will die an ignominious death in Parliament, but all politicians of all parties should denounce it for what it is—an attempt by government to suppress speech. Unlikely to happen, but one can always hope for sanity to prevail.

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