How to break the resource deadlock

Bill Gallagher Aboriginal communities right across the country will have likely won 200 legal rulings in the resources sector by the end of this year. This unprecedented winning streak has become the central plank in the native empowerment 'toolbox' and

Bill Gallagher

Aboriginal communities right across the country will have likely won 200 legal rulings in the resources sector by the end of this year. This unprecedented winning streak has become the central plank in the native empowerment ‘toolbox’ and it outclasses the toolboxes of governments and industry, both of whom now seem to accept resource project delays as an economic fact of life.

Indeed the cumulative negative impact on our resources future is the biggest under-reported business story of the decade. Over the past year, I have been promoting a series of recommendations at resource symposiums to reverse this unhappy trend.

Before delving into my suggestions however, it is important to note that the federal government is pretty well out of the resources business. The provinces rule that roost, the northern territories have been sufficiently devolved in order to run their affairs, and even offshore energy plays are managed under joint boards. The feds are left with mandates in (some) environmental approvals, climate change protocols, species-at-risk, marine transportation and national infrastructure. None of these drive resource projects.

It’s precisely because Ottawa is out of the resources business that it needs to get into it. And the mechanism for returning to the fore requires the creation of an entirely new federal ministry that will act as a clearing-house. Nothing on this scale exists.

Recommendation 1: Canada needs a ‘Ministry of Access to Resources’ in recognition of the fact that the existing federal, provincial, and native approach to accessing resources is outright broken – and worse – lost in translation. This new ‘Access to Resources Ministry’ would report through the Privy Council Office direct to the Prime Minister’s Office. That will ensure high-level commitment, political will, and federal and provincial clout: these are the essential ingredients for moving the yardsticks.

Recommendation 2: An empowered ‘Native Secretariat’ would comprise a key component of the new ministry. But no staffing from Aboriginal Affairs, Department of Justice, or Treasury Board (the usual choke-points) as proper strategic recruiting will be critical. The emphasis will be on affording First Nations, Metis and Inuit the opportunity to commercialize their new-found empowerment in an atmosphere that fully recognizes their treaty, land claim, and aboriginal rights. This mandate would initially be premised upon their legal winning streak as resource gatekeepers; with the goal of having them become ‘players’ in all future project outcomes. I believe this secretariat is long overdue.

Recommendation 3: An immediate commitment to develop and implement a national equalization program for ‘Resource Revenue Sharing’ with annual funding dispersed on a weighted-average calculation across the board. Funding would come out of the federal budget. Administering this funding mechanism would be a central function of the new ministry – working with Finance.

Three words keep popping-up with business commentators to describe our national resources conundrum: ‘gridlocked, deadlocked, landlocked’. And they’re usually preceded by three other words, depending on the commentator’s context, namely: politically, geographically, economically.

Although in today’s stressed project circumstances, all six terms are completely interchangeable. So I would say it this way: Empowered native and eco-activist agendas have resulted in political gridlock. Uncoordinated federal and provincial missteps have resulted in economic deadlock. Industry’s reliance on its status-quo legal toolbox has resulted in resources landlock.

If we don’t develop a new approach, news media will continue to churn out coverage of missed opportunities in the resources sector. The

three proposals above recognize that native empowerment in the resources sector is here to stay, but more importantly, it’s the key to success.

The overwhelmingly stressed situation demands a federal response to a federal crisis. I believe Canadians will agree that it’s high time to get moving on considering these recommendations, as well as other silo-busting proposals to get our resources economy up-and-running for all to benefit. Let’s turn the page and make it work.

Bill Gallagher is a lawyer and

author of Resource Rulers: Fortune and Folly on Canada’s Road to Resources. This article was originally published in the Financial Post.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Wyatt's World for Feb. 24, 2021.
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Approximately 30 Yukoners protest for justice outside the Whitehorse courthouse on Feb. 22, while a preliminary assault hearing takes place inside. The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, based in Watson Lake, put out a call to action over the weekend. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Courthouse rally denounces violence against Indigenous women

The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society put out a call to action

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18.	(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Most Read