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I have been fielding lots of calls in my office over the past few weeks in regards to permits and how they don’t appear to be getting processed in a very timely matter. For the last month I have been working on this particular issue and I have found out a lot about this matter and would like to pass along some of this information to you.
The Constitution of Canada tells us that we must consult and accommodate where required with our First Nations people and our Federal and Provincial courts have also ruled many times on different cases involving the consultation process. Our Government has taken the position that we do want to work within the laws of our Country and do what’s right to allow for proper consultation so that our resource sector can continue to develop in an expedient and environmentally friendly way.
Our Government has signed Economic Benefits Agreements with Treaty 8 First Nations and along with these agreements we also have other protocol agreements that address Crown Land applications, Strategic Land and Resource planning, Forests and Range, Heritage Conservation, Long Term Oil and Gas, Parks and Wildlife. The first of these agreements were signed in December of 2009, with the final agreements signed May 2010.
The Treaty 8 First Nations also have Consultation Protocol Agreements that they have signed and are presently in the process of re-negotiating with the Oil and Gas Commission. The agreements with the Oil and Gas Commission deal with all authorizations that directly involve the Oil and Gas operations and construction in the Peace River and Northern Rockies area, except tenuring which falls under the EBA.
These agreements have been negotiated and signed in good faith by the Government and the First Nations.
These agreements will be beneficial to all of us in our area but they don’t come without a bit of growing pains, both on the Government side and also on the First Nations side. The Oil and Gas agreements have been in place for many years and all of the parties have figured out how to get the permits processed in the best and most efficient
way possible and the OGC model is a very good model that actually has timelines built into the agreements and they also have certain authorizations that only require notification and this is very critical for the process to work properly for all of the parties.
The Ministry of Forest, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations is the Ministry that deals with all of the permits that are not associated with the Oil and Gas Industry, and as you are probably aware this is also a relatively new Ministry that basically combined most of the dirt Ministry’s into one larger Ministry. To say that there have been
some growing pains in this area would be a bit of an under statement but I do want to say that both the First Nations and the FLNRO staff have been doing an excellent job in dealing with the consultations getting permits processed in the best way possible. I do believe though that we have established agreements that are going to be
extremely difficult for any of the processes to work as efficiently as we had hoped would be the case.
Two weeks ago I was made aware of the fact that none of our guide and Outfitters in the area had been issued their Outfitters licenses for the year and without these licenses they cannot carry out their business at all. When I was made aware of this fact I started digging into why these permits had not been issued and I found out many issues that were part of the problem and I have been working extremely hard with the Minister of Aboriginal Relations, the Minister of FLNRO, our Caucus members and the Staff at FLNRO to get this process to the same
high level as our OGC process.
Some of the things that I found were that there are an awful lot of authorizations (approximately 4000 from OGC and 2000 more from FLNRO) that get sent to the First Nations for their input and I don’t believe that we have enough capacity either on the First Nations or the Government side to deal with all of these authorizations in an
expedient fashion. I also found out that there are several differences between the OGC process and the FLNRO process and a couple of the major ones include the fact that the OGC have a one project one permit process while the FLNRO system does not have that built in at this point, another difference is that the OGC are able to send
notifications only on about half of their authorizations and FLNRO is still trying to get to that point. The last point that is very significant is that the OGC process has a guaranteed timeline built into their process while the FLNRO process does not have that yet. I started off by saying that we have some problems and I do know that our Guide and Outfitters had a very positive meeting with our Treaty 8 First Nations this past week and I believe there is going to be a real commitment on both the First Nations side and the Government side to get these permits processed immediately. I know that this will help us on the short term but this issue is much larger than that and
so I am working very closely with both Ministers involved and I have the support of my Caucus to do what we have to in order to get this process more closely aligned with the OGC process that has worked very well for over ten years.
What I want to finish with is that we all live in this community and we have laws that are in place, we know we need to get along as good neighbors and I commit to you that I will continue pushing this process until it is satisfactory for Treaty 8 First Nations, our FLNRO staff and most importantly you!
Pat Pimm – MLA Peace River North
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