Chapman has extensive first hand experience in dealing with the difficulties faced by Fort MacMurray during its boom period. He addressed the Chamber in an effort to ease the community’s concerns regarding the pressure we may face should the various proposed energy projects go forward in the Fort St. John area.
To prepare, Chapman says, “you need to use your community leaders. Don’t wait for it to happen to you. Get together now and design for it. You can see it (the boom) coming, so rather than wait until it comes and work on a panic basis, start working with industry, start working with local government and start designing.”
As a community, we need to sit down and take a good look at what we need – what assets does the community have and what more do we need, as well as how to get what we need in a timely manner, said Chapman. “Sit down with the companies and ask, what are your plans? What does that translate to in terms of schools, roads, hospitals, recreational and cultural needs? You can start planning for those things now and budgeting for them.”
“If you work with the community, and plan for it, you do it with people. You don’t have it done to you.”
Everyone with a stake in the community needs to be involved, said Chapman. The Chamber of Commerce, institutional leaders, young community leaders, the business community, school boards, social service agencies and faith groups all need to be involved in the planning process, he said.
“Bring them together and ask them: What is it that we want this community to be?”
Taking BC Hydro and the Site C dam as an example, many people might feel that BC Hydro is an adversary. Chapman says that companies like BC Hydro live in a regulatory environment and have to pass a lot of regulatory hurdles to get permits. But permits are only two-thirds of the process. On the social license side, they need permissions, Chapman said. That means they have to have the support of the community.
“The biggest third (of the process) is how do you make sure the community benefits from this (project) and thrives?”
Albertan energy companies, which have been operating in the area for many years, are already thinking this way, said Chapman, but the community still needs to go to them and let them know we want the same things.
“Don’t look at it as philanthropy, corporate social responsibility and compliance. Look at it as co-creation of a better community.”