FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Making a stop on his campaign trail for the leadership of the BC Liberal Party, Ellis Ross visited Fort St. John on Monday to speak to residents about his platform.

Ross says a common misconception being pushed by the opposition is that natural resource production in Canada is a dirty, unmonitored industry.

“The Oil and Gas Commission is always monitoring air quality, water quality, impacts to the land and so on. If anything, one thing I saw up here in Fort St. John is the commitment to regulations and the amount of monitoring that’s carried out.”

After visiting sites around Fort St. John, Ross says he was impressed with the level of environmental stewardship in the oil and gas industry.

“I just came from the water quality testing drill site, and that’s pretty extensive. They’re actually retaining water and taking out the iron and salt, and they reuse the water again. In terms of environmental impacts, we’re head and tails above the rest of the world.”

Ross was elected MLA for Skeena in 2017 and he was re-elected in 2020.

Ross currently serves as the Official Opposition critic for Environment and Climate Change Strategy, and he was previously the Official Opposition critic for LNG and Resource Opportunities.

Ross became the first full-time councillor on the Haisla Nation Council in 2003, and in 2011, he was elected Chief Councillor of the Haisla Nation.

“Everything that I learned as a kid and as a young man was about how bad the government is, how bad the white man is, how bad economic development is. When I got elected to Council in 2003, I realized that was the wrong narrative,” said Ross on Monday.

Ross talked about his first years on Council, trying to find answers to the social problems his community was dealing with.

“We were poor. We had one computer in a condemned schoolhouse that used to be a Residential School. When Councillors went in to do our work, five of us shared an office. It was something to ask for notebooks to take notes because we were so broke.”

In 2006, Ross signed a $50 million deal with Kitimat LNG to build a liquefied natural gas plant on a Haisla Nation reserve.

“In eight years as a Councillor, I started to understand not only LNG and forestry but understanding the big picture. Where is the wood going? Where is this LNG going? What’s the business plan? And ultimately, how does it get my people off welfare?”

Ross says over the years, he started to see a change in his people.

“When a person got a job that was living on welfare for 10 years, they didn’t know their own value, didn’t know their own potential, their social problems went away on their own. As a leader, I just got greedy for more. Now, there’s no such thing as poverty in my village anymore.”

Ross says the leadership of the BC Liberal Party is his second priority.

“The second priority of what I’m doing is to run for the BC Liberal Leadership. The first priority is trying to determine where BC is heading in the next 5, 10, 20 years.”

Ross says the province needs to take advantage of economic opportunities like the gateway to Asia.

“I believe BC should be even stronger than it was before 2017. For that, we’ve got to encourage the private sector to actually support the public sector, not the other way around.”

Ross is a strong believer in the opportunity for reconciliation, and he is against the rumblings of cancelling Canada Day in light of recent discoveries in Kamloops and Saskatchewan.

“For the first time in my history, Canadians want to be beside First Nations. They want to be beside, they want to hug, they want to cry, they want to laugh. I think this is a huge opportunity. We don’t need big speeches, we just need to be together.”

Voting for the BC Liberal Leadership race will take place from February 3rd to 5th, 2022. The new leader will be announced on February 5th.