The proposed $800-million Prosperity gold and copper mine, rejected by his own government, is an important development not only for the Williams Lake area, but the region, including Prince George, says Cariboo-Prince George Conservative incumbent Dick Harris.
Harris, who has been a MP in the area for nearly two decades, has been supportive of the project and Taseko's attempt to refile a revised plan that meets the federal government's concerns.
"The challenges that any development needs to address are pretty constant through any other mine development, so people are anxious to see how Prosperity turns out," Harris said Monday, with the federal election a week away.
Taseko said two months ago it resubmitted a new plan that will reduce environmental impacts and preserve Fish Lake, which would have been destroyed in the first plan. The company said it could absorb the extra $300 million cost to protect the lake because gold and copper prices are higher.
While the mine promised economic activity and jobs -- touted as a benefit by Harris -- it met with stiff resistance from First Nations. Taseko had said the project would create 500 direct jobs, another 1,200 indirect jobs during a 20-year period.
Harris acknowledged that the revised plan will still have to pass federal regulatory scrutiny, and must address First Nations' concerns.
"I personally hope that none of those are insurmountable," said Harris, who has offered to act as a facilitator for First Nations and the Vancouver-based company.
Other federal candidates are less bullish on the project.
Cariboo-Prince George NDP candidate Jon Van Barneveld said he's against the mining project because it did not properly consider First Nations' values. "They didn't involve First Nations from the get go. I've always said we need to include First Nations values and concerns as a first step, and not the last hurdle," said Van Barneveld, an UNBC student.
Green candidate Heidi Redl said she is definitely not supportive of the project because it doesn't have the support of First Nations. Redl, a Williams Lake-area rancher, who talked to First Nations leaders recently, said she doesn't see the company getting their support.
However, Redl said she could support the nearby $450-million Spanish Mountain project because the company has done a stellar job of working with First Nations. If that mine passes its environmental review, she believes it will go ahead.
Liberal candidate Sangeeta Lalli said she would only support the Prosperity mine if it passes an environmental review of its revised plan, and gains approval of local stakeholders, including First Nations.
"I think it's up to Taseko mines to gain approval of the local stakeholders and make sure it isn't having such a large environmental impact on the surrounding land," said Lalli, a University of British Columbia student from Vancouver parachuted to run in the riding.
Last summer, a federal panel concluded there would be significant adverse environmental effects from the Prosperity mine on fish and fish habitat, traditional First Nations use and on potential, or established, Aboriginal rights or title.
Last November, the federal government agreed with the panel, rejecting the project, saying it could not go ahead as planned.