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'Everything is energy': Crisis in Europe a lesson for Canada, says MLA Ross

Canadians concerned about national energy security and First Nation self-determination can’t ignore the history currently being made in Europe, a natural resources conference in Fort St. John heard last month.
Ellis Ross speaks at the Creating Energy conference in Fort St. John.

Canadians concerned about national energy security and First Nation self-determination can’t ignore the history currently being made in Europe, a natural resources conference in Fort St. John heard last month.

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross was among the keynote speakers at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual Creating Energy conference, where he talked about Europe’s energy dependency on Russia and drew parallels to his home community of Haisla Nation, and its past dependence on the federal government in Ottawa.

“For too long we’ve gone down this ideological road that somehow oil and gas is not needed, that we would just shove it aside and there would be no consequences. Germany has proved that wrong, 100% wrong,” Ross told an audience of more than 100 local business leaders who gathered at the Lido Theatre on June 23.

“Germany — a superpower, an economic power — is now dependent on a regime like Russia for energy, and now Germans are complaining that Russia is extorting them for natural gas for their energy needs.

“It’s not extortion. It’s dependency,” he said.

Germany has started to ration hot water, dim streetlights, and shut down pools amid high gas prices and as Russia cuts supply to the country, according to the Financial Times. And the situation is expected to get worse as the Russia-Ukraine war continues, the Times reports, which adds Germany, the largest economy in Europe, is facing an energy crisis not seen since 1973.

“They had no choice, they had to go to Russia. Well, guess what Russia did…they’re destabilizing Europe,” Ross said. “And all these countries are starting to understand now what First Nations have been trying to get away from for the last 50 years, at least. To be dependent on somebody, to have someone else control your life, is going to put you at a real bad spot.”

Ross said his Haisla community was once dependent too, on the Indian Act for basic funding from the federal government, and then again through government grants to secure dollars for community projects. While the industrial town of Kitimat was among the wealthiest communities in Canada, he said his band just seven miles down the road was one of the poorest in B.C.

“Essentially, you beg for money,” he said. “You want a youth centre? You had to beg for money. You want to renovate your soccer field? You got to beg for money. At the same time, you try to reach out to the corporations to see if they can help you with donations as well.”

After joining his Haisla council in 2003, Ross said he spent “eight years in the trenches” learning about natural resource development and using case law from the courts to turn dependency into economic opportunity. It wasn’t the province that came knocking and looking to develop LNG, it was his band, he said.

“We started 2004, and we lobbied the provincial government for seven years to get on board with us. It wasn’t until Christy Clark came along and said, yes, we’re going to do this,” said Ross. “I’m very proud to say that now my band is one of the wealthiest bands in B.C. We no longer beg for money. We have built a youth centre with our own money, an elder centre with our own money, fixed up our soccer fields with our own money,” he said, listing off a range of other investments the Haisla has since made in housing and industry against the backdrop of an LNG industry coming to fruition in the north.

“We breathed life into the word of self-determination. We didn’t expect anybody to realize reconciliation for us. We felt it was up to us as aboriginal leaders and we did it. We’ve got a fully sustaining chief and council planning for the future,” he said. “The amount of pride in my community, you can’t measure it. Why? Because we’re independent.”

But though Christy Clark may have supported LNG, the provincial and federal governments of today do not, Ross said. He said the LNG Canada project has only been approved for a fraction of its export potential, and called the cancellation of Chevron’s planned LNG project in Kitimat “a national tragedy.”

As Europe worries whether it will have enough gas to last through the coming winter, Ross fears Canada is heading down the same path of energy insecurity.

“We can shake our fists all we want at the pump but until we get engaged and until we get involved and fully understand what’s happening, right now history’s being made in Europe, history's being made worldwide, and it’s all based on energy,” he said.

“The demand we see right now in India and China, it’s going to keep going up. Germany is going back to coal...they’re trying to fast track a terminal to accept LNG in two years. Well, OK, that’s great, but where are you going to get it from? You’re not going to get it from Canada.

“Canada, no matter what you read in the paper, does not believe in LNG. B.C. does not believe in LNG," he said.

The country has also ignored provincial partners like Alberta, which have the resources and capacity to make the country energy independent, Ross said. He pointed to B.C. rationing gasoline sales and barging in supply from the U.S. after floods last year destroyed highways and cut off supply to the Lower Mainland. He worries the U.S. will shut supply off to Canada entirely if a full-scale energy crisis comes to bear in North America.

“Everything is energy. Inflation is going to be energy, combined with taxes, supply chain issues… but energy is at the core of what we’re facing today," he said, "and it’s not going to get any better because we don’t have a domestic energy policy that works for us.”

Ross says Canadians will all pay the same price at the end of the day — simple economics pass on rising energy costs from the farmer and trucker to the consumer. He says it’s why he’s travelling the province warning British Columbians not to ignore the dire situation facing Europe.

“I enjoy the hospitals, the schools, the highways, the cars, the cellphones, the computers, the houses; I enjoy them just like everybody else. I don’t want to see it go away. It’s going to be a few years before we feel the pain but when the pain sets in it’s going to be here long-term,” he said. “And you know who’s going to suffer the most? Our kids. Our grand kids are going to have to clean up all this political garbage that helped put children in the position that they’re in today. I can’t stand by and watch that happen.

“I can’t stand the idea of my kids or my grand kids leaving B.C. because this is such a hellish place to live — too much taxes, too much inflation, no opportunity, only because we never really looked at that word 'dependence', and in the context of what Germany’s going through.”

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