Atleo: First Nations must be in on talks
Neither Canada's premiers nor the federal government should think they can forge a national energy policy without First Nations at the table as an equal partner, says the newly re-elected national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
A reinvigorated Shawn Atleo is heading to Halifax next week to meet with the premiers — his first major foray since winning a second three-year term in a divisive contest that saw harsh criticism of Atleo’s co-operative approach to politics.
With chief after chief urging him to stand up for a larger First Nations share of Canada’s natural resource wealth, Atleo heads into the Council of the Federation meeting with an unshakable mandate to demand a spot at the table.
“This government, every government, must deal with First Nations as full partners,” Atleo said Thursday, the day after his third-ballot win at the AFN’s general assembly in Toronto.
“All those natural resources that the government wants to open up for development, First Nations have to be dealt with. It’s time that that happened.”
The premiers are expected to discuss moving ahead with a national energy strategy piloted by Alberta that would form a common approach to developing, marketing and sustaining energy resources.
The Western premiers are already backing the vision put forward by Alberta’s Alison Redford, who was in Toronto earlier this week meeting with Ontario counterpart Dalton McGuinty in order to push her plan.
Ontario’s backing is not guaranteed, however: the province balked at Alberta’s plan a year ago over the West’s insistence that oilsands were “sustainable.”
McGuinty said Thursday that he and Redford have found a way to clear the air.
“I think we have found a lot of common ground, and among other things, we are determined to ensure that Ontarians understand that they have a vested interest in the continuing growth and prosperity of Alberta, just as Albertans have a vested interested in the continuing growth and prosperity of Ontarians,” McGuinty said.
“We need to recognize that we need to work together to develop our energy capacity here in Canada.”
Momentum toward a national plan is coming from Ottawa too.
A Conservative-led Senate committee put forward a plan Thursday for a national approach to energy, calling it an urgent priority if Canada is to keep its competitive edge.
The committee urged governments at all levels to come together quickly and make sure they were not stepping on each other’s toes or standing in each other’s way in developing natural resources.
The report envisions shipping Canada’s oil east as well as through the West, all the while developing mega-projects in hydro and investing in renewable fuels.
The report does not, however, address climate change — prompting criticism from Greenpeace and other environmentalists.