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Harper names envoy to deal with First Nations concerns on pipelines and energy

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  • Don Bain
    Harper names envoy to deal with First Nations concerns on pipelines and energy By Peter O Neil, Vancouver Sun March 19, 2013 10:51 AM
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 19, 2013
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      Harper names envoy to deal with First Nations concerns on pipelines and energy
      By Peter O'Neil, Vancouver Sun
      March 19, 2013 10:51 AM
      http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Vancouver+lawyer+named+envoy+between+native+groups+federal/8120241/story.html

      [cid:image001.jpg@01CE2493.E52F2E30]
      Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, in a speech in Terrace, announced the appointment of a special representative who will liaise between B.C. and Alberta first nations and Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office.
      Photograph by: DARRYL DYCK, THE CANADIAN PRESS
      OTTAWA - The federal government made on Tuesday another move aimed at winning a "social license" in B.C. for pipeline companies seeking to ship diluted bitumen crude to Asia via West Coast ports.
      Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, in a speech in Terrace, announced the appointment of a special representative who will liaise between B.C. and Alberta first nations and Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office.
      The post will be filled by Vancouver lawyer Doug Eyford, a federal land claims negotiator in B.C.
      It was not immediately clear if Eyford would keep that position.
      It was Oliver's second announcement in as many days, after laying out in Vancouver Monday a plan to develop a "world class" tanker safety regime.
      Eyford will be asked to produce for Harper a preliminary report by June 28, and a final report by November 29.
      Oliver said Eyford's appointment is meant to "complement" the Crown's legal obligation to consult with first nations on natural resource projects.
      He said the appointee will meet with aboriginal communities impacted by proposed pipelines, liquified natural gas plants, marine terminals, and related infrastructure.
      His report will address ways to meet environmental concerns and come up with better business and job opportunities for aboriginals in B.C. and Alberta. Eyford will also work with the two provincial governments that are currently feuding over Enbridge Inc.'s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to Kitimat.
      Oliver, in his speech, described the appointment as "historic" and a "seminal moment" in Crown-first nations relations.
      The move is intended to fulfill Harper's recent promise at a first nations summit here in January to give first nations leaders a direct relationship with his office.
      Eyford "is a seasoned, sensitive, straightforward mediator and negotiator with a keen understanding of aboriginal communities," Oliver is expected to say, according to a text of his speech provided to The Vancouver Sun.
      "His vision, professionalism and sense of balance and fairness will, once again, deliver results for first nations and all British Columbians."
      Harper has made clear that one of his top priorities is to ensure that Alberta's oilsands sector gets a better price for diluted bitumen crude, which now goes overwhelmingly to U.S. customers in a market experiencing growing oil production.
      But proposals by Enbridge and by Kinder Morgan, which wants to twin its existing pipeline from the Edmonton region to Burnaby, are controversial in B.C. Many critics say industry and the federal and Alberta governments have been unable to obtain a "social license" due to opposition from first nations, environmental groups, and ordinary British Columbians.
      While the government insists it is not responding directly to demands from B.C. Premier Christy Clark, both announcements this week address two of the five concerns raised by her last summer when she set out conditions for B.C.'s support for oilsands pipelines.
      She said projects must first successfully complete an environmental review, world-class safety regimes must be in place both along the coast and inland, first nations have to be consulted, and B.C. must get a larger share of the financial benefits.
      Federal officials note that the Harper government announced measures months before Clark's 2012 declaration to address concerns about tanker and pipeline safety and first nations consulations.
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