Poilievre Launches Consultations With First Nations on Resource Revenues
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre rises to question the government during Question Period, in Ottawa on Sept. 26, 2022. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said he is initiating consultations with First Nations and industry leaders on a new proposal that would allow First Nations to collect more fiscal revenues from resource projects on their lands.
Speaking at a press conference in Vancouver on Jan. 24, Poilievre said he will be championing a “First Nations Resource Charge”—a proposal made by the First Nations Tax Commission that seeks to derive fiscal benefits from charges on resource projects such as mining and forestry in their lands.
“First Nations should have the right to bring home more of the benefits of their resources to their people,” said the Tory leader at the annual Association of Mineral Exploration Roundup conference. More than a dozen chiefs from First Nations in B.C. attended.
Poilievre said he would deploy all of his shadow ministers to lead the talks, while emphasizing that the proposal is “strictly voluntary” and “optional.”
This means First Nations can choose to keep their existing tax arrangements or follow the Conservatives’ plan to collect more revenue from the resource projects.
“In essence, we want resources for First Nations communities to defeat poverty and provide for the people, not to fatten the faraway bureaucracy in Ottawa,” he said.
Poilievre said even though resource companies do sign benefit agreements with First Nations, the process is ad hoc, bureaucratic, and shrouded in uncertainty, which means “more money for lawyers, lobbyists, consultants, and paperwork.”
He suggested that Ottawa could offset the extra costs incurred by those companies by “ceding tax room” to them.
“Payments by resource companies to First Nations should be offset by the federal government ceding tax room,” he said. “The effect of this would be to redirect revenues from the federal government to First Nations governments. That would make sure that the projects are actually economical, that they would actually happen.”
He acknowledged many questions will need to be ironed out during the consultations.
“What projects should this policy cover? Is it oil and gas, critical minerals, forestry, fisheries alone, or will it also include other commercial projects?” he said.
But he stressed that the proposal will not impact any “treaty rights, inherent rights, self-government agreements, rights under Section 35 of the Constitution, legal claims, or funding agreements to do with Indigenous Services Canada.”
The consultations will happen in all provinces and territories.
“None of this would affect provincial taxes or royalties, though provinces could choose to match or build upon the First Nations Resource Charge, and offer something similar in addition to it,” Poilievre said.
The Conservatives’ message was welcomed by Billy Morin, chief of Enoch Cree Nation, which is situated in Central Alberta.
“Hai hai @PierrePoilievre for starting dialogue that can lead to unprecedented Change in the foundations of Land & Resource mgmt for Indigenous Nations,” Morin said in a tweet after Poilievre’s speech.
“Change that is Not virtue signalling of our participation; Change benefiting all Canadians so we can compete on the world stage.”
Poilievre also took to Twitter the same evening, saying First Nations will collect more of the resource revenue should he become prime minister of Canada.
“First Nations will take back control of their money, decisions and lives from Ottawa gatekeepers,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Tory leader has also given the “green light to green projects,” echoing what Quebec Premier François Legault said about the need to build more hydro dams to fuel the growing number of electric vehicles, and that red tape needs to be reduced to speed up project approvals.
Noé Chartier contributed to this report.