Opinion: Indigenous people fear Liberal green plan will sabotage their progress

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If Indigenous communities engage in the new energy economy, issues of investment funding come quickly to the forefront. The plan for many Indigenous communities has been clear: take the revenues from the oil and gas sector, purchase infrastructure and set up businesses, make commitments to new economy initiatives, and build sustainable economic viability.

Without steady and dependable revenue from oil and gas, it is difficult to imagine how Indigenous governments would fund a transition to renewable energy. Further reliance on government subsidies, which reinforce the paternalism of the past, would only add to government debt at a time when federal spending has surged.

Indigenous communities engaged with the oil and gas industry for solid reasons: to build prosperity, employment and business, to gain autonomy from the government of Canada, to secure a measure of influence over project decision-making, and to assert a prominent place in the national and international economy. Progress has been dramatic, and First Nations were on track for even more impressive improvements.

It is important to talk of a Canadian green economy, even if there are questions about how it will occur. The oil and gas sector and renewable energy production must co-exist and will, undoubtedly, be key parts of the investment portfolio of many Indigenous communities. A successful Canadian energy sector, operating on some of the highest environmental and social standards in the world and with strong Indigenous participation, is part of Canada’s best and most practical solution to its economic needs, environmental commitments and promises to promote Indigenous economic development.

Stephen Buffalo is president of the Indian Resource Council; Ken Coates is a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

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