Friday, June 18, 2004

New Democrat on FN Summit; a mine plan dies; and lessons from polls

VICTORIA - Random notes: A long-time New Democrat and former deputy premier takes a leading First Nations' role, a mining company stock skids after a B.C. government decision and a RAV poll highlights a big Liberal problem.

The newest leader of the First Nations Summit is coming into the job with a lot of political and bureaucratic experience - mostly on the opposite side from the BC Liberals.
Dave Porter is one of two new people elected to the summit's leadership, joining Chief Ed John.
Porter is chief treaty negotiator for the Kaska Dene Council, in the province's far northwest.
But he's also a former deputy premier and cabinet minister in the Yukon NDP government of the late '80s, and was an assistant deputy minister for aboriginal affairs under the B.C. New Democrats. Porter was also tapped by then energy minister Dan Miller to become the province's first oil and gas commissioner when the NDP wanted to make it easier for energy companies to do business in the province.
Porter's arrival comes at an interesting time. After what looked like a significant improvement in relations over the last two years, things have gone wrong. A new group, the Title and Rights Alliance, has created unusual unity among First Nations and promises to adopt more effective pressure tactics.
And the Treaty Commission, which manages the process, has pledged to become more aggressive in publicly pressuring any parties - First Nations or federal or provincial governments - that are blocking progress.
What's it mean? Porter knows the government and bureaucracy, and that could help get agreements - or it could make him a more effective opponent. (The federal government has bailed from the treaty table with the Kaska Dene, saying legal disputes have to be resolved before talks can resume.)

Things were looking up for Cline Mining Corp. The company, listed on the TSE Venture Exchange, had seen its lightly traded stock climb from 15 cents to 50 cents in April, before settling into the 40-cent range. The price was rising on plans for an open pit mine near Fernie, which the company said would produce $5 billion worth of coal during its lifetime and 1.500 jobs.
That changed May 28, when Energy Minister Richard Neufeld killed the project, citing environmental concerns and a desire to avoid conflict with U.S. opponents.
Within a few days the stock had lost half its value, and the company canceled plans to raise another $300,000 to work on planning for the mine.
The move surprised most people in the area, including mine opponents who were getting ready for a big fight.
But the odds were heavily stacked against it. Liberal MLA Bill Bennett said he had taken local opposition to Neufeld and Premier Gordon Campbell. And the anti-mine lobby across the border in Montana was organized and efficient. They had already persuaded Secretary of State Colin Powell to write Ottawa with concerns, and scored wide publicity, including a sympathetic New York Times story. (The mine would have been near Montana's Glacier National Park.)
Cline is considering its next move. But the enviros have already launched theirs, arguing that the same principles mean that plans for coal bed methane development in the south Kootenays should also be shelved.

If you want to understand the problem facing the Campbell Liberals, take a look at a poll commissioned by business types to show support for Vancouver's RAV line.
The poll found 69 per cent of those surveyed supported the line, with 46 per cent strongly supporting it.
But when the pollster asked about the Liberal offer to take on all the risk of cost over-runs - and come up with $170 million for another line - support fell. Only 65 per cent of supported going ahead with the line, and only 39 per cent offered strong support.
It's a better deal for Lower Mainland residents, but the association with the provincial government was apparently enough to drive support away.

Footnote: More poll news. StatsCan reported this week B.C. residents have the lowest satisfaction with health care services among the provinces. The province is also one of only three where satisfaction has fallen over the last three years (along with Newfoundland and P.E.I.).

No comments: