NAN Oral Presentation on Bill 135: Energy Statute Law Amendment Act
Delivered to the Ontario Ministry of Energy
By Deputy Grand Chief Derek Fox
Monday February 22, 2016
We represent 49 of the 133 First Nations in Ontario. Our territory covers two thirds of Ontario’s Geography from the Manitoba border to the James Bay Coast. 32 of our 49 communities are remote. They do not have road access and they are not connected to the Transmission Grid. The majority are powered by expensive and high risk diesel generation. The diesel fuel is either flown in or transported by ice roads with significant cost and environmental risk.
In NAN territory, Climate Change is real. The North is warming and ice roads are melting. What was once a reliable lifeline is, now, under direct and observable threat.
With respect to Energy, NAN’s position is that the unique nature of our territory’s remoteness justifies a separate negotiation table within the Ontario Roundtable, as NAN First Nations and their energy groups’ progress cannot be impeded by an all Ontario approach.
NAN First Nations want to accelerate their energy initiatives and cannot wait for an Ontario wide process to kick start. It is the position of NAN First Nations that they will own and operate energy infrastructure assets, and NAN First Nations can invite external companies to be their partners, where appropriate.
Finally, NAN First Nations assert that Ontario must provide NAN and NAN First Nations with sufficient resources and core funding to work collaboratively in planning, developing, owning and operating their energy projects.
With respect to Bill 135, it must be stressed that NAN is unique in its demography and remoteness.
Historically, we have been impeded by an all-Ontario approach. We require the means for direct input in the Regional component of Ontario’s LTEP. Accordingly, we require guaranteed core funding to provide and retain the technical expertise. Our demography and remoteness require a separate negotiation table within the Provincial discussions. We can no longer afford to be impeded by an all-Ontario approach.
The revised role of the Minister of Energy as outlined in Bill 135 is an important acknowledgement the decisions regarding energy in Ontario are not simply based upon technical assessments. Bill 135 is a clear recognition that energy has far reaching political, economic, social and environmental impacts – all of which are critical to NAN and the 49 First Nations it represents.
Bill 135 clearly establishes the requirement to consult with First Nations. As such, First Nations must be an active participant and beneficiary of Ontario’s energy industry.
Point 1: Revised role of the Minister of Energy
Placing the Minister of Energy at the centre of all major policy and program decisions regarding Ontario’s electrical industry is recognition that these decisions have far ranging impacts on Ontario communities and First Nations located within Ontario.
NAN respects the past efforts of the various agencies who have worked hard to provide a comprehensive technical assessment of Ontario’s energy market place.
The technical efforts of the agencies, however, have fallen far short of addressing the broad socio-economic and environmental concerns brought forward by NAN and its member First Nations.
NAN recognizes that technical information is a requirement. However, Bill 135 is clear acknowledgement that the broader concerns – concerns that can only be captured within a political context – are considered.
Point 2: Consultation with First Nations
Bill 135 sets out the requirement for consultation with First Nations. The process as to how this requirement is to be fulfilled, must be established.
The consultation process for the Long Term Energy Plan, Regional Planning initiatives by the IESO, and other energy related initiatives – are part of the discussion.
Overall, what must be considered is that NAN and its member First Nations are not simply to be consulted, merely providing input into the process. Due to the recognized political nature of energy, we must also be the authors of the plan for Ontario’s energy future.
Point 3: Active Participation and Funding
The consultation process must not be limited to planning considerations. It must encompass how NAN First Nations will be active participants – owners – of energy infrastructure projects and the delivery of energy programs.
Energy has wide ranging impacts on NAN First Nations – from climate change to the impact of high electricity bills.
The importance of energy projects goes well beyond that of providing an essential service. Energy is BIG business – it provides business opportunities for the utilization of NAN’s, resources. As with other resources, NAN First Nations must benefit.
In the simplest language possible, we want to co-author a regional energy plan with the Ministry of Energy and we require the resources to do so. We are asking for guaranteed multi-year funding to participate in the Regional Planning process.
Earlier this year I sent a letter to the Minister of Energy requesting that we meet to discuss many issues that have been noted in this oral presentation. Therefore, I look forward to having a productive discussion with him.