The Province


Jim Jamieson

Treaty creates 'certainty, economic opportunity': Large questions remain over rights issues

The weekend's signing of a proposed treaty with the provincial and federal governments and a northern B.C. native band signals increased economic development opportunities for all stakeholders, said Jerry Lampert, president and CEO of the Business Council of B.C.

The agreement -- which requires a 70-per-cent approval by 320 on the band list and about 200 others living around the province -- will provide the Lheidli T'enneh with 4,330 hectares of land, about one-quarter of which is within Prince George city limits.

Also, the band will receive a capital-cash transfer of $13.2 million and $400,000 a year for 50 years in resource revenue-sharing payments. The Lheidli T'enneh will have access to natural resources and be able to pursue economic development opportunities. The treaty is worth more than $76 million.

"[The agreement] will create certainty and will help to allow for increased economic development opportunities which will benefit Lheidli T'enneh, the Prince George region and all of B.C.," said Lampert in a statement. "This initialling will contribute to improving the business and investment climate in the province."

But James Brander, an economics professor at the University of B.C.'s Sauder School of Business, said it's too early to forecast what effect the Lheidli T'enneh treaty might have on the business climate in the area.

"The bigger issue is whether there is a framework here that is going to change the regime," said Brander.

"The native land claims are a major uncertainty that hovers over a lot of business activity. Getting some resolution of uncertainty is definitely a plus."

Brander said there are still large questions around issues such as the awarding of forestry and fishing rights.

"It's not clear how that's going to work out," said Brander.