By Ellsworth Dickson
Shannon Stubbs, Conservative Member of Parliament who represents the riding of Lakeland, Alberta, provided Resource World Magazine with her thoughts on mineral development during an interview at the recent Prospectors and Developers of Canada annual conference in Toronto.
RESOURCE WORLD: How would you characterize the current state of the mining industry?
SHANNON STUBBS: I hear a lot of optimism about the Canadian mining industry among producers and developers but also very serious concerns about the potential of Canada losing competitiveness against other major producing countries – particularly Australia – as they make changes to their regulatory and fiscal regime aligned with industry to help advance their already thriving mineral exploration and development sector. That’s why Conservative party leader Andrew Scheer has said that the commitment of a Conservative government will be to reduce and streamline red tape on producers and reduce government imposed costs for Canadian mining since it is already a country where there are high cost operations.
RW: Many Canadians don’t live near mines and they don’t know much about mining. In your view, just how important is the Canadian mining sector to the economy?
SS: Incredibly important – not just for the generation of thousands of jobs but 20% of Canadian exports depends on the mining sector. It’s the impact of the mining sector that Canadians need to know about. In particular, it is crucial for finance and consulting jobs in big cities like Toronto and Vancouver where the financing of mineral companies has a major impact on the TSX but also in providing jobs and business opportunities in small towns and in remote areas of the country.
Because the mining sector is so critical that’s why governments have to ensure that they protect competitiveness of the Canadian mining sector and the investments in it.
RW: As you know, before we have operating mines, you have to explore for minerals, so would a Conservative government take steps to encourage mineral exploration?
SS: Yes, absolutely. I think this is the key factor for Canada; in particular, knowing the challenges for explorers and developers in terms of distance, accessibility to land, climate, geography and the fact that there is so much risk and long timelines for production. Conservatives know very well the importance of the mineral exploration tax credit, the flow-through share provisions – particularly for financing for junior companies – and also the importance of certainty around land access and access to capital. A Conservative government would work with the private sector and junior Canadian mining companies to ensure that we both reduce red tape and reduce costs to ensure that mineral exploration in Canada can continue to thrive. Some of that’s really dependent on crucial infrastructure to unlock and open up access to the north, for example, but also infrastructure needed to continue the development of already proven and economic reserves.
RW: With regards to the northern British Columbia natural gas pipeline to Kitimat, some hereditary First Nations chiefs say they have not given their approval despite all of the elected council members on board along the pipeline route giving approval. Do the Conservatives have any idea how to get around this problem of who actually speaks for First Nations?
SS: This is certainly a major challenge in terms of meaningful consultation and working with Indigenous communities for which Canada already has a very strong track record for the natural resources sector – mining in particular. It’s not only an issue for mining; it has also been an issue for LNG products in other communities where elected leaders are supportive of resource development while hereditary leaders are not.
Recently, I asked representatives of some indigenous communities who they thought should be the final decision makers in terms of the position of the community. They did say “the elective leaders” but also that it’s important to have early and ongoing engagement because hereditary leaders, the elders and others in the community will obviously influence the decision making in the long term. I think one of the key things for Canadians to know is that the vast majority of the Indigenous communities support mining and mineral exploration, they support oil and gas pipelines, they support LNG, and they support economic opportunities through responsible resource development.
So the emphasis of a Conservative government would be to find ways to get to “yes” on major resource projects with Indigenous communities and all impacted communities. This is an issue that Indigenous leaders are going to have to resolve.