Hello,

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted on my website, but given the temporary nature of Facebook and other social media sites, I figure this was a better place to give an update of this magnitude. To get to the point, I have been asked by Chief-Councillor Jeff Cook, my colleague and elected leader of the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, to attend the BC Trade Mission to China, South Korea and Japan. This all came about due to our good relationship with the Port Alberni Port Authority on the trans-shipment port project. This project, of course, is not without its detractors. At this very early stage in development of the trans-shipment port project, though, I believe that we are in a key position to meaningfully consult with our people since we’ll have first-hand access to real data and information. All this information does not necessarily explain how it came about that Huu-ay-aht was offered a spot on a trade mission to very important Asian markets.

As stated, the Huu-ay-aht First Nations (HFN) have a good relationship with the Port Alberni Port Authority (PAPA). I believe it is accurate to say that the regional economy needs some measure of renewal, and PAPA’s CEO Zoran Knezevic put forward the intriguing idea of a trans-shipment port somewhere in Barkley Sound or the Alberni Inlet. In simpler terms, think of this as a transfer station for big shipping companies. Very large container ships travel from Asian ports to places like the Lower Mainland, the Seattle Area, Portland and California. The costs of running these ships is very high, and having a transfer station where these large ships can drop off their cargo can save them several days of travel and potentially quite a bit of money. Once the cargo is dropped off, it would be sorted and loaded on to smaller ships that would then bring it to the aforementioned ports. This would result in job creation at the trans-shipment port itself as well as creating more work for local coastal shipping companies.

We are nowhere near determining whether this is even feasible. This is the starting point of our relationship with PAPA. HFN Council believes the trans-shipment port to be a credible idea with a lot of potential, but one that needs to be vetted with work to determine whether the economics work, whether it’s environmentally sustainable and whether it’s appropriate for HFN and the region as a whole. As I’ve learned from former and celebrated members of the Huu-ay-aht government, I believe that it is always better to be actively involved in the work going on around us than it is for us to react to it late in the day. I was impressed to see Mr. Knezevic of PAPA come through our door to talk to us about the idea so early in development, and we now do what we can to further develop that idea because we think it might work for us and that it could have a very positive impact on the regional economy.

This brings us to the trade mission. The seat that I have in the trade mission was passed on to Huu-ay-aht through its relationship with PAPA due to the efforts in pushing the trans-shipment port prject and now a potential LNG plant. As we should know by now, the Provincial Government very much believes that Liquefied Natural Gas is the economic future of the BC economy. I won’t go into the raft of reasons for or against LNG development, but it is the work done in contemplating the idea that has given us the opportunity to go to Asia.

So, why am I going? There are three main reasons:

The first has to do with our relationship with PAPA and the generally-accepted belief of HFN Council that the trans-shipment port idea is a strong enough economic opportunity for HFN and the region as a whole  to merit further investigation. One of my primary objectives in going on this mission is to support economic development opportunities for the region and for the province. Also, this is partly because I think BC has just as many opportunities for work as Alberta and it would be nice that young people (like many HFN citizens) would have job opportunities within BC.  The trick, of course, is finding a balance between resource development and environmental sustainability and through our direct involvement in the project, we are in a position to make that determination earlier than ever.

The second reason is political. As a Treaty First Nation in BC, there are many looking to us to succeed or fail — both for various reasons. As a party to the Maa-nulth Final Agreement, the Huu-ay-aht First Nations is self-governing and very much aspires to be self-reliant in an economic sense of the term. In order to be successful in achieving these objectives, we already have many of the tools we need. One thing we need to keep in mind is that in this globalized world, no community is entirely self-reliant without having its standard of living severely reduced. The global economy only works when those who are a part of it understand that we benefit more from sticking to our comparative advantages and trading them on a mostly-open market. Larger and powerful nation-states, let alone First Nations like ours, aspire not to complete independence, but rather mutually-advantageous interdependence. The days of autarky are gone, we now live in a world of globalization. Whether we like it or not, it is up to our leaders to act accordingly. The government of BC is doing that, and I believe that in doing what I can to help advance the cause of trade will help add to the momentum behind what I believe to be one of British Columbia’s economic comparative advantages. In this, it is my hope that provincial leaders and business leaders and thought leaders take notice and think kindly on the Huu-ay-aht First Nations. This, I hope, will lead to opportunities that our Nation would not otherwise have and it is that opportunity where our bright future awaits.

The third reason is economic. I hope to make connections with business interests in Asia that are willing to either buy our goods or invest in our economy. Both of these things will accelerate our economic development and lead to creation of job opportunities for Huu-ay-aht citizens and our regional neighbours as well as a source of revenue for our government to provide continued, improved or expanded services to better our people’s quality of life. In my function as an elected Councillor for the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, I am the Chairman of Economic Development Committee and subsequently the Chairman of our Economic Development Corporation. I sincerely and passionately believe that healing the wounds of residential schools and rebuilding our Nation needs development in all three spheres: political, social and economic.

Normally, economic development is merely enabled by governments in the Western Tradition, but we are not in the same situation as the classical Western nation-states. In fact, we are more like the Asian countries I am about to visit: the so-called Asian Tigers. In that school of economic thought, there is a direct role for government in the economic advancement of its people. In this, we need only look at the statistics. The rise of Japan in the 1960s and 1970s served as an example for countries like South Korea and Singapore. The Chinese, of course, modified this approach to suit their politics and culture, but one cannot argue with the numbers they’ve posted in the past few decades. These countries have gone about developing their economies rationally and successfully; and they’ve done it differently than the standard model espoused by the Western Tradition. I find this fitting and inspiring for someone who has the honour of representing a First Nation community with a cultural heritage that spans the centuries.

Personally, I am excited and a bit anxious. I am hopeful and confident that I am supported by a rational approach to economic development opportunities afforded to us by our lands, resources, people and way of life.

Wish me luck.

Chuu.

We live a world of limited resources.

The trick of government is to use community resources, however defined, in order to have the best effect on the community, however defined.

In doing this, governments will make decisions that will mean closing the door on one thing in order to achieve another thing. These are trade-offs. They are essential to getting anything worthwhile done. Making decisions that result in trade-offs has been one of the big weaknesses of our government. We want to do everything, and thus risk failure at achieving much of anything.

It is the job of our leaders to make these decisions based on the available information, their skills at identifying options and costs, and each Member of Council’s own values, attitudes and beliefs.

In the Huu-ay-aht experience, our governments get elected based on the judgment of our community based on voters sense of individual quality, however defined.

This results in a government of people who might, and usually do, have different viewpoints on what needs to be done, and why it’s important. This was on-purpose. The best governments are the ones where nothing is taken for granted. There is a need for conflict, not between people, but between ideas. These ideas should be put forward and tested at the level of government as best its members can.

The hope, the theory, is that only the best ideas of the ones presented will survive to grow into plans and be carried out to the best of our abilities.

This is no guarantee that the idea, plan or follow-through will result in something that is efficient, effective or achieve the objective. Those things take good governance practices, discipline at the top levels and a skilled administration.

Disagreements will inevitably occur, but decisions needs to keep being made. This will result in some decisions that citizens and members of government won’t like. The truth of it all is that this is intentional, too. In any given scenario, there are many viable options in an objective sense. When you get subjective, the options are even wider.

As inefficient as democratic methods are, they are the best we have to do the job in an acceptable way. Every other method is either outside our capacity as human beings, or entirely unfair from much of any ethical perspective.

On Saturday, the Huu-ay-aht First Nations come together as a community to check-in with each other and talk about what’s been happening: decisions, actions, trade-offs and overall governance. The trick here is to understand that we all have different points of view, different values and different information. The trick to having a successful assembly is to understand that we’re better off trying to understand where we’re all at and providing realistic and respectful options for moving forward.

I will endeavour to remember these words, and I will endeavour to try to understand others’ points of view as long as they try to do the same.

I cannot guarantee that I will agree, but I can guarantee that I will listen to the best of my ability.

It is my hope that you strive to do the same.

Thanks,

– J.

A quick note: I plan on posting thoughts on what it will take for us to succeed as a First Nation of the Maa-nulth Final Agreement. These are my thoughts alone, and not the official line of the government of the Huu-ay-aht First Nations. I am but one voice in that chorus, and here I sing alone.

As Chair of Economic Development for the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, I am responsible for overseeing the agenda of government in regards to economic development. Notwithstanding the threat of seeming a hammer looking for nails, I will posit two notions: (1) that our community entered into treaty in order better our potential and actual lives individual and as a community, and (2) that our success is predicated on success in business and local economic development.

If the Huu-ay-aht First Nations stayed under the current federal regime, I do not think we would have the tools necessary to make our lives better. Without tools such as ownership of land, access to resource development, and meaningful self-government, a community is hamstrung from the get-go. Though there are plenty of routes to acquiring the tools necessary to pursue a better life for our people, I do not think those routes are as effective as Treaty itself. We may be able to come into a cobble of agreements with the Province and Federal government, but they do not have the certainty nor the authority of a treaty. Pursuing our ends by way of Court proceeding can feed a strong sense of conflict-based patriotism, but it ends up straining the relationship with the very folks we need to work with to succeed in the long term. Relying on the Courts too much will result in a new relationship that feels very much like an extended divorce proceeding — and I think this is not an ideal situation for any party.

Treaty gives us the tools and material to rebuild our First Nation, but we need to use those tools effectively and those materials efficiently. One such task before us to find new and renewable resources necessary to continue our work. In essence, we need to find ways to make a living on a community scale. As a government, we have two main tools: (1) taxation and (2) economic development. While we are pursuing everything we can to make our lands attractive for residential and commercial investment, and that this taxation will form a basis for maintaining our lands and services on those lands, I think they will live only pay for the services rendered to the land base in question. Honestly, I think it should likely remain that way — overly taxing those on our lands to extend benefits to others away from those lands will likely dissuade people from investing their lives or money there.

I think that the resources we need to reach parity in potential standard of living with the rest of Canada will require canny use of current resources we have to make more in the future. We will do this through investment, in general and in various things, but for now I will speak to economic development. We can invest in stocks and bonds and accounts that will create a return on investment, but I only think of this as a measure to keep what we have rather than a means of generating more.

Keep in mind that we have to grow faster, much faster, than other communities in order to reach parity in standard of living. First off, basic physics state that a thing needs to travel at a higher velocity than the target in order to catch up to that target. Thus, we have to grow at an average rate higher than the Canadian average. Secondly, our community has a much higher rate of growth than the rest of Canada. We have to grow our resources as fast as inflation and our birthrate in order to maintain what we have now, and we have to grow faster than that in order to see an improvement. If we wish to reach some form of parity (actual or potential) with the rest of Canada, we need to reliably grow faster than the rest of Canada for a period of years and years.

This is not impossible, but the decisions we make as leaders now can jumpstart that process or slow it down by years and years. The decisions we make, the ones that matter, they have trade-offs. We cannot have everything we want because we live in a world of scarcity. We need to look to the future and plan on creating an environment far into the future where our successors’ problems will be centered on what to do with their wealth, rather than what they can do with what little they have….

Not exactly scholarly, but at this point, I’m just blogging here.

– J.

Stephen Harper must bolster moderates as true voice of native Canadians” by Andrew Coyne writing for The National Post

Dear Canada: First Nations don’t want to be wards of the state” by Chief Michael LeBourdais of the Whispering Pines/Clinton Indian Band writing for The Globe and Mail

Atleo was courageous to meet with Harper as his constituency openly revolts” by Andrew Coyne writing for The National Post

More teachers, not warriors, the solution to First Nations crisis” by David Akin writing for Sun Newspapers

First Nations Success Stories” on Charles Adler with David Akin on Sun News Network

Links

I have more than a bit of older content that I’ve produced over my years online.

While not an exhaustive list, here are some links:

Twitter – My username is an old throwback to my gaming days…

LinkedIn – For those interested in my work identity.

Facebook – Check and see if any of my privacy settings are wonky…

Instagram – Pictures I take with my phone, then filter.

Tumblr – Because sometimes, you want to scroll and scroll and scroll…

Blogger – My older writings, so I had a place to put them.

Thanks!