A lot has been said around the discussion of natural resource development over the past several weeks. Whether it is a letter to the editor, a newspaper column or the subject of conversation at your local cafe, it is clear that there is a diversity of opinion. It is important to first recognize that our riding benefits substantially from these projects. In Okanagan Falls, the largest local employer develops and creates world-class mining components. In Merritt, a long-term employer has recently announced the permanent closure of a mine, where the negative impact on the local economy has yet to be fully realized. While out door knocking, I heard some of the views on resource development from longtime Logan Lakers. They spoke about the hard times that followed when the nearby mine was closed for a time and the accompanying impacts on the local school and house prices as families moved to find work elsewhere. Since the mine resumed operations, they pointed to the positive impacts to the tax base and by attracting young families to work in the mine. Pointing to the flood of children walking home after the three o’clock bell and to the many ATVs and snowmobiles in driveways of local families, one can certainly recognize their point.
During my time as a member of Parliament, I have yet to meet anyone who has suggested that the reopening of the Copper Mountain Mine in Princeton has not been an extremely important and welcome support for the Princeton and area economy. In fact, I have met many small business owners throughout Okanagan-Coquihalla who have both directly and indirectly benefited from the increased economic activity from this mine that represents an investment in excess of $400 million. More importantly than the dollars is that this mine will directly employ close to 300 people in a resource community much in need of well-paying jobs and of course the related spin off jobs will also benefit other sectors of the small business community.
Why do I mention the importance of the Copper Mountain mine to a community like Princeton? Because this critically important project for the economy of the Similkameen region was made possible through foreign investment. The Mitsubishi Materials Corporation invested a significant amount of capital into this project so that it would become a reality. This investment has created hundreds of well-paying jobs in our region and in turn the resource royalties paid to the British Columbia provincial government help cover the costs of important services such as health care and education. In fact, the B.C. government forecasted roughly $400 million in revenues from the B.C. mining sector alone in 2010, not to mention that the average wage in this sector is in the $100,000 range annually. As mentioned earlier, Okanagan Falls, Logan Lake and Merritt also directly depend upon the mining sector to help provide jobs that support local families and local economies.
If you have been following area newspapers as of late, you will know that critics including some of the opposition parties both provincially and federally oppose trade and foreign investment. Yet these same critics frequently ignore that foreign investment is what helps to create important jobs right here in Okanagan-Coquihalla and at the same time provides important revenues to governments at all levels that in turn pays for important services that citizens depend upon. Crown resources will always be owned by British Columbians and in turn Canadians, no agreement proposed today alters that fact. This is why the Crown receives resource royalty revenues when the opportunities to capitalize on resources extraction are made available with further revenues benefitting throughout the process. For taxpayers to receive the highest possible return for the rights to engage in responsible resource development, a competitive bidding process is often involved to ensure the highest price is realized. Opening up this market to foreign investors not only has the potential to directly benefit provincial resource royalty revenues, it can also directly benefit local economies as evidenced in Princeton.
FIPA agreements, as mentioned in a previous MP report, are not full-scale trade agreements but rather are agreements that help to provide certainty to investors that outline the rules, obligations, administration and dispute resolution mechanisms that can both protect and promote foreign investment in the respective countries party to the agreement. In the event that foreign investment seeks to gain ownership of a Canadian resource company, this decisions is not subject to a FIPA agreement but rather is subject to the Investment Canada Act. The Government of Canada will either approve or reject an application based on the six clear factors that are laid out in detail in section 20 of the Investment Canada Act. These decisions will only be made after very careful review and extensive scrutiny. The Conservative government is the first in recent history to reject foreign ownership of Canadian-owned resources as was recently done with the rejection of the Malaysian Petronas proposal and was also done with the rejection of the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan in 2010. Our government will continue to make decisions that build on our track record of encouraging economic growth, job creation and prosperity in Canada.
Dan Albas is the member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla and can be reached at email@example.com or by phone at 1 (800) 665-8711.