There are Compelling Economic Reasons

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Treaties are good for the economy

Treaties will pump billions of dollars into the BC economy making the biggest impact where the money is needed most – in the hands of First Nations and their neighbours in small-town British Columbia.

First Nations will receive as much as $7 billion according to an economic analysis undertaken by Grant Thornton for the Treaty Commission.

Province-wide, treaties will bring certainty to land ownership and jurisdiction, a major cash injection and new investment. Total benefits from treaties, including increased investment, could be as high as $50 billion -- $1 billion to $2 billion each year for the next 20-25 years.

A Treaty Commission-sponsored survey of businesses confirms investment will follow treaties. Of the 143 companies responding to the survey, including 118 headquartered in British Columbia, two-thirds cite unresolved land claims as an important factor in investment decisions.

It is clear from this survey that the absence of treaties impacts our economy every day. One in five companies surveyed reduced their investment in BC due to unresolved land claims. That adds up to hundreds of millions of dollars of lost investment just among those companies surveyed. And those investments would have created jobs and attracted additional investment. The lost opportunities are substantial.

The financial community says unresolved land claims and the resulting uncertainty scare off investors. This is especially true for the resource-based economy, which has been the backbone of small-town British Columbia.

One in four companies surveyed would increase investment  if a significant number of claims were settled. That, too, adds up to hundreds of millions of dollars in investment just among those companies surveyed.

The economic analyses and business survey tell us that treaties will provide a major economic opportunity for all British Columbians and will resolve a dispute that has divided the people of this province for far too long.

Treaties will provide First Nations with lands, resources and money to build a better future. Everyone benefits. When First Nations prosper, our whole society is the beneficiary.

The McLeod Lake Indian Band signed a treaty in 2000 that included a large transfer of land and cash.

Chief Harley Chingee told an economic forum, “Every time we make money the whole community benefits, not only the local economy, but Prince George and Mackenzie, our surrounding communities.”

It’s the same story in Terrace where local businesses have been on the receiving end of benefits from the Nisga’a treaty since May 2000.

Land and cash transfers to First Nations, everyone agrees, will be important economic drivers in the future. Not surprisingly three quarters of British Columbians believe resolving land claims should be a priority of government, according to a recent poll.

Now is the time to take the necessary steps to achieve agreements in treaty negotiations. Without treaties, without agreements, there will be continued uncertainty and an uncertain future for all British Columbians.

Failure to resolve the land issue in the past has been a cost borne primarily by First Nations. Our failure now will be a higher cost borne by all British Columbians.

An Update to the Financial and Economic Analysis of Treaty Settlements in British Columbia is available at www.bctreaty.net. Also available are several viewpoints on the economic case for treaties presented at a forum hosted by the Treaty Commission.

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