Monday, September 22, 2014
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NDP leader offers fresh start with First Nations

Mark NIELSEN / Prince George Citizen

Federal New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair promised Monday a "different approach" to First Nations relations if elected prime minister as he embarked on a day-long tour of northwest B.C. communities.


Mulcair, who leads the official opposition in Ottawa, said the NDP would develop a "nation-to-nation approach" in which the government respects treaty rights, inherent rights and obligations to First Nations under international law that Canada has signed onto.

"It's a different approach," Mulcair said. "We're proud to have First Nations representatives already elected in our caucus and we want to elect more."

Accompanied by colleague Nathan Cullen, the MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, Mulcair landed in Terrace mid-morning Monday. Along with meetings with local municipal and First Nations politicians, his itinerary called for a stop in Kitimat where they were to take a boat trip along the Douglas Channel to Hartley Bay.

Mulcair said the NDP remains "categorically opposed" to allowing super tankers in the Douglas Channel, where the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline is to reach water.

"It's not even open for discussion," he said and added an NDP government would make it illegal to allow super tankers into areas as narrow as the Douglas Channel.

He said the next federal election will decide whether the NDP or the Liberals will replace the Conservatives as the next government and he took a swipe at the Grits, accusing that party's leader, Justin Trudeau, of backing away from the Kelowna Accord, the multi-billion-dollar agreement to improve life on First Nations reserves.

Reached in 2005, it was championed by then Liberal prime minister Paul Martin but died with the election of the Conservatives the next year.

Mulcair called the accord a starting point and the NDP would take a "far more comprehensive approach" that would cost money but pay off over the long run.

"If we don't take care of these issues properly now with the demographic of First Nations communities across the country, we're leaving a massive economic debt on future generations because these issues are going to have to be addressed eventually by someone," he said.

Mulcair also commented on the tailings pond spill at the Mount Polley mine near Williams Lake, saying the NDP would make sure laws designed to prevent such events would be enforced.

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