Need to know: Joe Oliver's sort-of charm offensive

The Natural Resources Minister needs to win aboriginal hearts and minds

Adrian Wyld/CP

The story
It’s not exactly a charm offensive, but Joe Oliver’s posturing on energy development seems to half-signal some measure of positivity between his office and the myriad aboriginal groups that have a stake in the natural resources beneath the earth’s surface. Sort of.

Earlier this year, the government appointed Doug Eyford, a Vancouver lawyer, to sound out aboriginal concerns about western pipeline development. He reported directly to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. On Dec. 5, Eyford filed his report. He insisted that the feds, if they hope to reach any common ground with indigenous groups, should work “to build trust with Aboriginal Canadians, to foster their inclusion into the economy, and to advance the reconciliation of Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people in Canadian society.” Play nice, be genuine, act in good faith, be respectful.

Oliver, the Natural Resources Minister, said the government would listen to the report’s recommendations. This morning, The Globe and Mail reports that Oliver’s defending his government’s record with aboriginals. “There is more constructive dialogue than there might appear to be,” he said, enumerating the number of aboriginal leaders he’s met this year. Oliver, of course, doesn’t mention the number of aboriginal leaders who won’t sit in the same room with him, nor will he address the unresolved issues—namely, most of the issues—that arose during the Idle No More movement. But there’s always room for growth.

This afternoon, the National Energy Board’s joint review panel releases its final report on the Northern Gateway pipeline. The NDP’s Tom Mulcair will, under no circumstances, support the proposed pipeline. If the panel has no problem with Northern Gateway, the NDP leader will lash out at the unfairness of the process and claim the new pipes are being forced on an unhappy public. If the panel quibbles, Mulcair might listen, if only to further condemn a hapless government.

Oliver can only hope that, no matter the NEB’s conclusions, any lingering concerns can be addressed and he can find just enough aboriginal support to claim some kind of moral authority to move ahead with the project. It will be messy, as it has been. But nothing else is new for this governing party, which, after a nasty few months, could really use a win.

The stat
20: The number of aboriginal chiefs and elders Oliver has met in 2013

The quote
“I’m finding overwhelmingly but not universally that there is a real desire to move forward generally and in some cases on specific projects—people don’t want to miss an opportunity.” —Oliver, on aboriginal interest in energy development


What’s above the fold

The Globe and Mail The U.S. Federal Reserve will ease its ongoing economic stimulus.
National Post
A train rolled through Lac-Mégantic, Que., for the first time since July.
Toronto Star Reporter Daniel Dale dropped his defamation suit against Rob Ford.
Ottawa Citizen Wooden buildings are vulnerable to fire during construction.
CBC News The National Energy Board will release its Northern Gateway report.
CTV News A jury will return its verdict into the Ashley Smith inquest.
National Newswatch Military brass are worried about budget cuts on national defence.


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