The silent majority in support of energy is finally speaking up.

For decades we have let the anti-progress, eco-extremists set the dialogue and the agenda on proposed energy projects. We were too busy working. We aren’t the type to spill into the streets. Their protests aren’t going anywhere right?

Well we were wrong.

The extremists are winning and all of Canada is paying the price as we lose billions in energy revenue and untold billions in general investment as we are seen as a nation that is a slave to minority protesters.

Finally people are getting up and not letting the extremists control the messaging.

Last month thousands of ordinary Calgarians came out on a cool day to show their support for the Trans Mountain pipeline.
The demonstration was productive and peaceful. Great speeches were given by activists and politicians and many in Canada took notice as they finally saw people taking interest and getting out to show their concern with the state of our energy industry.

This is quite a contrast from the increasingly violent and extreme anti-energy protests that we are seeing.

Polls are indicating that Canadian support for the Trans Mountain pipeline is actually increasing in light of the ongoing protests against it.

Normal Canadians are tiring of the extremists and nutcases dominating discussion on important energy infrastructure projects.

That said, politicians still live in abject terror of the tiny minority of crazed protesters who set up grimy camps and illegally chain themselves to equipment. The influence of these extremists is disturbing to say the least.

We need to beat them at their own game and we are beginning to do so.

Today a protest was being planned by the usual suspects where they intended to make a racket outside of the downtown Calgary Marriot in hopes of disrupting an Enbridge shareholders meeting in the hotel.

The group Rally 4 Resources organized a counter demonstration with just two days notice and the result was excellent.

 

 

Well over 200 concerned citizens came out on a rainy Wednesday afternoon to support the Line 3 expansion.

An orderly demonstration of support was held while the dozen or so extremists found themselves lost in the background pounding their drums in futility.

Had people not come out in support of our energy industry, the little handful of anti-progress demonstrators would have had full control of the messaging and headlines today. Instead they failed and were exposed as being the tiny minority that they are as they were dwarfed by the positive demonstration of energy supporters.

This is what we need to keep doing. I know that we have things that we would rather do. I know that we need to earn a living as opposed to taking grants from American interests as the anti-pipeline lobby does. Despite that, we need to keep coming out.

We need to blunt the disruptive tool of demonstrations that the anti-progress lobby uses. The best way to do that will be to keep coming out to show just how tiny their support levels really are despite all the noise they make.

I don’t know the folks at Rally 4 Resources personally but I do want to thank them for putting this together. They did a great job.

The only thing that was lacking was a large media presence.

The well funded anti-energy types are very skilled in media communications and they play it well. We need to work on that front as well in future gatherings. People need to hear from the majority for a change and that means working to get that message to the media.

I look forward to the next rally.

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Kudatah 2016!! Notley is still in power & protesters embarrassed themselves.

Well this should pretty much spell the end of the bizarre, George Clark “Kudatah” movement. After months of bizarre claims of unseating the government through petitions, ravings about approaching the Queen and announcing a ridiculous strategy to take over the NDP in an odd press conference in a Walmart parking lot, the George Clark “kudatah” initiative hit its peak outside of the legislature yesterday.

While some of Clark’s supporters are scurrying around claiming that as many as 8000 people came out to protest the Notley government yesterday, pretty much every reputable news organization noted the turnout to be “hundreds”. Not totally insignificant but hardly indicative of a budding revolution in the province.

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Even before the rally, Clark’s supporters were hard at work calling radio stations in hopes of drumming up support. The recording below is noteworthy of the depth of the George Clark promotional campaign.

While Clark’s supporters love to decry the elitism of folks, they really don’t do themselves any favors when they cant do simple checks on their spelling before going on public display.

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Not being satisfied simply with incoherent and illiterate messaging, George Clark’s supporters happily provided some evidence of tasteless extremisms as they displayed swastikas, referenced a “final solution” and mimicked Nazi salutes during the protest.

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As predicted, George Clark and his hysteric gang are actually managing to set rational opposition to Notley back as they made collective fools of themselves at the legislature yesterday.

Clark then got some kids lined up and had them hold numbers to represent the apparent number of signatures that he has collected on a pair of petitions. In remaining consistent with his polished approach, George lined the kids up incorrectly which caused his handful of supporters to think that they had nearly half a million signatures. Upon correction, that number went down to 160k. When consideration is taken into account that it is two petitions, that number goes to about 80k. Still a sizable number of signatures but is also has to be taken into account that most of those signatures were taken under false pretenses as George Clark had claimed to folks that the petitions would lead to unseating the Notley government.

Even if George Clark had managed to gain a million signatures, the outcome would be the same. Nothing would change.

Sheila Gunn Reid with Rebel Media excellently broke down exactly why and how all of the things that George Clark claims will unseat the Notley government are simply bunk.

A new legislative session is beginning. Rational people are working to improve government within the legislature while many more are working to unseat Notley in the one and only possible way (in a general election).

George Clark wont give up. Hell, he raised over $27,000 from gullible supporters in a matter of weeks. Why would he stop now?

Lets just hope that even Clark’s supporters begin to realize that they are chasing an impossible and unreasonable goal and that they either begin to support some rational movements or simply just fade into the distance of public view.

Let George Clark be an embarrassing but passing footnote in Alberta political history.

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With Calgary’s cycle track proposal, numbers do indeed matter.

With the next Calgary Transportation committee meeting on the proposed (and ridiculous) cycle track network for downtown looming, people are paying more attention to the numbers in this issue and the numbers do not look good for cycle proponents.

Hard examples are building up that simply put lie to the tiresome “if you build it, they will come” theory with bicycle infrastructure. Calgary has one of the most extensive pathway networks on the continent. Still the number of cycle commuters was barely over 1%. “We must build bike lanes!” was the cry of the cycle advocates.

Bike lanes sprung up throughout the city. Numbers were batted around by the cycle proponents claiming as many as 12,000 people cycle into Calgary’s downtown daily. Search as I may, they could not be found. With multiple counts throughout the city it was confirmed that there were still only a tiny number of cycle commuters going downtown despite all the lanes. Some lanes hardly draw more than a couple cyclists per day even. Other counts can be found here and here.

Having clearly established that the 12,000 cyclist claim was utter nonsense, the cry now moved to “We must build separated bike tracks!”

Portland Oregon and Vancouver BC both tried extensive bike track networks. By the business numbers, the network in Vancouver was a failure and by the usage increases both networks were failures.

Well 7 St SW got a separated bike track and the results are as dismal as the rest of the initiatives. Just today I went down there to have a look. With good weather on a busy weekday the lanes and bike racks were empty.

The only thing missing was tumbleweed.

Now when members from Calgary Transportation stand before a committee and try to imply than more than 1000 rides per day are happening on that lane, is it any wonder that tempers get frayed and words like bullshit are used?

We would like to think that Calgary’s Transportation planners would try to be as objective as possible when using figures such as traffic statistics. What we are seeing from Calgary Transportation is gross exaggerations based on short measures that can only lead us to mistrust them even further. Are these transportation planners or advocates?

Just as we can’t measure all cycle traffic based on a measure at 2am on a -30 January day, we can’t plan based on numbers hi-balled in a short count at a peak time in August.

The numbers matter. The numbers are in $10s of millions of tax dollars when the infrastructure being impacted is considered and the numbers of cyclists appear to remain insignificant. We are talking about closing lanes on Macleod Trail and 12 Ave here. These are critical roadways for personal autos and transit alike.

If Calgary’s cycle network can only be justified through massaging the numbers and exaggerating the demand, I think it is safe to say that the network is not worthwhile.

We are not getting lost in a numbers game. It is the only game that counts in the end.

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City of Calgary’s war on cars getting ridiculous.

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I honestly have to wonder if the plan to close an entire lane on downtown Calgary’s section of Macleod Trail (1 St SE) in order to put in a bike track is not a bait and switch tactic. Perhaps the plan is to get people so worked up with this profoundly stupid plan that Calgarians will sigh in relief when our ideologues in city planning decide to move the lanes over to 4 St SE in that precious parking lot of subsidies that they call “East Village”. The question on most people’s minds when it comes to this plan is; “Can they really be that stupid?”. Sadly the answer is yes.

Let’s look at some numbers right now to dispel some of the weak bullshit that proponents of this pending traffic catastrophe are using in order to justify this idiocy. Last spring the city took a lane of parking from 7 St. SW and created a separated bike track. I checked it out and didn’t find it too bad aside from a lack of cyclists actually using it. The lane came at tremendous expense as our cities finest needed to have 10 people to paint a simple box. It’s done, the lane is now there and we are expected to get over it.

Well in a matter of a few months the city has compiled some numbers and now is claiming that traffic flow has increased on 7 St SW due to the bike track. At best that is a half truth. Traffic flow on 7 St. SW has increased but that has been due entirely to the city finally synchronizing the traffic light system there and has nothing to do with the lane itself. Those lights could (and bloody well should) have been synchronized with the same effect on traffic flow without a bike track being placed at all.

Some are trying to spoon-feed us the horsepoop that this justifies the crazy plan to close an entire traffic lane on one of downtown Calgary’s busiest streets and that this will actually aid traffic flow on Macleod Trail South. Macleod Trail South (1 St SE) and 7 St. SW are completely incomparable as city transportation corridors and it is nothing less than utterly disingenuous to try and compare them as many are trying to do.

To begin with, the lane taken to use as a bike track on 7th St. SW was a parking lane, not a driving one. If anything, just the loss of people stopping and meddling around to parallel park eased flow a little bit. If traffic flow was the real goal, it could likely have been doubled simply by getting rid of the parking lane and opening it up to vehicular traffic along with synchronizing the traffic lights. Many drivers now choose to use other streets to drive rather than the one with the bike track as well which contributes to increased flow on 7th but decreases flow wherever they have spilled to of course. To reiterate, the bike track itself had nothing to do with the increase in traffic flow on 7th St. SW.

Next, 7th St. SW was one of the least used streets in all of downtown Calgary. It is a short connector of a street with only a couple lanes that only moved about 5,000 cars per day. Macleod Trail South (1 St. SE) in the city core however moves over 25,000 vehicles per day and is one of the most critical arteries in the entire core. The proposed area for this ludicrous bike track is not a parking lane, it is a traffic lane and it is heavily utilized. To squash thousands and thousands of cars into even less lanes will impact traffic on all of the roads feeding this critical route as well. Anybody who works downtown knows just how fun it is to try and turn on to 1 St SE during rush hour. Now imagine that task with one less lane and a ridiculous two way bike lane in the way. We can count on increased traffic jams on 4th Ave, 6th Ave and so on as people desperately try to adjust to this loss of critical infrastructure. There are bus stops on one side of the street and will be bike tracks on the other. Over 25,000 vehicles will be squashed in between as there is no comparable egress from downtown nearby.

The statement that the transportation planning is anti-car is quite well justified when looking at this lunacy from them. To purposely target the busiest street in all of Calgary to accommodate 1% of commuters proves this point rather well. Why the hell is it impossible to synchronize traffic lights throughout the city anyway? Oh yeah, our planners are focused on traffic “calming” rather than flow. In the last 20 years the percentage of people who choose to commute to work on bikes in Calgary has remained at a flat 1% range despite a huge increase in bike infrastructure.

There will always be a hardy one in a hundred souls who want to ride a bike to work all year round. That number has not grown however and it simply will not. People will not give up their cars and ride bikes to work no matter how hard our city tries to pressure them to. Do we really expect a middle aged person in the suburbs to decide to spend an extra two hours of their day riding a bike back and forth to work in the snow downtown? How about in summer? How many folks do you think will ride a bike for 15km each way in 30 degree heat? Do they all have the time and means to shower and change every day at work or will they funk it out? We have to get realistic here.

If city transportation planning really isn’t anti-car, then why does cycle infrastructure always seem to come at the expense of vehicle infrastructure that is already heavily in use?

As a growing city, we have pressures on our transportation infrastructure. Our freespending mayor loves using that as an excuse to keep up his lobbying for record tax increases. We will get much more bang for our buck in transportation infrastructure if we began planning and building it to reflect the real needs and wants of commuters. That would require having city hall dropping their anti-car agenda however and I am not sure if and when that may happen.

As a final note, it is not like we shouldn’t have seen this coming. The city planners released a plan to run a bike lane at the expense of as many as two automotive lanes down the entire length of Macleod Trail. Don’t underestimate their capacity for ideologically driven foolishness.

 

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Bike Rights!

Being somewhat stranded in Northern Manitoba for a little while, I have been a bit lapse in my rambling and ranting I fear. I can happily report that this exploration project is coming to a close soon and I will be able to enlighten on this site at my usual pace.

Along with oilfield operations slowing in spring, we will see a ramping up of the rhetoric coming from the rather entitled bicycle-cult crowd in urban areas across North America. Many many people ride and enjoy bicycles in urban areas and this certainly does not make them cultish. There is an element of the extreme in the urban bicycle lobby however and like vegans they tend to self-identify rather quickly whether you want them to or not.

The bicycle-cult folks are not so much pro-bicycle as they actually are anti-car. We can and should typically dismiss them but alas they do somehow hold a disproportionate sway on many municipal councils and countless dollars are being wasted around the nation as car lanes are removed from roads and given to bicycle commuters who simply do not exist in any significant numbers. Many cities such as Red Deer, Toronto and Edmonton have been removing these idiotic bike lanes but can’t seem to keep up to the addition of wasted lanes of pavement for invisible bicycles.

Despite inflated claims of as many as 12,000 daily bicycle commuters coming into Calgary’s core, I just can’t seem to find them. I will check again in spring. There must be a road that is simply bumper to bumper with bicycle commuters hiding out there somewhere.

The late great George Carlin pointed out that the common element in any joke is the exaggeration. Anything can be funny if the correct exaggeration is placed upon it.

In the video below from the TV series “Portlandia” a typical bike-cultist is parodied.

The funny thing is, they really didn’t exaggerate much. These types pepper the streets of every nation in the developed world.

It is worth a watch for a short Friday chuckle either way. 🙂

 

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The numbers are in.

Well “Idle No More” has been at it for a few months now. We have seen flash-mobs in malls, Chiefs holding fake hunger strikes, blockades, marches and an endless stream of demands from activists who place themselves at the head of this movement.

If the goal was simply to get Canadians to pay attention to native issues, then “Idle No More” has been a grand success. Native events and issues had dominated Canada’s headlines for months and Prime Minister Harper even held a special personal meeting with Chiefs though many suddenly and petulantly refused to attend.

In looking at the trends on my blog stats I am heartened in seeing what is coming in. Since putting up my posting listing links to all of Canada’s treaties, I have been seeing a constant stream of traffic with a steady increase from people who have been searching for treaties online. I am getting people here searching for the Indian Act and getting as specific as searching for individual native extremist activists like Pam Palmater. I have been writing on native issues for years here, but it has only been this last couple months when I have seen so much traffic specifically searching out items related to native issues.

“Idle No More” got the attention and interest of Canadians and now Canadians are informing themselves. What I think many behind the whole “Idle No More” thing didn’t count on though was how things have changed in the information age. People are no longer taking the words of activists and protestors at face value. Within minutes people can search out and verify claims on the internet. That is why Theresa Spence so quickly lost all credibility as it was so easily exposed that she was a large part of the problem. If Spence is not actually corrupt, she is clearly terribly inept and unfit as a band leader.

Many with “Idle No More” have cried “abide by the treaties” and that call used to be effective. Now though, people are easily able to read the treaties and discovering that the obligations are not nearly as entrenched as people in the Indian Industry would have us believe. Reform is possible as most of the problem with native issues actually lies with the Indian Act rather than the rather simple treaties (which are not being violated).

Bear at his blog: “A Bear’s Rant” covered the unintended consequences Idle No More fostered excellently in his posting today. You scooped me a little on the theme Bear so I will go into the poll numbers. 😉

Now that Canadians have informed themselves on the issue, we are seeing what they are concluding. Ipsos Reid did a large survey on native issues across Canada and the conclusions were clear.

When it came to statements such as: “No additional taxpayer money should go to any Reserve until external auditors can be put in place to ensure financial accountability” a whopping 81% of Canadians agreed.

“Canada’s Aboriginal peoples receive too much support from Canadian taxpayers”  62% of Canadians agreed there.

With the rather loaded question: “Most of the problems of native peoples are brought on by themselves” 60% of Canadians agreed. What is striking there is that this is an increase of 25% over when that question was asked of Canadians in 1989.

Things become very interesting though when the regional breakdowns are taken into account. In regions where people have a great deal more exposure and experience with native reserves, the demand for accountability is much stronger.

While Canada wide 81% of Canadians want no increase of expenditures going to natives without external auditors; that figure turns to 92% in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

While 60% of Canadians at large feel that many of the problems experienced by natives are brought upon themselves, those numbers increase to 76%  in Saskatchewan/Manitoba and 68% in Alberta.

When it comes to feeling that money is managed well on reserves, 8% in Saskatchewan and Manitoba felt that was the case with 16% in Alberta.

Numbers in areas with little exposure to reserves were similar but not nearly as sharply to one side as they were in the prairies. Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver residents are more inclined to think that things are being managed just fine on reserves but it has to be remembered that by far most of the residents of those cities have never been on a reserve in their entire lives. On the prairies, reserves are plentiful and experiences with them are common.

As people study the issue (or even better, get to see the situation first hand), people conclude that it is time to work towards ending this mess. Most people live within a couple hours drive of one reserve or another. I would strongly suggest a day trip some time to see first hand just how awful it is. I don’t need to specify a reserve as the majority of them are in rough shape under this terrible system. The only difference is degree.

One thing that everybody can agree on is that the status-quo is not cutting it. Where the activists with “Idle No More” and Canadians at large differ though is with the pursuit of accountability. Canadians are seeing past the yelling and rhetoric of protestors and are seeing that it is not for lack of government resources being dedicated to them that reserves are a socioeconomic mess. Canadians want to see a solution but we will not settle for more blind and pointless expenditures. We are listening and learning and concluding that the entire reserve system is sick and Harper and the treaties have nothing to do with it.

While the “Idle No More” thing has supposedly been about native issues, it really has been overrun with a fervent anti Stephen Harper theme. Despite months of this, Harper’s support has actually started growing in the last couple months. Idle No More is actually increasing support for Harper’s Conservative Party.

Canadians are no fools. They are seeing through the buzzwords and rhetoric. They are tired of the baseless screaming and rage from activists and they want to see solutions. People are no longer allowing themselves to be cowed whenever some prick calls them a racist for their having dared question the goals of the activists.

I am excited by these trends. Maybe finally we are moving into the age when we will end this antiquated system of racial segregation, scrap the Indian Act and join the modern world.

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Free enterprise will ease native reserve dependency if we would let it.

I am happy to see Canadian native issues remaining on the forefront of public discussion despite the idiocy coming from some Chief’s, activists and politicians who have jumped onto the whole “Idle No More” movement. While the “Idle No More” crowd is demonstrating great discontent, they really are proposing utterly nothing in the way of solutions to current problems on reserves across Canada, in fact the “Idle No More” bunch has not even really accurately been able to point to the source of the problems. We hear buzz-words and see indignant rage but we really see nothing of merit coming from the demonstrations and illegal blockades being fostered by this movement of activists.

The only thing the thinking public at large really shares with the “Idle No More” movement is the knowledge that current conditions on native reserves are simply no longer acceptable. Productive discourse is quickly lost with most activists as they bleat out loaded terms such as “genocide” and “assimilation”. We can’t reason with stooges who are threatening such actions as “shutting down the Canadian economy” or “activating warriors” either. To get productive discussion on native issues one has to shut out the white noise from the self-serving activists such as Chief Theresa Spence and the ever self-serving Pam Palmater and speak with rational people.

One of the main contributors to native misery is dependency. Dependency damages the pride and sucks the self-worth from an individual and is the chief factor in the outrageous rates of suicide, substance abuse and domestic abuse. There are few ways to destroy a human more effectively than to make them feel directionless and without purpose and dependency fosters and maintains both of those destructive feelings with terrible efficiency.

For most reserves, a person who is tired of depending on the welfare of others does not have the simple choice of going out and seeking a job in the pursuit of personal independence. Most reserves are not near major centres of employment and unless a person has close connections to the Chief and Council on a reserve, they likely will not find employment with the band itself. If reserves and individuals are ever to see fiscal independence and sustainability it will have to be through creative free enterprise. Only through development of reserve based businesses will we see at least some easing of the dependency that is a factor in the vast majority of reserves in Canada.

Simply stating that free enterprise will free reserves from dependency is not enough. Starting and maintaining a successful business is a difficult and potentially terrifying exercise for people native and non-native alike. Natives entrepreneurs face some challenges that non-natives do no have to deal with and I suspect that many people do not realize. Many government grants have been almost blindly thrown at reserves in the hopes of kindling active enterprises but the failure rate of those ventures has been catastrophic for a number of reasons.

Fiscal independence alone is not what is needed on reserves. If money alone could ease things, the Samson Louis-Bull reserve in Alberta would be doing great due to decades of massive oil and gas revenues. The town of Hobbema on that reserve is awash in social discord, poverty and gang violence giving it one of the highest murder rates per-capita in North America. Reserves need fiscal independence but they need the independence built from within in a participatory manner. That builds the pride and social structure that leads to social stability.

 

Native reserves are loaded with ambitious and creative citizens who would love nothing more than to start a business. There are countless ideas and concepts that would take off if given the proper chance and with the proper support. Many keep thinking that the only support required for such things is in the form of a government grant. The issue is much more complex than that but there are solutions and the payoff for everybody can be great if we can remove some of the roadblocks to native enterprise.

Last fall I attended the second annual Aboriginal Entrepreneurial Conference and Trade Show in Ottawa. In a shameless plug for the family business, I am including a picture of myself manning the booth at our conference display (if you ever need a good deal on ammolite gems, send me an email). The conference was an excellent networking opportunity for everybody and there were some excellent breakout seminars full of information on how to create successful native ventures. There was a great deal of informal discussion among those of us in attendance too and the subject of the special challenges to native businesses came up often. I am going to list below some of the prime hindrances to native enterprises and how we must remove them.

 

Bureaucracy and Corruption

While bureaucracy and corruption are two different things, I am including them together here as both of those things are tightly tied in native politics and business.

Red tape has killed countless ventures since the beginning of time. In native politics, corrupted red-tape has been brought to a whole new level of art-form. Parasitic members of the Indian Industry from lawyers to band employees to federal employees to council and chiefs to all sorts of consultants have been drawn like flies to poop as they see opportunity to line their pockets through the bureaucracy of reserve business applications. When a reserve citizen wants to start a venture, applications suddenly become mountainous. Consultants seem to spring from the woodwork who offer to ease the paper process when they actually have every interest in expanding the process while bleeding the applicants dry. It is almost standard practice in many (not all by any means) that the Chief and Council will be paid if not outright, then through token salaried positions to them and their families. Many many ventures of great promise have died before even beginning as their founders lose hope in the maze of corruption and bureaucracy that gets dumped upon them. To refuse to play the game is to have applications forever dumped on yourself and a never ending stream of demands for more studies and reports at great cost. To rebel on the more corrupt reserves could even mean losing one’s house if the Chief and Council are annoyed and unprincipled enough.

The prime employer on reserves has been the band itself for decades and decades. Bureaucracies can only grow as band employees generate ever more regulations and forms to try and justify their positions. If any municipality ever had to deal with the overmanagement of a native band, every business in the municipality would go broke within months. Even non-corrupted reserves still choke and kill ventures with their overbearing processes.

Cleaning up the corruption on the band management level begins with transparency. The reason that many of the Chiefs in Canada are up in arms right now is because Harper is bringing in transparency legislation that will expose many of their inept and often corrupt practices. These legislations must pass and self-serving people such as Chief Spence and her band manager/common-law husband must be exposed to the membership of the reserves. When the corrupt are dislodged, streamlining of band management and process can happen.

Indian affairs is loaded with all sorts of bureaucrats who strangle ventures as well. Every level of native management from band level to federal departments needs to be examined and cleaned up. Until that happens, business development will continue to be stunted on reserves.

Reserve Isolation 

Chief Clarence Louie is without doubt one of the brightest and visionary of Chiefs that Canada has seen in generations. Louie’s management of his Osoyoos Band has been incredible in both the changing of band attitudes to the pursuit of successful business ventures. To be fair though, Louie has enjoyed a geographic advantage that many other reserves do not have. Osoyoos is accessible and has a great climate. We can’t expect isolated Northern Canadian Reserves to be able to set up vineyards, wineries, casinos and golf courses as Osoyoos has. This does not mean that those reserves have no opportunities though.

Modern communications now provide incredible new opportunities for isolated reserves. Products, services and attractions can now be marketed in ways that were outright impossible only 15 years ago. Many reserves are placed next to some of the best hunting and fishing areas in the world and native guides for such activities are incomparable in their skills and local knowledge. Many people are more than willing to pay a great deal of money to experience natural activities on reserve lands. Hiking, camping, photography or simply experiencing local culture can draw many people and provide all sorts of local jobs on reserves. The means are now there for reserves to reach out to the world and show what they have.

Genuine native artisan products are always high in demand and reserves boast many incredible artists. Now middle-men and distributors can be cut away as products can be marketed online and shipped directly from reserves to customers.

There are doubtless many more creative ideas and ventures than I can think of that are now potentially feasible on reserves and I am sure many reserve citizens are ready to move on them. It will take training and time though. Simply having access to the internet does not mean a person knows how to utilize it to aid in their business. Literacy programs such as the Harper one and conferences such as the one I attended last fall are the sorts of things that will lead to more reserve citizens taking advantage of the opportunities that modern communications now provide them with.

We need to expand education for aspiring native business people with a more practical curriculum. Liberal Arts are fine and dandy but they won’t teach a person how to manage a promotional website, how to create a business plan or how to effectively market in general. These critical things need to be taught through mentoring and conventional education.

It has to be noted that educational efforts still have to be tailored carefully to take the special circumstances of people from isolated reserves. We can’t simply take somebody from a small and isolated community and drop them into a university in an urban area. The social adjustment could very well destroy the efforts of the individual to get an education as they retreat to the reserve dejected and defeated. While some individuals could integrate perfectly fine in such circumstances, some others will need a differing program. Distance education utilizing the internet provides great options to help with this too. While specially designed programs and the logistics may make these educational efforts costly, the benefits will far outweigh that if we see some independent businesses beginning to set up and remain sustainable on reserves.

Social Challenges 

There is a term I often use called “crabbing”. It is part of an analogy where if you use a bucket to keep crabs in. One crab on it’s own will climb out and escape. If you have multiple crabs none will escape as whenever one tries to climb out, the others will pull the ambitious crab back down to themselves. This syndrome is not at all unique to native reserves but it is more acute due to them often being small and tight knit communities with unfortunately a myriad of socioeconomic problems.

An ambitious person’s efforts can often make less ambitious person uncomfortable as it exposes their own shortcomings to themselves. This often inspires a person to try and drag the person back down to their level. Any successful business person native or non-native will relate about the naysayers who they had to overcome when they began their venture. Many people had to change their social circles to avoid being brought down before they got going. This option of change is simply not available to reserve citizens where social standing is very important and it is not as if there is a number of social circles to choose from. The people bringing the ambitious down are not bad people, they are just troubled people. No native business person is going to shun the family and friends for the sake of their venture so help in coping with some of those challenges for the aspiring business person is vital.

This whole challenge is complex but very real. The simple words “So what, you think you are better than everybody now?” can be terribly cutting and defeating. It will take a cultural shift that celebrates individual success in order for this challenge to fade and that may take generations. For now, native business people need to be coached and encouraged and learn to shake off the naysayers. It is tough but it can be done.

Another challenge comes from off-reserve and it often stems from non-native activists who seem to equate reserve independence with assimilation. These people seem to want to keep these little isolated reserves like zoos where things never change and some sort of hunter gatherer society will re-emerge and thrive if we just keep pouring enough money at it. I saw this attitude greatly as activists stacked hearings for the Mackenzie Valley NEB and Joint Review Panel pipeline hearings. These union funded urban dwellers would wax on about how an influx of money and workers into the Northern communities would destroy culture. I assure you, poverty and dependency are destroying culture on reserves far faster than prosperity ever could.

Lets be clear; the natives of old were among the most independent and self-sustaining people on the planet. It took tough, creative, hard working people to thrive in Canada’s environment hundreds of years ago. The perpetuation of dependency is not how that native strength of independence and culture is going to thrive. Modern times are here. There is a new way to personal independence and it does not mean one is shunning their culture, they are simply evolving. Successful native business people are not “apples”, they are simply creative hardworking people. The outsiders insisting on shielding native reserves from modern concepts must be ignored. Latte-lapping academics and hipsters really don’t know a hell of a lot about reserves no matter how many letters are next to their names on their business cards. Just as going to Mardi Gras for a weekend does not teach one what it is to be Cajun, attending a Powwow or occasional sweat does not imbue much insight to day to day reserve living.

Financing 

Lack of property is the main and critical hindrance to many native businesses. Due to communal property on reserves, native entrepeneurs can’t build the collateral required as easily as non-natives do. Unsecured credit is difficult for anybody to aquire and it is pretty much impossible for an ambitious native who has never had a job opportunity in order to create a credit rating. Credit is needed for seed capital as well as operating funds. Ordering supplies and making payroll are things that require short-term credit in even the most thriving of businesses. Native business people are terribly handicapped by this circumstance.

One way around this has been through partnerships with interests off reserve. This can work well but is often still hindered by challenges from bureaucrats both on and off reserve. Negative experiences with band business ventures has made many businesses shy away from dealing with reserves over the years too. It will take time and examples of success in order to see more trust build and relationships grow in more joint-ventures. For larger ventures though, partnerships are an excellent route to go as outside interests not only provide funds, they provide experience and mentoring as well. We need to open the path to more of these relationships.

For smaller operations such as artists or lone guides, partnerships are not really an option though the need for financing and training are just as acute as with large ventures. Government backed loans and grants can help but they have a terrible default rate with native ventures unfortunately. The best model for native small business owners would be the acquisition and growth of their own net fiscal worth so that they can build collateral to fund their ventures. Few things inspire an entrepeneur better than putting their own hard earned nest egg on the line for their business. Sure, some people will lose at times. That is the hard nature of business. Some will thrive too and that is what makes it worth it. Blank cheques never lead to future independence.

The activist element and the parasites in the Indian Industry oppose property rights for natives fervently. That opposition alone makes it clear that it is the way to go. Individuals need empowerment on reserves and only through the ownership of property that they have full title to dispose of at will will we see sustainable reserve life grow. Pride and personal estates can grow through property on reserves just as they do off reserves. We need to win the battle to instill those rights for reserve citizens though and it is going to be hard fought.

There is a world of potential on native reserves. These reserves can thrive and prosper if we can shed the myths and trash from the supporters of this status-quo of misery and poverty. Ignore those howling about mythical treaty rights violations or entitlements due to the actions of ancestors. Set aside the activists and the self-serving Chiefs who want to maintain their personal fortunes. Free enterprise on reserves is not a panacea but if allowed to thrive it will at least ease the dependency on some reserves while eliminating it on some others. There are some steps that will need to be taken before this can happen though and I hope that the public begins to discuss, examine and then pursue these changes that we need.

I have been rather rough on some and should clarify; not all band Chiefs, councils, bureaucrats, consultants and employees with Indian Affairs are inept or corrupt by any means. There are some very dedicated people working as hard as they can in all of those categories. Their efforts far too often are encountered by the inept and corrupt who do infest their circles however.

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