University of Lethbridge trio present to Senate committees

Earlier this year, three University of Lethbridge professors were asked to be among the experts consulted by two Standing Senate committees.

Drs. Yale Belanger, Geoffrey Hale and Chris Kukucha, all political science professors, provided their expert knowledge on important issues facing the country, including internal trade and pipelines.

Left to right are Drs. Chris Kukucha, Geoffrey Hale and Yale Belanger.

“I found it to be a great experience. I was tremendously honoured to be asked,” says Belanger. “Senators on these committees know the layers of the issues involved. They anticipated that we know the issues at a deep level so we were there to provide some clarity and some pathways to resolutions so they have a number of different strategies from which to draw in responding to their specific concerns.”

The Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce asked Kukucha to present at a meeting in Calgary. The committee was seeking information about the current state of internal trade in Canada and Kukucha is one of a small number of Canadian political scientists doing research in this area. He wrote a paper for the Internal Trade Secretariat about existing inter-provincial agreements, and was therefore able to describe the pros and cons of various approaches. Kukucha fielded questions from senators on labour mobility, trucking, alcohol, the technical language in agreements, and lack of statistics in internal trade in Canada.

“Presenting to the Senate Committee was a really interesting experience and it was nice to be asked,” says Kukucha. “The negotiations have been going on for years and will continue to do so even though Canada's provincial and territorial premiers reached a preliminary agreement in principle when they recently met in Whitehorse.”

The resulting Senate Committee paper — Tear Down These Walls: Dismantling Canada’s Internal Trade Barriers — is worth a look if only for the last page, which lists the top 10 weirdest barriers to trade.

Belanger and Hale were asked to present to the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications. Belanger says the committee wanted to hear about the barriers to resource and infrastructure development and the best way to handle such projects. While Hale spoke about the complex and convoluted processes involved in securing approvals for infrastructure projects and resource developments, Belanger talked about such developments as they pertain to Aboriginal peoples.

“Right now, media almost exclusively portrays Aboriginal people as stewards of the environment who are absolutely against any sort of industrial progress, when in fact the research that I conducted showed that they’re a little bit more open-minded in terms of the types of industry they’re willing to consider,” he says.

Some First Nations in Canada produce oil and many are interested in seeing pipelines run through their territories. They’re particularly interested in the associated jobs but want to be involved at the drawing-board stage.

“Canada can no longer treat First Nations as simply a community that they come across, throw some money at if there is resistance, and hire a few people to make folks happy in order to get the pipeline built. The First Nations, at this point in time, are quite geared into pressing for partnerships and having a voice early in project development,” says Belanger. “The idea is that Canada has to get First Nations in the room at the very beginning.”

Hale spoke to the manifold process for securing approvals. With players including resource companies, government representatives, stakeholder groups and public safety measures, the path to approval can be long and winding.

“It’s a multi-level, multi-layered process in which companies have to be proactive, patient and have their cultural learning shoes on,” says Hale. “Governments also have to have processes in place that deal with overlapping areas of jurisdiction.”

A final report is is expected sometime this fall but Belanger’s and Hale’s evidence is posted on the Parliament of Canada website.