Earlier, we exclusively reported business groups would be meeting on Monday to "develop a coordinated position" regarding the provincial government's proposed Recognition and Reconciliation Act. So what happened at that meeting, which was hosted by the British Columbia Business Council?
Well, in an interview with Public Eye, council executive vice president Jock Finlayson, "It was a very thorough discussion and airing of the issues. And, although we weren't consulted - as (British Columbia Chamber of Commerce policy development vice president) Jon Garson's memo makes clear - early on in this piece, we certainly have had a lot of opportunity to meet with government officials in the last couple weeks. So there's been a fairly intensive discussion. Because, of course, we need to be brought up to curve on this thing."
As for the council position on the legislation, Mr. Finalyson said the group is "quite supportive of the concept. We think it can help in moving the province forward in terms of the dealings between the government of B.C. and First Nations and create a better environment for all of us. So we see merit in that. But I would also underline how complex the whole area is legally because of the constitutional aspect - the ongoing court cases that continue to evolve, the very major role played by the government of Canada in relation to First Nations people and the fact the framework governing Crown dispositions of land and resources is something that all citizens of B.C. have an interest in - not just First Nations."
"So there's a lot of business interests, including a lot of small business interests, that are understandably going to be quite keen to know how a piece of legislation in this area might affect them and their ability to do business. So that's a big issue. The time has come to start going in this direction. But you've got to make sure everyone is in the tent and has had the opportunity to have their views heard and that all of that can be reflected in whatever legislation government might come up with," he continued.
That being said though, Mr. Finlayson added the Campbell administration isn't entirely to blame for not initially consulting with the business community. "In fairness to the government, there was reference in the throne speech to such legislation. Looking back on it now, we perhaps didn't pay enough attention to it at the time. Part of the challenge around that Sean has been the economic climate and the dramatic changes we're seeing - which, of course, has got the attention of organizations like mine. So we've been more preoccupied with the economic picture and we weren't maybe paying quite enough attention to this over the past couple months."