PREMIER Christy Clark has chosen Haisla chief councillor Ellis Ross, one of B.C.’s more prominent pro-development First Nations leaders, to be the BC Liberal candidate for Skeena in next May’s provincial election.
The announcement was made today in Terrace, ending speculation that Clark and the B.C. Liberals had been courting Ross for some time.
Ross, first elected to a councillor’s position in 2003 for the Haisla Nation of Kitamaat Village and its chief councillor over two terms since 2011, has often spoke of the need for a strong and responsible First Nations presence within industrial development.
He’s been at the forefront of promoting the establishment of a provincial liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry, keying on the locations of Kitimat and Kitamaat Village as the prime beneficiaries of planned LNG export terminals.
But Ross has also been an opponent of one specific industrial project, Enbridge’s planned oil-carrying Northern Gateway pipeline which would also end at an export terminal in the area.
“My life’s work has been getting First Nations to the table with industry and government, so that all British Columbians can benefit from economic development,” said Ross in a release Sept. 12.
“I’ve done everything I can as chief councillor. Now I want to do everything I can in the Legislature to make sure we are sending a strong message to the world: Northwest BC is open for business and our communities, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike, are ready to welcome good jobs and investment.”
Clark, in turn, spoke of her support for Ross.
“Since I became premier five years ago, there has been no greater champion for jobs and economic development in Skeena than Ellis,” she said in a release.
Ross was also Clark’s choice to be the first chair of the provincial government’s Aboriginal Business and Investment Council in 2012.
He received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2013 and was named to the Order of B.C. in 2014.
The Skeena riding takes in Kitimat/Kitamaat, Terrace and the Nass Valley and those voters chose current NDP MLA Robin Austin in the past three provincial elections of 2013, 2009 and 2005.
But Austin announced earlier this year that he won’t be running again, effectively putting the riding into play between the NDP and the BC Liberals.
Three people have announced they’re in the running to be the NDP candidate.
A nominating meeting has yet to be set.
The Skeena riding has primarily been held by NDP representatives over the past several decades.
Roger Harris, a Terrace resident, did win the seat for the BC Liberals in the 2001 provincial election but was then defeated by Austin in 2005.
The Harris victory came at the expense of Helmut Giesbrecht who held the seat for the NDP from 1991 to 2001.