With an expected boom in Canada’s sprouting liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry, building relationships with the region’s First Nations groups is crucial.
Ledcor Group of Companies spotted the LNG opportunity early on and has worked with the Haisla Nation for years to build the Ledcor-Haisla Limited Partnership (LHLP), said Quentin Huillery, senior vice-president of Ledcor Constructors. In February, LNG Canada selected the partnership for site preparation activities at their proposed liquefaction and export facility in Kitimat, B.C.
Since 2010, Ledcor has been exploring potential projects in the LNG industry in British Columbia. Before pursuing any LNG projects, Ledcor knew developing a relationship with the local aboriginal community would be in the best interest of all involved and would be instrumental to the success of any venture.
In Kitimat, that local aboriginal community is the Haisla Nation, and in June 2011 the LHLP was formed with a goal to jointly pursue opportunities in the area. Since then, Ledcor and the Haisla Nation have worked together on numerous successful projects.
“We knew that the LNG sector was going to be hot so we purposefully went out to different regions where we knew work was going to be coming,” said Huillery.
After looking at various First Nations, the Haisla seemed like a good fit so Ledcor began communicating with their business operations team.
It also helped that the First Nation was looking for different partners in each of the different sectors, including construction.
“We saw they operated with a tremendous amount of integrity,” said Huillery.
“The Haisla were specific about finding the right partner in each sector.”
He explained this unique approach added to the transparency and trust. Without partnerships with competing companies Ledcor feels more comfortable sharing private company information, like finances. While Ledcor has partnerships with other First Nations groups, this aspect makes the Haisla partnership unique to the company.
“We value our strong partnership with the Haisla Nation, formed on respect, trust and a willingness to work together for mutual success,” said Huillery.
He noted that the agreement came together easily once the two partners recognized common goals. The hard part was finding the initial work, so Ledcor used the time to begin training First Nations communities and provided opportunities to work on other Ledcor projects until Northern B.C. projects ramped up.
On the Kitimat LNG Project, the partnership hired over 50 Haisla members. When construction in the Kitimat region came to a lull in summer 2015, Ledcor moved 15 Haisla members to other Ledcor projects including the Fort Hills project north of Fort McMurray, Alta.
Earlier this year the partnership was selected for two scopes of work by LNG Canada. First, the partnership was awarded the Little Creek contract in December 2015, which includes mobilization to the site, initial site water management, access road construction and snow clearing.
The site preparation contract was awarded on Feb. 25, 2016 and includes grubbing, excavation and grading of the workforce accommodation centre.
On the LNG Canada project, Ledcor has already hired 23 Haisla members during the ramp up in activity, reaching 21 per cent of the total hires on the project so far, said Huillery. This will be supplemented as more work areas are released for construction activity.
“Haisla members work with us in various roles including project administrators, safety co-ordinators, heavy equipment operators and labourers,” he added.
“I think that lots of time we are too quick to believe that rhetoric that stakeholder engagement is difficult,” Huillery said. “The reality is that there is opportunity there and understanding different points of view can shed light on those opportunities, if you take time to understand those points of view and find alignment. It’s easy to believe stakeholders are there to just stop development and it’s not the case.”
The Progressive Contractors Association (PCA) of Canada, of which Ledcor is a member, is especially proud of Ledcor and Haisla’s work, touting the partnership to government as an example of excellent First Nations engagement.
“Companies come in promise a flurry of activity and then when the job is done they leave and so do the jobs,” said Darrel Reid, PCA vice-president, policy and advocacy.
“But Ledcor has remained and has been actively engaged in identifying potential workers in the Hasila First Nations. We are very proud of the collaboration because we believe it points the way to the future.”
Reid noted that the government’s mind is now focused on potential projects and there must be lead time to train workers. He hopes to broadcast the best practices, like those done by Ledcor, so others follow suit and possibly attract government funding to encourage training.