Aaron Sumexheltza, Chief of the Lower Nicola Indian Band, was named to a provincial climate change panel to be co-chaired by Teck executive Marcia Smith.

B.C.’s new climate advisory panel will work to make sure trade-sensitive industries and most citizens are not adversely affected by the carbon tax on fuels when it goes up next spring, Environment Minister George Heyman says.

Lower Nicola Indian Band Chief Aaron Sumexheltza.

Heyman said the group will make recommendations to the B.C. cabinet on how to resume increasing B.C.’s carbon tax without detrimental impact on carbon-producing industries or citizens. He said 80 per cent of people will receive some rebate under a program now under development.

“I’m excited — it’s a great opportunity for myself to bring an indigenous perspective to the climate solutions team, but also a rural perspective,” said Aaron Sumexheltza.

The Lower Nicola Band Chief certainly has the credentials to serve on the panel — in addition to being chief of the largest band in the Nicola Valley, Sumexheltza holds a degree in environmental studies. He said those living in B.C. witnessed first hand how climate change has contributed to extreme weather events in the region.

“We’ve had flooding earlier in the year, where we had many different evacuation orders in communities in the Nicola Valley, as well as the fires. It’s just really imperative and really important that we as British Columbians do our part to mitigate those kind of incidents,” said Sumexheltza.

The chief also recognized the importance of striking a balance between the committee’s work on climate change and the health of the provincial economy.

“In the Nicola Valley especially, and in First Nations communities, we need to support the economy. Of course at the same time, [we need to] take care of the planet and reduce carbon emissions,” he said.

B.C.’s carbon tax on fuels is going up by 17 per cent on April 1, and the revenue neutrality law is being changed so the NDP government can spend some of the revenues on transit, home energy retrofits and other green projects, as well as rebates for individuals.

Heyman introduced a new advisory group Monday. Co-chairs are Merran Smith, executive director of Clean Energy Canada, and Marcia Smith, senior vice-president of sustainability at Teck Resources Ltd.

Called the Climate Solutions and Clean Growth Advisory Council, the group includes:

  • Taylor Bachrach, mayor of Smithers
  • Dave Collyer, past president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
  • Matt Horne, climate policy manager for the City of Vancouver
  • Lee Loftus, past president of the B.C. and Yukon Building and Construction Trades Council
  • Gavin McGarrigle, B.C. area director for Unifor; Michelle Molnar, environmental economist for the David Suzuki Foundation
  • Nancy Olewiler, economist and Simon Fraser University professor
  • Josie Osborne, mayor of Tofino
  • Gordon Planes, Chief of the T’Sou-ke Nation
  • Danielle Pohl, president of the Fraser Valley Labour Council
  • Judith Sayers, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council
  • Sybil Seitzinger, executive director of the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions at University of Victoria
  • Aaron Sumexheltza, Chief of the Lower Nicola Indian Band
  • Karen Tam Wu, acting B.C. director of the Pembina Institute
  • Kathryn Teneese, chair of the Ktunaxa Nation
  • Jill Tipping, CEO of the B.C. Tech Association
  • Tesicca Truong, co-founder of CityHive
  • Susan Yurkovich, CEO of the Council of Forest Industries


with files from Tom Fletcher/Black Press.