Elmer Derrick responds to criticism of appointment to Prince Rupert Port Authority board

Elmer Derrick is irritated over assertions that his appointment to the Prince Rupert Port Authority could be a politically-motivated one.

Gitxsan Hereditary Chief  Elmer Derrick is irritated over assertions that his appointment to the Prince Rupert Port Authority could be a politically-motivated appointment by the Conservative federal government.

Derrick was the chief negotiator for the Gitxsan Treaty Society, which signed a deal with Enbridge Inc. giving the First Nation a $7-million stake in the Northern Gateway in exchange for ending their opposition to the project. The deal proved to be deeply unpopular in the community and after protests erupted the deal was overturned.

Derrick – who lives in Terrace – was recently appointed to the board of directors of the Prince Rupert Port Authority by the federal government at the suggestion of the Transportation Minister.

“I’m just going to go in there for meetings, pay attention to the agenda and give it my best effort. I’m surprised at the reaction of a few people who think its a bad idea for me to be appointed to the port,” said Derrick.

The federal Tories are staunch supporters the Northern Gateway pipeline. Being on the board of the Prince Rupert Port Authority is not seen by some as work-intensive since members only have to attend meetings rather than being involved in day-to-day  operations. This has led some, including Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen, to wonder if the appointment to the Prince Rupert Port Authority’s board was some kind of reward for his support of the pipeline.

“It does cause some concern if there is some kind of trade off here. The last thing Elmer did was negotiate with Enbridge, which blew up in the most dramatic and destructive way. For him to be rewarded with an important appointment to the port, it seems a bit strange,” said Cullen.

Derrick says that he was approached by ”a couple different sources” about joining the Port Authority’s Board a couple months ago when he resigned from the board of Ridley Terminals after being a member for three years – he even turned down an extension to his term –  and says he doesn’t go around looking for new appointments or chase after big salaries.

“I’ve been involved in different things to make sure that the economy of the northwest gets attention paid to it by Victoria and Ottawa. I’m really surprised at this hostile reaction to my appointment,” said Derrick.

Derrick says that people who are suspicious of the reasons why he was appointed to the Port Authority’s board are overlooking the other work he has done and his qualifications.

Aside from working on the Board of Ridley Terminals, he has also sat on BC Hydro’s board and Powerex as well. He has a degree in Economics and has been involved with many different organizations.

“I don’t know if its just that people assume I’m not qualified to think about big-picture stuff,” said Derrick.

While he doesn’t believe that his appointment was influenced by his decision to make a deal with Enbridge – a decision he vehemently defends as being the economically right decision – the only people who could say for certain were the people who appointed him.

The Prince Rupert Northern View contacted the office of federal Transportation Minister, Denis Lebel, asking for him to give his reasoning for nominating Derrick for the appointment, the only response his office gave was an excerpt from the Marine Act which lists the required qualifications of an board appointee. After that, his office did not answer further inquiries.