There is some heavy fallout for the Peace Region economy from the historic agreement signed on Wednesday between the B.C. government and Blueberry River First Nations.

The agreement gives the nation more say over how its lands will be used in natural resource projects. But according to executives in the oil and gas sector and the forest industry, almost $2 billion has been lost from the local economy in the past year, and they fear those losses – and the high-paying jobs that have already fled the Peace Region – aren’t coming back.

The deal between the B.C. government and Blueberry River First Nations sets out compensation and a way forward for new natural resource projects. Blueberry River will receive $200 million to restore their land from the effects of resource extraction, and another $87.5 million in financial compensation.

“It’s been a long road, but it means a brighter future for our children, grandchildren, and next seven generations,” said Blueberry River First Nation Chief Judy Desjarlais in Prince George on Wednesday.

The agreement gives the Blueberry River increased stewardship over their traditional land. It has provisions for natural gas and forestry activities, restoration of wildlife habitats, and economic benefits for the nation.

However, the deal does not address the losses from the Peace Region economy over the past year. Oil and gas executives have told CJDC-TV news that most development permits were put on hold during negotiations between the Province and First Nation, resulting in a $2 billion dollar loss to the local economy.

Executives also accuse the NDP government of sitting on their hands and refusing to give the Oil and Gas commission the go-ahead to issue new drilling permits.

Those executives refused to do on-camera interviews, as they feared being blackballed for speaking out. However, they say the drilling rigs that left the Peace Region and returned to Grande Prairie are not coming back.

One rig employs 120 high paying jobs that will now stay in Alberta because the cost of moving a rig is close to $500,000.

Mike Bernier, the MLA for Peace River South, says the deal does nothing to address the lack of confidence resource companies now have in doing business in B.C.

“At the end of the day they also need to know, is there a future for them in the Peace Region?” said Bernier. “And they’re telling me this didn’t provide any comfort for a lot of these companies on whether it’s safe to move into British Columbia.”

Over an eight-month period, CJDC-TV repeatedly reached out to then-premier John Horgan and the Minister of Energy and Mines. Our attempts to ask them about their plans to entice those companies back to B.C. were repeatedly ignored. Repeated calls to the Blueberry River First Nations were also not returned.

However, during Wednesday’s announcement of the agreement, premier David Eby said the industry would need to be “innovative.”

“The oil and gas industry is going to have to find ways to work with less land disturbance. The agreement is not a cap on production, it’s a cap on land disturbance,” said Eby.

MLA Mike Bernier wants more concrete solutions for the industry. “We’re talking about First Nations, we’re talking about non-Indigenous people – this is the entire region that has so much to lose if we don’t get it right,” said Bernier.

Projects already approved will go forward, including the massive LNG Canada project, which relies on gas from northeastern B.C.

Eby says he expects this new deal will be a template for agreements with other nations in the future.