MONTREAL, Que. - On the east-most end of the Kahnawake Indian Reserve, where the 132 hangs a left and morphs back into the A-30, is a stand of trees that will, by next April or May, be replaced by a t...
MONTREAL, Que. – On the east-most end of the Kahnawake Indian Reserve, where the 132 hangs a left and morphs back into the A-30, is a stand of trees that will, by next April or May, be replaced by a truck stop with room to park 95 rigs, a dozen diesel pumps and six gas pumps.
The full plan includes a 60-seat restaurant, two brand-name fast food joints, a 16-room hotel upstairs and 3,500 square feet reserved for truckers, who will get four showers, eight toilets, a video poker room and a lounge with computer terminals.
This will be a welcome oasis for the 4,000 trucks already passing through this dusty area every day, and for those truckers using the A-30 to bypass Montreal, once completed. What Jean-Claude Duclos, associate partner with Goodleaf Duclos & Associates, wants on his new spread, however, is a cardlock.
He is puzzled by the lack of enthusiasm by major oil companies, and he needs one on board to make a cardlock that is part of a national system.
“Where I am running into trouble is that I want to be part of a system, where the truckers are corporate clients and have one-source invoicing, loyalty plan, etc. – not dealing with us on an exception basis,” Duclos says.
Goodleaf Duclos & Associates specializes in the development and redevelopment of environmentally impaired sites on Canadian Indian reserves. He originally had a deal with Petro-Canada for 100 gas stations on reserves, including about six cardlocks, but that deal fell through. He contacted Suncor, but was told Suncor did not want a cardlock in Quebec. Duclos did not even get as far as mentioning that the cardlock would be on a reserve. Esso may be interested.
Duclos has been negotiating with Husky Energy for about five months but the going has been a bit strange. He relates a recent telephone conversation he had with his contact at Husky from his Spartan field office: “So Husky tells me ‘I have my bosses’ buy-in to take one step forward…Corporate Husky will want to know what your plans are. Physical plans, schedules…My boss has dealt with (First) Nations in the past in Western Canada. He has had positive and negative dealings with them. And people remember the negative. We had a couple of the projects where Husky put up facilities, had contracts signed, and then these guys tried to pull out of contracts.’ I tell him to remind his boss that this project is on private ground, and suggest a contract with penalties for non-compliance.”
Duclos explains that there was a bit more back and forth with his contact on Husky rack pricing, signage, language, costs and the eventual kicker: ‘…determine if it is worthwhile going ahead.’ Duclos says that his contact at Husky is worried: “He tells me that ‘given the fact that we have had negative situations similar to this, I want to be prepared.'”
Duclos explains what working on this deal has been like: “We have been at this with Husky for four or five months. We are not dealing with normal business processes. We are dealing with a mindset.”
This mindset includes the oft-repeated understanding that fuel costs less in Ontario, where, he has heard, truckers top up before crossing into Quebec. The question he has to field is whether his cardlock will be competitive. The other mindset he continually bumps up against is a misunderstanding about the nature of doing business on reservations.
First, Duclos explains, his reservation cardlock will be competitive. He is reluctant to go into details, but they are associated with certain tax rebates he can pass on to customers. As for the apparent misperception that Indian reservations are outside the law, Duclos explains that the land under the cardlock is privately-owned.
“On this reservation you have all the legal recourses available that are available to anyone else in Quebec, or Ontario for that matter.”
True, the government can be cowardly about applying provincial law here, but Duclos feels that there is plenty of jurisprudence that proves that even here, the law is generally the law.
“A breach of contract is a breach of contract,” he insists.
Then there is concern about billing in French. “Husky worries that Quebec may fall under Bill 101 (the language law requiring French signage, etc.) The initial reaction in Calgary was ‘Whoa! Quebec? French? We don’t want to get involved in that,'” Duclos says.
All current antics aside, Duclos figures that even without the cardlock his truck stop will be a premium operation, and its success will eventually draw in a major. He muses, “The trucking population in Quebec is, on a pro-rated basis, 23% of the trucking community in Canada. Why would anyone walk away from that?”