Bill C-5 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Indian Oil and Gas Act
This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.
This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 1st Session.
Chuck Strahl Conservative
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
Extension of Sitting Hours
June 9th, 2009 / 11 a.m.
Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate. In a way, it also gives us an opportunity to take stock of the past session. I would say that in our opinion, the whole legislative agenda in recent weeks and months has been very thin, and it is still very thin and in no way warrants extended sitting hours, as the government and the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons are requesting.
As you know and as the leader mentioned, this is the second year that the government and the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons have introduced this motion to extend sitting hours in June. Unfortunately, for the second year, we are going to have to say no. It is not because we feel compelled to say no every time. Moreover, the leader pointed out that in the past, even when there was a minority government, the opposition had agreed to support such a motion. But given the current legislative context, what the government is asking us is to give it a blank cheque from now until June 23. I will explain what I mean by that.
At the last two meetings of the House leaders and whips, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons handed out proposed schedules up to June 23. Currently, four or five bills are being studied by parliamentary committees, and those studies should be completed shortly. We could see from the proposed schedules that before the end of the session, the government intends to debate new government bills when the House is not dealing with the bills coming back from committees.
What are these new bills the government intends to debate during the extended hours that are not taken up with the work already in progress in committees? This is extremely disturbing and that is where the government wants us to give it a blank cheque, which is unacceptable to the Bloc Québécois and, in fact, to all three opposition parties.
I will give an example. I am my party's democratic reform critic. What guarantee do I have that, during the extended hours, when the committee work draws to a close at its own pace—and it will go fairly quickly for most of these bills—the government will not decide to introduce a bill like Bill C-22, which was introduced in the past and was designed to increase the number of members from Ontario and western Canada and reduce Quebec's relative political weight? We would be very much opposed to such a bill. I would also remind hon. members, with respect to the potential reduction of Quebec's political weight in the House of Commons, that the National Assembly had unanimously passed a motion at the time, calling on the federal government to withdraw its bill. So I will certainly not agree to extended sitting hours so that the government can come back again with that idea.
I would also like to point out that we feel it is extremely important that the relative weight of Quebec's members in this House be maintained. Given the recognition of the Quebec nation by this House in November 2006, it is only natural that that nation's weight within an institution like this one should remain the same. It is often argued that the Constitution guarantees the 75 members from Quebec, but that argument is not enough. If we currently make up roughly 24% of this House, then that relative weight must be maintained.
The formula for doing so is still debatable. The number of members from Quebec could be increased proportionally. The remaining members could be distributed differently throughout Canada to ensure that this House will always have 308 members representing the entire country. But the fact remains that this is the sort of bill the government could introduce, taking advantage of the thin legislative agenda and the fact that we will have to fill time.
Consequently, the Bloc Québécois and I are not at all willing to give the government this blank cheque.
In practical terms, as the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons said, House committees are currently studying five bills. Of those, committees may report on three or four before the House adjourns for the summer. None of the bills is likely to be the subject of much debate or dissent from the opposition as a whole or even any one of the opposition parties. It is not hard to see that they will be passed quickly.
As I said, I am completely open to discussion, if ever the government thinks that a few extra hours would help wrap up a debate on a particular bill on a particular day. That is why, when I asked the official opposition whip a question earlier, I said that the government should approach things from the other direction rather than ask us to give it a blank cheque to extend sitting hours until 10 p.m. every day. The leader suggested that if we were to finish a debate at 8 p.m., we could see the clock as 10 p.m., but I think that it would be more logical to do things the other way around on a case-by-case basis. If the government needs more time to study a bill, it should ask the opposition to extend the sitting hours to debate a specific bill on a specific night.
As I said, unless the government is planning to introduce new bills that have not yet been announced, the fact that there is so little on the legislative agenda makes me worry that the government will have a hard time filling the 11 days we have left, let alone any extended hours. I have a hard time seeing how we will fill the schedule between now and June 23, and thus, once again, I cannot give the government a blank cheque to create an opportunity to debate bills that I am not currently aware of.
The official opposition whip and I have indicated that not only is the legislative agenda extremely thin, but it also fails to address the most critical issue at this time, which is the serious economic crisis we are facing. Consider the following example. Since May 15, when I held a press conference to denounce this thin legislative agenda, by the way, only five bills have been introduced. Three relate to justice, but none propose any solutions to address the economic crisis. We, however, have proposed some solutions.
I would like to show the people watching us here today the reality as it stands in the manufacturing sector in the regions of Quebec. Today I learned that in my riding, Graymont, a company that produces quicklime at its Joliette plant, is suspending production indefinitely.
I would like to quickly read the comments of Mr. Chassat, Graymont's director of operations for eastern Canada:
The very serious economic downturn in eastern North America is affecting many of our major clients in the steel, metal, and pulp and paper sectors. This has led to a significant decrease in demand...
Naturally, since Graymont is a company that must generate profits or at least break even—we are not talking about a not-for-profit organization—the company will close that plant until demand rebounds.
Not only is it clear that the crisis is worsening, but certain sectors that had previously been spared are going to be affected. Graymont hires workers. Those workers will be unemployed and eventually, their consumer behaviour will slow down. Fewer services will be needed in the Joliette region. Graymont also uses subcontractors who will also lose business. They might eventually be forced to close their doors. Accordingly, it would have been crucial, and it remains crucial, to have a real plan for economic recovery.
It was not just the Bloc Québécois' expectation, but also that of the Conférence régionale des élus du Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, which lamented the fact that none of the programs met the needs of the forestry sector. When programs in theory targeted this sector, they were not accessible because it was difficult to meet the bureaucratic criteria established by this government. We are not the only ones who believe that the federal government should have and must come up with a second stimulus plan.
We have made suggestions twice before: the first time in November, before the ideological statement by the Minister of Finance, and the second in April. Our proposals deal with both employment insurance, or assistance for workers affected by the crisis, as well as the companies affected. I would like to mention a few of these proposals. First, there was the elimination of the two week waiting period. The Bloc Québécois is very pleased to be able to say that we introduced a bill in this regard, which is currently being studied in committee.
We also proposed an eligibility threshold of 360 hours for all claimants, an increase in benefits from 50% to 60% of earnings and an income support program for older workers. This program existed in 1998 and was cut by the Liberals. Since that time, successive governments, Liberal as well as Conservative, have said they will reinstate it. The Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development said that she established a training pilot project but it is not an income support program for older workers that would allow older workers, over the fairly long term—from a few months to a few years—to bridge the gap between employment and retirement.
We did make several suggestions, but as I said, the government ignored them all. The Bloc Québécois would not be at all offended if the government decided to act on one or more of those suggestions. With respect to businesses, I want to add that we made a suggestion that would apply to all manufacturing sector businesses. A Corvée investissement program would enable the government to finance up to one-fifth of the cost of introducing new technologies. In the 1980s, Quebec's Corvée habitation program produced very good results for housing, and we took that as our inspiration. We suggested putting $4 billion into such a fund, which could generate investments worth about $16 billion if the total amount were used. The government wanted nothing to do with the idea.
I will raise a few other points and then get back to the issue of extending hours. The government has heard from us about loan guarantees and will continue to do so in question period. It is totally unacceptable for the forestry sector not to have access to loan guarantees. I will not get into the rhetoric spouted by the ministers from the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region. There are programs, but people are telling us that they do not qualify for those programs. So that means that we have ineffective, non-existent programs for people who are going through hard times.
As to refundable research and development tax credits, the whole industry wants this measure, which would enable businesses that are not making a profit to continue investing so they can be ready to compete when the economy begins to recover, which we hope will be as soon as possible.
I will conclude with two other examples of measures, such as the use of wood in the renovation and construction of federal buildings. I would remind the House of a very important figure. The assistance given to the auto sector is equivalent to $650,000 per job. No one is questioning the relevance of that assistance, although we would have liked to see more conditions attached. In comparison, the assistance given to the forestry sector amounts to $1,000 per job. In other words, the auto sector received 650 times more assistance than the forestry sector. We think this is completely unfair. Solutions must therefore be found for the forestry sector. We also suggested support for the communities affected by this very serious crisis.
Thus, we have seen some ideas concerning how the government should respond to the number one concern of Quebeckers and Canadians, namely, the economic crisis, as well as the insecurity they feel about their employment, their income and their families' futures.
As I said, nothing has been done, and the five bills that have been introduced since May 15, 2009, related to justice and public safety. In that regard, I must admit, the Conservatives have been very productive and I imagine the Minister of Justice is proud of that.
The problem is that, more often than not, the measures proposed have been populist measures that might interest a certain conservative following ideologically, but that are ineffective when it comes to maintaining a high level of security and well-being in Canadian and Quebec society. We are not questioning the importance of improving the justice system, but what the government is proposing has been more or less akin to aggressive therapy, rather than true modernization of the system.
Since Bill C-5 was introduced on May 8, 2009, no other bills have been introduced to help the thousands of workers who have lost their jobs. No bills have been introduced to help businesses in the manufacturing and forestry sectors, which have been so seriously affected by this crisis. None of those bills contained any measures to help regional economies and communities diversify. In fact, none of those bills would suggest that the government is aware of the magnitude of this economic crisis. Of course it is extremely difficult to understand the government's indifference.
However, now that we have heard the Minister of Natural Resources' comments, we perhaps have a better understanding of the Conservatives' political culture. We also see that the main concern of this minister is to boost her career and that the concerns of patients who do not have access to the isotopes or who are worried about the shortage are secondary. We also know that she finds the issue to be sexy. It is not the first time we hear such talk. Members will recall that, during the listeriosis crisis, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food made some comments that were quite shocking.
This lack of empathy and the government's indifference, reflected in its legislative agenda, make it impossible to accept the motion tabled by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons because—and this is the crux of the matter—they are asking the opposition to give them a blank cheque. By extending sitting hours we would have absolutely no idea of what we would be debating. It certainly would not be the legislation before us, which can be announced.
For example, this morning they announced a bill regarding a park, which does not pose a problem. In my opinion, after reading the bill, the opposition parties will quickly agree to passing the bill in the shortest possible timeframe. This type of bill does not pose a problem and does not require the extension of sitting hours.
As was the case last year, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons did not convince us of the usefulness of extending sitting hours and that is why we are refusing. The opposition or the Bloc Québécois do not oppose extending sitting hours when the time is to be used productively, but they do not see the purpose of extending sitting hours just to pass the time or, even worse, to study surprise bills.
As I mentioned, there is also no guarantee that new bills will not be introduced, perhaps with the complicity of the Liberals, to ram things down Quebec's throat. We cannot run the risk, by extending the hours, of granting time for bills about which we know nothing.
Unfortunately, we have seen no evidence to suggest that the government would use extended sitting hours to deal with the economic crisis and help people who have lost their jobs and do not qualify for employment insurance because the criteria are too restrictive. Nor have we seen anything to suggest that these bills would help the forestry and manufacturing sectors. Not only do we have no guarantees, but we have not heard even the faintest suggestion that the government is interested in helping.
In closing, if the government makes specific requests to extend sitting hours to study specific bills at specific times, the Bloc Québécois will be open to talking about it. I will be open to talking about it. But right now, with the legislative agenda before us, I think that adopting the motion put forward by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons would amount to giving the Conservative government carte blanche, and that is the last thing that the Bloc Québécois and Quebec want to give this government.
Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act
May 26th, 2009 / 3:40 p.m.
Vancouver Island North
John Duncan Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Mr. Speaker, I listened to the speech of the NDP aboriginal affairs critic with interest.
During questions and comments we heard the member talk about the process that was used for Bill C-28, the Cree-Naskapi act, in terms of consultation and so on. We also heard very similar comments from the opposition parties in terms of how Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Indian Oil and Gas Act was developed. That Act received royal assent in the last two weeks.
I would like to point out that Bill C-8, which is the bill dealing with matrimonial property issues, was also developed in a very consultative approach. The drafting of the bill was done with two major national aboriginal organizations very much participating; that would be the Assembly of First Nations and the Native Women's Association of Canada. Therefore, it is not a case of black and white on consultation or no consultation. This is a very difficult area when we have 630 first nations across the country.
I would like to invite the member to comment on this.
Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act
May 15th, 2009 / 10:45 a.m.
David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board
Mr. Speaker, it is good to be back again speaking about nuclear safety.
I am pleased to speak to Bill C-20, An Act respecting civil liability and compensation for damage in case of a nuclear incident. Members may be familiar with this bill. It was introduced in the last Parliament as Bill C-5. It is a bill that has had a long history of consultation. It also has a history of good support in the House.
The last time we brought the bill forward both the official opposition and the Bloc supported the bill. We were able to bring it through committee and into third reading without amendment. We look forward to working with the members on the other side of the House to get this bill through as quickly as possible.
Later, I think we will hear the member for Mississauga—Brampton South speak for the official opposition and the member for Trois-Rivières speak for the Bloc. We look forward to working with them at committee to bring this bill through to conclusion as quickly as possible.
The history of nuclear energy in Canada goes back some 75 years. For the past 30 years, it has been a part of Canada's energy mix. It has benefited this country and the citizens of this country in numerous ways.
As members know, a strong nuclear industry brings great economic and environmental benefits. However in order to encourage investments in nuclear facilities, liability rules are needed to provide legal and insurance certainty for suppliers and operators. Without the certainty of the rules concerning liability, insurers would not provide coverage to nuclear facilities, and no one would participate in nuclear development.
At the same time, it is important to ensure that Canadians have access to reasonable compensation in the unlikely event there is a nuclear incident. The health and safety of Canadians is a top priority of the Government of Canada. Canada's nuclear safety record is second to none in the world. We have a robust technology, a well-trained workforce and stringent regulatory requirements.
There are two pieces of legislation that provide a solid framework for regulating the industry. They are the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act. Nevertheless, we must be prepared for the possibility of a nuclear incident, which could result in civil damages.
The responsibility for providing an insurance framework to protect Canadians and provide stability to this important industry falls under federal jurisdiction. The Government of Canada has a duty to assume its responsibilities in this area, and we are doing that.
Traditional insurance is not appropriate for dealing with this kind of liability. It is difficult to determine levels of risk. Canada, like virtually all other nuclear countries, has addressed this void with the enactment of special legislation.
In Canada we put in place the Nuclear Liability Act. This legislation established a comprehensive liability framework in case of a nuclear incident. It is the framework that is in existence today. Both this earlier legislation and Bill C-20 apply to things like nuclear power plants, nuclear research reactors, fuel fabrication facilities and facilities for managing used nuclear fuel.
The framework established under the initial Nuclear Liability Act is based on several principles. Those principles include the absolute and exclusive liability of the operator, mandatory insurance, and limitations in time and amount. These principles are common to nuclear legislation in most other countries, such as the United States, France and the United Kingdom. The principles that were put in place years ago are just as relevant today.
Let me quickly explain these principles. Absolute liability means the injured party does not have to prove that a nuclear reactor was at fault in an incident, only that injury or damages were caused by that incident. As well, the Nuclear Liability Act holds the operator of a nuclear facility to be exclusively liable for civil damages caused by a nuclear incident. In other words, no other business, organization, supplier or contractor can be sued for these damages. The operator is responsible.
This has two advantages. First, it makes it very easy for individuals to make a claim. They know who is liable and they do not need to prove fault or negligence. The other advantage is that exclusive liability allows the insurance industry to direct all of its insurance capacity to the operators.
The principle of mandatory insurance is straightforward. All nuclear operators must carry a prescribed amount of liability insurance in order to be licensed to operate the facility. This is a widely accepted practice in countries generating nuclear power.
The Canadian regime also places limitations on liability in time and amount. In terms of amount, the maximum that has been payable under the Nuclear Liability Act is currently $75 million. As well, injury claims must be made within 10 years of the incident.
These underlying principles of Canada's existing nuclear liability framework address the needs of Canadians while permitting our country to develop nuclear capabilities.
The Nuclear Liability Act made it easier for injured parties to make claims. It guaranteed that funds would be made available to compensate individuals in the unlikely event that there is an incident.
It is a tribute to Canada's nuclear industry that there have been no claims paid out under the act. Still it has served as an important safety net for Canadians and it has provided stability and security that is needed to support the continued development of Canada's nuclear power industry.
Although the basic principles underlining Canada's nuclear liability legislation remain valid, this act is over 30 years old and it needs updating. If we consider the possibility of new investments in nuclear reactors in Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick or Ontario, we can see why this legislation must be made as robust as we can make it. We also have to keep pace with international developments in the field over the years.
As a result of this, the Government of Canada has conducted a comprehensive review of the Nuclear Liability Act and is proposing the new legislation that is before the House today. This has been done with extensive consultation across the country with the industry and with Canadians.
The bill is intended to strengthen and modernize Canada's nuclear liability regime through an all-encompassing package of amendments. Bill C-20 is a major step forward in modernizing the act. It puts Canada in line with internationally accepted compensation levels. It clarifies definitions for compensation and what is covered in the process for claiming compensation.
The bill is a culmination of many years of consultation, involving extensive discussions with major stakeholders, including nuclear utilities, the governments of nuclear power generating provinces and the Nuclear Insurance Association of Canada.
I would like to talk a little about the key changes in this legislation. The main change proposed in Bill C-20 is an increase in the amount of operator's liability from $75 million to $650 million. This balances the need for operators to provide compensation, without imposing high costs for unrealistic insurance amounts, amounts for events highly unlikely to occur in this country. This increase will put Canada on a par with most western nuclear countries.
It is important also that Canada's legislation is consistent with international conventions, not only on financial issues but also with regard to what constitutes a nuclear incident, what qualifies for compensation, and so on. Accordingly, the bill makes Canada's legislation more consistent with international conventions. These enhancements will establish a level playing field for Canadian nuclear companies, who will welcome the certainty of operating in a country that acknowledges these international conventions.
Both the current liability framework and Bill C-20 contain limitation periods restricting the time period for making claims. Under the current act, claims must be brought within 10 years of the incident. However, since we know today that some radiation-related injuries have long latency periods, this limitation period has been extended under Bill C-20 to 30 years for injury claims, while maintaining the 10 year limit for other claims.
Both the current legislation and Bill C-20 provide for an administrative process to replace the courts in the adjudication of claims arising from a large nuclear incident. The new legislation clarifies the arrangements for a quasi-judicial tribunal to hear claims. The new claims process will ensure that claims are handled equitably and efficiently. I think that is an important amendment that people need to pay attention to.
The challenge for the government in developing this legislation was to be fair to all stakeholders and to strike an effective balance in the public interest. I firmly believe the proposed legislation fully meets that challenge. This is supported by the initial reactions that we received with Bill C-5, as well as the reactions we have received with Bill C-20.
We have consulted with nuclear operators, suppliers, insurance and provinces with nuclear installations, and they generally support the changes I have described. I know that some nuclear operators may be concerned about the cost implications of higher insurance premiums, but they also recognize that they have been sheltered from these costs for quite some time.
Suppliers welcome the changes, as they would provide more certainty for the industry. Nuclear insurers appreciate the clarity that would be provided in the new legislation and the resolution of some of their long-standing concerns.
Provinces with nuclear facilities have been supportive of the proposed revisions to the current legislation. Municipalities that host nuclear facilities have been advocating revisions to the Nuclear Liability Act. They are supportive of the increased levels of operator liability and the improved approaches to victims' compensation.
In short, Bill C-20 was not developed in isolation. The evolution of policy was guided by consultation with key stakeholders over several years and by the experience that has been gained in other countries.
Let me now turn to another aspect of our involvement with nuclear technology. There are three other aspects that I would like to point out quickly today.
The first is the safety record of our nuclear industry. Our CANDU reactor is arguably the safest reactor in the world and has all kinds of built-in systems to protect workers and the public.
I would also like to point out Canada's involvement in the nuclear industry and in research and development that has been exclusively for peaceful purposes.
Third, I would like to highlight the fact that Canada's nuclear industry is among the highest tech industries. It spurs innovation, which is the cornerstone of a competitive economy, generating more than $5 billion a year in economic activity. Canada's nuclear industry employs more than 30,000 people. Many Canadians probably do not realize that. Many of those are highly skilled people in well-paying jobs.
It must be recognized that the development of Canada's nuclear industry has been made possible by the civil liability rules provided by the initial Nuclear Liability Act. The improvements by Bill C-20 are now necessary for Canada to remain a leading player in the nuclear industry.
There is an additional aspect to Canada's involvement with nuclear energy. Much of our work in the nuclear industry has been to produce electricity, electricity to provide home comforts and to drive industry and promote jobs across the country. Electricity has contributed to a healthy environment through cheap and clean energy.
In this country we have made a commitment to achieve an absolute reduction of 20% in greenhouse gas emissions from 2006 levels by 2020. We are also committed to meeting 90% of our electricity demand from low-emitting sources by that same year.
As part of reaching these targets, our government is making substantial investments in measures to increase our supply of renewable energy, including wind, solar, small hydro and tidal energy. We also see nuclear energy as part of the clean energy mix that will advance Canada as a clean energy superpower. However, in order for us to advance in clean energy production, we need the certainty provided by an appropriate and up-to-date nuclear liability framework in order to protect Canadians and provide stability to this important industry.
In conclusion, Canada's nuclear safety record is second to none in the world. The Nuclear Safety and Control Act and the Nuclear Liability Act provide a solid legislative framework for regulating the industry and have done so since Canada's industry emerged as a world player. The former seeks to prevent and minimize nuclear incidents, while the latter applies should an incident occur. However unlikely as it may be, we must be prepared for the possibility of a nuclear incident that could result in significant costs.
For these and other sound reasons, I would ask members to support this legislation.
Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act
May 15th, 2009 / 10 a.m.
Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON
Mr. Speaker, what I was suggesting is that instead of referring the bill to committee after second reading, where the committee is limited in the scope of what it can do, I had hoped the government would consider referring the bill to committee before second reading where we could then engage, in a constructive manner, in crafting legislation that would reflect the will of all parliamentarians and of the interested parties, the aboriginal community of Canada.
The member for Simcoe North agreed with me when I pointed out that the committee we currently have is functioning very well. We have already dealt with two bills, Bill C-5 and C-28, expeditiously after listening to witnesses, but in both cases there was exemplary co-operation between the government side and the opposition parties. Also, in both cases, the aboriginal communities that were interested in the legislation supported the legislation.
We have a situation now with Bill C-8 where the aboriginal communities do not support the legislation and have expressed great reservations. If we approve this legislation at second reading and then send it to committee, it will tie the hands of the committee in its ability to improve the legislation. The amendments that could be introduced at that stage are rather limited and must be narrower in scope than what the legislation says.
When I hear the members of the NDP and my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois say that they want to improve the legislation by passing it at second reading and sending it to committee, I think they and the government forgot that we could have gone another route, which would have made for a situation that would have been much more constructive and more in keeping with the spirit of co-operation that is supposed to exist between the Crown and aboriginal communities ever since we had an incredible ceremony in this House, as people will remember, and ever since we had a royal commission look into the matter. We have all agreed that we need to start dealing with the aboriginal communities in a much more respectful manner and in a manner that engages them, gives them a voice and we listen to their voice. It is a matter of the honour of the Crown that we must respect that.
That is essentially what I was saying in my comments yesterday. I would hope that the members from the Bloc Québécois and the members from the NDP would support this motion, would give an occasion to the government to go back and consult properly and then bring forward a bill that we could refer to committee before second reading in order to give the committee the chance to do good work, as it has.
Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act
May 14th, 2009 / 5:10 p.m.
Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON
Mr. Speaker, I want to say right off the bat that I will support the motion, but I want to explain why. In doing so, I hope to convince my colleagues in the NDP and the Bloc to seriously consider that the avenue we are suggesting might be the better course.
I want first to demonstrate that, under the able stewardship of the member for Simcoe North as chair of the aboriginal affairs committee, the committee has been demonstrating exemplary cooperation. I see him nodding his head in agreement. We have had the opportunity to deal with two bills already.
In both cases, the government bills were supported by representatives of the aboriginal communities and the responsible bodies concerned with the issues involved. They appeared before us. In one of the two cases, the bill was tweaked slightly with government consent. That was done unanimously. Today, a minor amendment was made to Bill C-28, and the bill was passed without much discussion.
I raise this point for two reasons. First, to demonstrate that, as far as the official opposition is concerned—and I dare say in this instance also of the two other parties in opposition —there is a desire for cooperation and for doing things properly. The other reason is also very important. In both cases, the bills passed in committee after being passed here at second reading had the unconditional support of the aboriginal communities. That is not the case for Bill C-8, and I feel that needs to be said.
I want to talk about the process for awhile. Parliament is a wonderful thing. It shows flexibility, ingenuity and a way sometimes of dealing with things in different ways, to improve our ways, to make sure that people are heard, to make sure people have an opportunity to express themselves in respect of an overall democratic will.
This is the 40th Parliament. In the 39th Parliament what I am going to talk about happened three times and in the 38th Parliament, which is where it started in earnest, it happened quite often. I am talking about referral of a government bill to committee before second reading. This is something we must consider very carefully.
In a minority Parliament in particular, that means that before a bill is adopted at second reading, it is referred to a committee. The government can do that on its own. It can determine that a bill will go to committee after five hours of debate whether the opposition parties want it to or not. The difference between referring a bill to committee before second reading or after second reading is very important. After second reading the House has stated its approval in principle of what is contained in the bill. Amendments are very restricted in nature. They can constrain, or they can orient a little more precisely certain things, but they cannot expand. Therefore, the capacity of a committee to change a bill is very different if the bill is adopted and referred to committee after second reading as opposed to being referred to committee before second reading. That is crucial for a number of reasons.
That was done over 30 times in the 38th Parliament. I thought that demonstrated a willingness to engage parliamentarians of all parties in shaping legislation. Beyond that, it involved the witnesses and those interested in the legislation as they came to committee because it gave a wider range to parliamentarians in effect to give shape to the legislation.
In the 39th Parliament, it happened three times. In this Parliament it has not happened yet. In the 39th Parliament and this Parliament, even though at times opposition members recommended and the House approved the notion that bills be referred to committee before second reading in order to have that flexibility, that capacity to engage the witnesses, to really engage the expertise in the country to shape legislation as a better expression of the common will, it has not been happening. It has not happened a single time in this Parliament.
I know my colleague from Simcoe North knows what I am talking about because I brought this up at committee. It is an act of respect of Parliament for a minority government to ask that legislation be referred to committee before second reading. It gives the ability of all members on that committee to bring a constructiveness to it. It gives an opportunity to all witnesses to be taken seriously, and perhaps to suggest amendments. It engages all kinds of NGOs. It engages academia. It engages the private sector. In this case it certainly would have engaged the aboriginal communities across the land, the same aboriginal communities that have said they are not supportive of Bill C-8.
I was listening very closely to my colleague from Toronto Centre and my colleague from Ottawa Centre and they were not contradicting each other. My colleague from Ottawa Centre said we should send it to committee where we could amend it and I totally agree with him. Let us send it to committee where the committee can do some real work and shape this legislation and have the witnesses engage in shaping it so that it becomes a constructive exercise and not a confrontation exercise as it might turn out to be if we do it this way.
That is why the motion to defer the matter for six months would give the government an opportunity to consider seriously consulting widely.
Honestly, I would have preferred if the government had chosen to send the bill to committee before second reading. I do not think we would be having this debate. The committee is working very well. It could have demonstrated to Canadians its capacity to do so. It could have engaged the aboriginal community in a very thorough manner, taking whatever time was needed, having as many meetings as were needed in order to listen to proposals and suggestions. The committee has demonstrated that ability and it could have demonstrated it even more so.
Because the government chose not to do that, we are now caught in the situation where our party, I think very legitimately, is saying that because the Assembly of First Nations and the Native Women's Association of Canada are saying they do not like the bill, we should hoist it. The hoist motion calls for a delay of six months.
If the government would step back and consider that perhaps the bill should have been referred to committee before second reading, this would all be over. The committee has demonstrated its capacity to work, to fully engage in a very serious matter. It could engage all the witnesses that want to be engaged in a constructive legislative exercise. Unfortunately, because the government chose not to refer the bill to committee before second reading, we are into the current situation.
Once again, I would ask my Bloc Québécois and NDP colleagues to consider one point very seriously. We are not opposed to sending this bill to committee. However, we would like the committee responsible for studying it to have the kind of freedom that it cannot have if the bill goes to committee after second reading. That is crucial.
From what I can tell, today and for some time now, we have been getting very clear signals from aboriginals, from the Assembly of First Nations, from the Native Women's Association of Canada and other stakeholders. Personally, as a member of the committee, I have heard from a lot of people. They are very concerned about this bill, about how it was written, about what it contains, and about what it does not contain. If we have to restrict ourselves to a more limited range of amendments because the House has passed this bill at second reading, we will end up limiting Parliament's ability to do good work. I suggest that my colleagues give that some serious thought.
If—all together—we do tell the government that we want to do this work, that is fine, but let us do it with the latitude, flexibility and desire to be constructive that this committee has demonstrated so far. All of the committee members, whether they represent the NDP, the Bloc, the Liberals or the Conservatives, have demonstrated good will and the ability to work well together.
I had hoped that the government would seize this opportunity to try to resolve, once and for all, a problem that has been around for years, even decades, to resolve it constructively, which a minority government or Parliament can do if it so chooses. That would have been a strong indication of the government's respect for Parliament and for aboriginal communities in Canada. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case. We believe that we should not proceed with the bill as written. Aboriginal communities are not happy with it.
I also think that there is another reason this bill is a step in the wrong direction.
It is another topic that we broached at committee time and again and I hope we explore even further. I see my colleague from Simcoe North nodding again. It is the concept of honour of the Crown. I readily admit that I am not yet grounded enough in the concept to fully comprehend all of its ramifications, but I know that it is rather far-reaching.
The honour of the Crown concept is one that has been invoked by the Supreme Court in matters dealing with aboriginal communities to strike down legislation. The last time I heard it was used was by the aboriginal communities in British Columbia to basically tell the government that it cannot sell properties, as it was planning to. The department had this plan to sell nine properties, two of which were in B.C. and two of which were subject to land claims by aboriginal communities. Because the government had not consulted these communities, the Supreme Court essentially said that the honour of the Crown concept applied and it could not sell those two buildings. They were withdrawn from the package of assets of buildings that the Crown was selling.
The honour of the Crown concept is a concept that applies to all things aboriginal and beyond that. In this case, I would think that if we were to proceed with this bill in the manner we are proposing, which is to force it through the House at second reading so that the committee is restricted in its ability to give it shape, listen to the witnesses and give voice to their concerns in a constructive way, the bill would be subject to court challenges quite readily if it were to become law.
As legislators, we have a duty to try to prevent that. We have a duty to construct good law according to principles that were established in our Constitution. If we were to proceed this way, when we have heard that the consultation might not have been as thorough or as listened to as the aboriginal communities would have hoped, perhaps we would then be creating faulty legislation that would be subject to fairly serious challenges on this notion of honour of the Crown. This must permeate what we do as agents of the Crown. We are Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. The government is her agent. Together, we have responsibilities toward the Crown.
I am not sure that proceeding this way is the best way to fulfill these obligations or fiduciary responsibilities. We can call them what we will. As we continue the work in committee, I would hope that this concept becomes much more well understood by members of the committee and beyond. I think it is a concept that we will see coming much more to the fore as we try to honour the new spirit of working with aboriginal communities throughout this land.
I will sum up briefly because I only have a few minutes left.
My colleagues must understand that we are not trying to avoid taking action or to reject everything. We are telling the government that there is a more constructive way to approach a very delicate problem. I believe all parties agree that the bill attempts to resolve a very complex and delicate situation.
To draft a law that will be accepted by everyone, we must all put a little water in our wine and we must be prepared to hear from those most affected. Those people have been telling us for weeks that they cannot support this bill and they have asked the government to not proceed with it. That places us in a difficult situation.
I will come back to my basic premise: had the government truly wanted to give parliamentarians the latitude to work together and create a bill to reflect the collective will of all political parties and all aboriginal communities, it could have referred this bill to committee before second reading. It chose not to do so.
Earlier, I asked the parliamentary secretary why the government did not do so and chose instead to force a vote at second reading.
The government is therefore asking for approval in principle. It has chosen to limit the committee's power, after having listened to witnesses, to propose constructive amendments and—together—the government and the members of the three opposition parties—to develop a bill that we could all have been proud of. It could have taken another approach.
The members of the official opposition take their duty seriously. By proposing this motion, we are telling the government that it is not taking the right approach.
I will make a last appeal to the good will of my Bloc and NDP colleagues. What we are proposing today could be avoided altogether if we all told the government to refer the bill to committee before second reading. We must give the committee, which has already demonstrated its competence, the tools to do the work that is needed. We have a great deal of listening to do. We must listen to all those who wish to participate. We must take their grievances into account. When we find contradictions and disagreements, we must look for common ground.
As responsible parliamentarians, we must find a way to produce a bill that really reflects the government's responsibilities and our responsibilities as parliamentarians, our responsibilities under the Canadian Constitution and our responsibilities that arise from Supreme Court of Canada rulings.
This all could have been moved ahead by referring the bill to committee before second reading. I do not know why the government, a minority government, stubbornly refuses to refer any bills to committee. Many committees, such as the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, which I mentioned earlier, have a proven record.
The chair of that committee, a government member, is nodding his head in agreement with my assertion that the members of that committee have proven that they work well together.
Both bills we studied were fully supported by aboriginal communities. However, aboriginal communities are not in favour of the bill we are being asked to support here today, and that is a serious problem.
I implore the government to reconsider its approach and do its homework over again in order to come up with a solution that will be better for everyone.
May 14th, 2009 / 3:15 p.m.
The Speaker Peter Milliken
Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:
May 14, 2009
I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the schedule to this letter on the 14th day of May, 2009 at 2:33 p.m.
The schedule indicates the bills assented to were Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Indian Oil and Gas Act--Chapter 7; Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Energy Efficiency Act--Chapter 8; and Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992--Chapter 9.
Indian Oil and Gas Act
April 2nd, 2009 / 4:45 p.m.
Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this legislation before the House today.
I want to give some context around the bill. One of the reasons this bill has come before the House is the fact that the original act has had little change since 1974. We know that, in many cases, the provincial legislation has changed but the federal legislation has simply failed to keep pace.
As other members have pointed out, when changes to the Indian Oil and Gas Act were contemplated, consultations were held with the first nations players who were involved in the oil and gas sector. One of the things we the committee heard was that most of the first nations that were involved did support the process but that there were a couple of first nations that raised significant concerns. In my speech today, I will touch on some of those concerns.
What we learned about the consultation process was that although it was inclusive in terms of providing information, taking it out to tribal councils and getting feedback, one of the challenges with the consultation process was that the scope of the bill was limited to begin with, which prevented some of the changes that some of the first nations were proposing.
Despite those shortcomings, the NDP is supporting the bill because it is a good first step in amending the legislation. I am hopeful that some of the concerns that were raised by some of the first nations do get taken into consideration, both in the regulatory process and perhaps in some further amendments to the bill down the road.
I will now touch on some of the concerns. One of the concerns raised by the Stoney Nakoda Nation was around the regulations. What we see in this legislation is that most of what will be dealt will actually be dealt with in the regulatory process. Although there is a process around developing regulations, gazetting regulations and getting input, it does not require the oversight of this House or of a committee.
Some concerns have been raised about that. I want to quote from the Stoney Nakoda response around the regulation because these words say it far better than I could. The Stoney Nakoda state:
In a comparison of Bill C-5 to either of the federal government's Canada Petroleum Resources Act or Alberta's Mines and Minerals Act one will immediately notice that Bill C-5 has left for the discretion of the Governor in Council the ability to prescribe by Regulation many of the specific rights and powers that are specifically provided for with the aforementioned legislation. While a specific example is the right to cancel a lease, which is found at section 105 of the Canada Petroleum Resources Act or at section 45 of the Mines and Minerals Act, other examples include the right to take royalties in kind, the sale of the royalty interest, continuations of leases, etc. All of these are enumerated rights or powers within other legislative schemes while in Bill C-5 these are discretionary matters.
It goes on to state:
Additional powers that are typically within the body of the Act and not just matters to be dealt with by Regulations include the power of the Minister to assess, reassess and recalculate royalties that are due from the lessor; appeal provisions, etc. While Bill C-5 has numerous provisions respecting fines and penalties, these basic, yet critical powers have been left to be dealt with by the Regulations.
That is a fairly serious concern that has been raised because for non-first nations, we have a complex, detailed act that outlines many of the things that are being left to the regulatory process for first nations. I wonder why we would say that non-first nation Canadians will have legislation that is comprehensive and has the oversight of the House versus first nations that must deal with the regulatory process.
In light of the concerns raised by the Stoney Nakoda and others, the NDP proposed an amendment that was accepted by the committee and subsequently put into the bill. It called for more oversight. I will not read the whole amendment that was accepted but it states in part, “...prepare a report on the administration of this Act during the two preceding years and shall table a copy of the report in each House of Parliament within the first fifteen days...”. It goes on to outline a couple of other things.
We felt strongly about the fact that there was not an ability to include many of the proposals that the Stoney Nakoda and others were making in the legislation and, because of the very narrow scope of the bill, that it was important that the House have oversight. With that amendment, it will allow us to take a closer look at how the act is being implemented and how regulations are being developed.
The Stoney Nakoda Nation raised a number of issues but I will only speak to two of them. It raised the issue around the obligations of having a body that has two responsibilities. It states:
The regulator acts in a quasi-judicial role and adjudicates and regulates the relationship between the various stakeholders. Since Bill C-5 does not clearly distinguish between these two roles, Canada's obligation to First Nations are effectively reduced.
In Alberta, the Department of Energy administers and manages Alberta's oil and gas interests through the Mines and Minerals Act while the Energy Resources Conservation Board adjudicates and regulates the development of the resources through the provisions of the Oil and Gas Conservation Act. Similarly, Canada's own northern and offshore oil and gas resources are administered and managed under the Canada Petroleum Resources Act while the National Energy Board adjudicates and regulates the development of the resources through the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act.
We can see in two separate levels of government that are separate bodies that have different goals and responsibilities. Bill C-5 does not address that for first nations. Again we wonder why non-first nations would have this function that is taken apart so that there is not any conflict of interest. This was simply outside the scope of the bill that was presented to us, so we were not able to amend it to include those aspects that the Stoney Nakoda raised.
Another very troubling issue was raised when the committee was hearing testimony but because it was outside of the scope of the bill we could not propose amendments.
In an article back in February, entitled “Trust policy hurts reserves”, it directly goes to the heart of the ability of a first nation to manage its own funds, to invest in economic development and to address some of the poverty issues that face many first nations communities. This court ruling that came out highlighted some of the challenges facing first nations when it comes to the management of their own funds. This article states:
Twenty years ago, the Ermineskin and Samson First Nations in Alberta began the most costly legal battle in Canadian history and now it has come to a crashing end.
They went all the way to the Supreme Court and in the end, the court sided with the government. The case, which cost the bands legal fees in excess of $100 million, was launched more than 20 years ago over the federal government's mishandling of their trust funds. The two bands alleged they had lost close to $2 billion in investment revenue because the Department of Indian Affairs had held the money in trust without any investment.
Later on in the article it states:
The money placed in trust earned Bank of Canada savings interest rate, which averaged around three to six per cent. The Government of Canada then used the money as a part of its consolidated revenue fund. Indian monies became a cheap source of revenue for Canadian governments.
But in the end, the Supreme Court sided with the government. They stated the Department of Indian Affairs had followed the Indian Act. Unfortunately the court made the decision because the Indian Act is the only piece of legislation the department has to follow when handling First Nations funds.
This issue did come before the committee. It was raised by the Stoney Nakoda and by the Montana First Nations. It is a very serious issue but, again, it was outside the scope of the bill to actually deal with that. The problem we are facing is that the federal government has a fiduciary responsibility. What happened in this case is that the government managed these royalties on behalf of first nations communities.
In the case that we are talking about, although the investments are significantly different now, we knew at the time that the federal government was investing the money at significantly higher rates of return. It paid the first nations the minimum amount it was required to and then invested the rest of the money and made far more money. The federal government benefited from the first nations royalty money, which simply unacceptable.
Although some of the responses were that first nations had an opportunity under other legislation to take over management of it, the fact was that the government had a responsibility to those communities to share that money in a much more reasonable way. Although the Supreme Court had to side with the government simply because of the Indian Act, it does not make it morally right, fair or just.
I am hopeful, because the light has now been shone on this kind of practice, we will see some changes that ensure first nations directly benefit from the resources on their own lands.
The NDP will be supporting the legislation and monitoring very closely, through the amendment proposed by the NDP, which was accepted.
Indian Oil and Gas Act
April 2nd, 2009 / 4:25 p.m.
Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC
Madam Speaker, I would like to say right away that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Indian Oil and Gas Act.
Although imperfect, the bill will provide the tools needed to harmonize the laws and regulations on reserve lands with those that apply in the provinces in which the reserves are located. During study in committee, the Bloc Québécois asked for further clarification of the terms and conditions surrounding the authorization to issue replacement leases for lands added to reserves and subsequently of the permits granted by the federal government for oil and gas exploration or exploitation.
As a result of the work done in committee, the Bloc Québécois does not think that the bill needs any amendments. In addition, the bill is the result of a consultation procedure the government conducted through Indian Oil and Gas Canada and with the cooperation of the Indian Resource Council, which consulted most of the oil and gas producing first nations as well as 130 band councils in 2002 and 2003.
This bill is the product, therefore, of a consensus of the 130 members of the Indian Resource Council and any amendments to it would require another period of consultations.
That being said, the Government of Canada should not use Bill C-5 to avoid its fiduciary responsibility for first nations. It is incumbent upon the government to correct the inequalities between aboriginals and non-aboriginals.
To be sure we are talking about the right thing, I will provide a summary of the bill.
The bill amends the Indian Oil and Gas Act to clarify and expand the existing regulation-making powers and to add new ones, particularly with respect to licences, permits and leases for the exploration and exploitation of oil and gas on reserve lands and the determination and payment of oil and gas royalties. It also puts in place sanctions for contraventions of the act as well as provisions for its enforcement.
In order for us to fully grasp the scope of the bill and the need for it, I would like to provide a bit of the historical background that brought us to this point.
For more than 20 years, studies and discussions have been going on to establish a new financial relationship between the first nations and the Government of Canada.
Already in 1983, the report of the House of Commons’ Special Committee on Indian Self-Government, the Penner report, recommended that the fiscal relationship between the Government of Canada and the first nations should be redefined.
In 1996, the final report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which was also known as the Erasmus-Dussault Commission, as you will recall, also recommended a full review of the fiscal relationship between the federal government and the first nations. The proposed initiative focused on redefining this relationship within a broader context based on first nations self-government. The Tlicho self-government act is an example of this.
The First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act, which came into effect on April 1, 2006, just over three years ago now, was one of the first steps in this new fiscal relationship between the first nations and the federal government.
This optional law contains two new provisions: the first makes it possible for first nations to manage and regulate oil and gas activities on reserves; the second, to manage funds held in trust for them by Canada.
A first nation can choose either option. In other words, it need not own oil or gas to become responsible for managing these monies.
This legislation will change the way oil and gas are developed, and it will allow first nations able to do so to develop these resources on their own land. Previously, first nations had to comply with the Indian Oil and Gas Act and its regulations, which did not allow them to manage these resources directly.
The First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act allows first nations that choose to do so to be excluded from the application of the Indian Oil and Gas Act and its regulations.
That act, the Indian Oil and Gas Act, is the legislation governing exploration and exploitation of oil and gas resources on reserve land. This legislation does not allow first nations to manage the oil and gas resources on their land directly, nor does it allow them to develop an appropriate regulatory framework.
As I said, the First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act is a very important legislative measure. Since 2006, it has allowed first nations, if they so choose, to create regulations concerning oil and gas exploration and conservation, on the spending of moneys derived from the exploitation of these resources, and on the protection of the environment.
As for regulations to protect the environment, those established by first nations will have to at least meet the standards of Quebec or the province in which the aboriginal community is located.
In terms of managing their finances, those first nations choosing to come under this new legislative framework will be subject to different regulations regarding “Indian moneys”. This is currently defined in the Indian Act as all moneys collected, received or held by Her Majesty for the use and benefit of Indians or bands.
For these first nations, the provisions of the Indian Act will no longer apply. They will therefore be able to manage the amounts collected directly, rather than letting them be managed by the federal government. As a result, they will be able to make their own choices for investment in their communities instead of letting the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development dictate priorities to them. Auditor General Sheila Fraser pointed out in her 2004 report that this department is not doing a good job of administering the billions of dollars intended for the aboriginal communities.
If a first nation does not feel it would be advantageous to come under the new legislative regime, the current standards will continue to apply to it, so it will continue to benefit from the provisions of the Indian Act, including those that apply to the administration of Indian moneys.
Bill C-5 , which is incidentally identical to Bill C-63 and Bill C-5 , which died on the order paper June 17, 2008, and December 3, 2008, respectively, amends the Indian Oil and Gas Act. It is important to point out that oil is defined in the act as “a mixture of hydrocarbons that can be recovered from a well in liquid form, with the exception of condensate”.
At present, the First Nations that have oil and gas resources but do not manage them under the 2006 act must leave the management of those resources to Indian Oil and Gas Canada (IOGC), a government agency which reports to the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.
IOGC is mandated to manage and administer the exploration and exploitation of oil and natural gas resources on Indian reserve land. IOGC promotes their development and ensures that royalties are appropriately paid to the first nations. However the Indian Oil and Gas Act has not been amended since it was passed in 1974. It is true that the Indian Oil and Gas Regulations of 1995 have been passed, but those regulations are inadequate to deal with the evolution of the market since 1974.
Faced with an increasingly complex industry, the provinces have constantly modernized their oil and gas legislation. That is why the federal government is today deciding to modernize the act, so as to bring it more in line with reality and the various legislative enactments of the provinces.
This bill will apply to reserves that were not granted rights under the First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act. Hence it will apply to the first nations that are subject to the Indian Oil and Gas Act. Some 200 first nations produce or could produce oil and gas. At this time over 80% of this type of activity takes place, as one might guess, in Alberta. In 2005-06, over $270 million in oil and gas revenue was collected by IOGC on behalf of about 60 first nations that are signatories of development agreements in effect.
The purpose of the bill is to level the playing field between these industries’ on-reserve and off-reserve activities with the support of provincial legislation, in order to: reduce barriers to the economic development of the first nations; guarantee environmental protection on the reserves, something that is extremely important; and allow the government to better fulfill its industry management obligations to first nations through regulatory compliance and through the collection of royalties and other forms of applicable compensation.
Under the Indian Act, oil and gas revenues are collected by the federal government for subsequent full redistribution to the peoples concerned. These revenues are defined in the act as “Indian moneys”, and from them flows the federal government’s responsibility as trustee.
This bill does not have the effect of transferring the federal government’s power of management and administration of the exploration and production of oil and gas resources on first nations reserve land. Its purpose is to update the Indian Oil and Gas Act and to harmonize the federal act with legislation in the provinces where first nations communities are located.
This incorporation of provincial laws and regulations will in no way either detract from or add to provincial jurisdiction, as for example with the harmonization of reserve environmental plans with provincial requirements.
The bill replaces almost all of the provisions of the existing six-section Indian Oil and Gas Act and includes a number of matters that are currently provided for in the Indian Oil and Gas Regulations, 1995.
Bill C-5 expands the Governor in Council's existing regulation-making powers and adds new ones, particularly with respect to licences, permits and leases for the exploration and exploitation of oil and gas on reserve lands. The bill also makes changes in respect of the limitation period for actions to collect amounts owing and the determination of royalty payments.
It puts in place sanctions for contraventions of the act as well as provisions for its enforcement comprising fines and penalties, a remedy for trespass, environmental protection clauses and authority to issue replacement leases for lands added to reserves.
It would be interesting to have more information about lands added to reserves and to know what measures are being put forward in negotiations with the provinces. For example, what is meant by expanding the Governor in Council's regulation-making powers and how will the provinces be consulted before regulations are introduced? Even though the bill states that these lands have been absolutely surrendered under the Indian Act or the First Nations Land Management Act, it would be interesting to get some clarification about the negotiation process with the provinces and obtaining a permit on these added lands.
The bill also requires the minister to undertake ongoing consultations with the first nations involved with respect to negotiations with industry. The new section 6(1.1) states that: The Governor in Council may, by regulation:
(a) require that a power of the Minister under this Act in relation to first nation lands be exercised only if prior approval of the council of the first nation is obtained, if the council is first consulted or if prior notice is given to the council, as the case may be;
(b) require that any such power of the Minister be exercised only if prior consent is given by any first nation member who is in lawful possession of the first nation lands; and
(c) require that notice be given to the council of the first nation after the Minister exercises any such power.
As far as consultations prior to introduction of the bill are concerned, we need to know that through Indian Oil and Gas Canada, and in cooperation with the Indian Resource Council, the government consulted most oil-producing first nations and 130 band councils in 2002 and 2003.
The Indian Resource Council was founded in 1987 to represent first nations' collective oil and gas interests with both government and industry. More than 130 first nations in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick and the Northwest Territories are members. Six non-producing first nations in Quebec are also members: the Odanak Abenakis; the Natashquan Innus; the Kanesatake Mohawks; the Gesgapegiag Micmacs; the Kahnawake Mohawks; and the Wôlinak Abenakis.
Some Indian Resource Council members are dissatisfied with certain aspects of the bill, but on the whole, the council is happy with the bill and the consultations that took place.
Indian Oil and Gas Act
April 2nd, 2009 / 4:20 p.m.
Bruce Stanton Simcoe North, ON
Madam Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his comments and his and his party's support for this important bill.
The member will know through the course of our discussions in committee that one of the features that was discussed about Bill C-5 was the notion that this bill in fact builds a foundation for a continuous improvement regarding the needs that first nations communities would have going forward, knowing that the landscape in the energy business is going to change in the future. This bill would, at the very least, enable a building of a foundation for that going forward.
I wonder if he could comment on the extent to which he believes this bill gives us that ability.
Indian Oil and Gas Act
April 2nd, 2009 / 4:15 p.m.
Todd Russell Labrador, NL
Madam Speaker, there is no doubt there have been extensive discussions. There have been tens, if not hundreds, of meetings relative to this particular bill or the Indian Oil and Gas Act generally.
The parliamentary secretary is probably right that we can sometimes disagree on the level of consultations or what constitutes consultations.
However, I believe that we would not be here today discussing Bill C-5 at third reading if generally all of the stakeholders did not agree that we had arrived at a point where adequate talks and consultations had taken place.
It is my sense that while there is give and take in any type of consultation and negotiation, we have arrived at a bill which parties can accept. We heard in committee, for instance, that Indian Oil and Gas Canada might have sought various changes or various things to be added in or taken out. The Indian Resource Council of Canada has also testified that it may have looked for stronger language in certain areas or for a clause to be put in or a clause to be taken out. However, both parties have indicated that there was compromise.
We, in the Liberal Party, are satisfied that it is a compromise bill. It is not perfect, but it will achieve certain objectives, such as facilitating the development of oil and gas on reserve, giving first nations a hand up, and providing more clarity regarding the regulatory regime.
We will be supporting the bill as we have throughout the legislative process thus far.