Northern Jobs and Growth Act

An Act to enact the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act and the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Sponsor

John Duncan  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

Part 1 enacts the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act, which implements certain provisions of Articles 10 to 12 of the land claims agreement between the Inuit of the Nunavut Settlement Area and Her Majesty the Queen in right of Canada that was ratified, given effect and declared valid by the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act, which came into force on July 9, 1993.

Part 2 enacts the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board Act, which implements provisions of certain land claim agreements. In particular, that Act establishes the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board, whose purpose is to resolve matters in dispute relating to terms and conditions of access to lands and waters in the Northwest Territories and the compensation to be paid in respect of that access.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Northern Jobs and Growth Act
Government Orders

March 4th, 2013 / noon
See context

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Nunavut, NU

moved that, the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, Canadians recognize that Canada's north plays a fundamental role in the wellbeing of our country. In fact, the north is poised to lead the country in terms of GDP growth in the next two years. The prosperity, security and environmental health of the north will go a long way toward determining the ongoing prosperity, security and environmental health of the entire country.

Given its essential role in Canada's present and future, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the north is a leading priority for our government. As the Prime Minister has often pointed out, Canada's north is a higher priority for our government than it has ever been under any past governments.

Many Canadians often think of the northern regions of this great country in terms of raw, untamed and resilient land, beautiful in its diversity, yet harsh and unforgiving. Our northern lands are all of these things, but also much more. The north is home to thousands who rely upon the land and upon the resources of the north for their livelihood and their future.

The parliamentary secretary for aboriginal affairs and CanNor was today speaking at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada's aboriginal forum, entitled “Promoting Excellence in Engagement”. Through events like this aboriginal forum, ways can be found to promote successful aboriginal participation in the mineral industry. We all benefit from sustainable and strategic development of natural resources in Canada.

We recognize that the ecosystems that survive in the north are delicate and must be protected for those who depend upon them. The cornerstone to ensuring the preservation of these delicate ecosystems is sound resource management based on principles and practices of sustainable use.

Part 1 of Bill C-47 is the Nunavut planning and project assessment act, which I believe will provide the people of Nunavut with the tools to plan and assess land, water and resource use in a responsible and sustainable manner. I believe the bill will empower the people of Nunavut to manage their own land and resource development in order to fuel strong, healthy and self-reliant communities.

Indeed, I am convinced that the bill would help the people of Nunavut make planning and project assessment decisions that would not only lead to greater economic development of the territory's land and resources, but also enable them to protect their environment and preserve a precious and unique natural heritage for future generations.

The importance of that balance between environment and development can be found in the preamble to part 1, where we clearly express our commitment to responsible economic development and protection of northern ecosystems while promoting the interests of Inuit, northerners and all Canadians. Our government is determined to ensure that responsible economic development and healthy ecosystems would both feature in Nunavut's future.

The Nunavut planning and project assessment act would provide the tools to achieve this goal. It will encourage community growth and prosperity and help ensure our land, water and air are safe and clean. It will assist in developing exciting new projects and preserving wildlife. It will encourage economic development and safeguard the environment.

The Nunavut planning and project assessment act will include three critical elements that would make this balance between environment and development possible.

The first element is land use planning.

Bill C-47 would set out a clear and comprehensive framework for land use planning. Effective planning starts with the development of priorities, policies and objectives, which would provide the foundation for that plan. In Nunavut, these priorities, policies and objectives were developed by the Nunavut Planning Commission in partnership with both the Government of Nunavut and the Government of Canada. This partnership allowed for a balance of local, regional and indeed national interests in the development of land use plans.

As development of the land use plan proceeds, extensive consultations will be undertaken. While much of the consultation will focus on the community level, Bill C-47 also ensures a balanced perspective by directing the commission to solicit the views of other stakeholders, including interested corporations, organizations and Canadians.

It is also important to note that the balanced approach to the development of priorities, policies and objectives in the land use planning stages will extend to the approval stage. In addition to requiring approval by the Government of Nunavut and the Government of Canada, land use plans will also require the approval of the Inuit leadership.

The second element that makes the balance between environmental protection and economic development possible is the single entry model for project assessment. Under this approach, development projects enter the system through a project description submitted to the Nunavut Planning Commission. The commission ensures that all development projects are guided by, and conform to, the land use plan.

Project proposals that are accepted by the commission are then sent to the Nunavut Impact Review Board, where they are subject to environmental assessment. The board carefully examines each project to ensure the ecosystem is protected and the wellbeing of Nunavummiut is also protected, while at the same time taking into account the wellbeing of all Canadians. In Nunavut, we truly implement the one project-one review principle. The board is also responsible for preparing project certificates for successful projects. These certificates set out the terms and conditions of projects which have been approved by the responsible regulatory minister.

I should point out that this part of the bill allows the Nunavut Impact Review Board to coordinate the environmental review process with the Nunavut Water Board, which manages the water licensing process. This will further strengthen the environmental scrutiny of potential projects while providing greater efficiency of process. In the end, a single entry model provides an effective, efficient and fully integrated process for considering project proposals, from the beginning of the planning process to the regulatory approval.

Finally, the Nunavut planning and project assessment act would ensure the balance between protecting the environment and allowing resource development to be maintained through strong enforcement provisions. It prescribes a robust enforcement scheme to help ensure that proponents follow precise requirements for both the land use plan and the approved project certificates after an environmental assessment.

An important feature of Bill C-47 is the balance between the requirement for the Nunavut Planning Commission and the Nunavut Impact Review Board to provide regulators and project proponents with clear objective determinations, recommendations, and terms and conditions. These parameters allow all partners to fully understand their respective responsibilities and obligations during project development and the enforcement provisions that proponents would be subject to. When the rules and consequences are clearly set out, proponents will have the confidence to invest in Nunavut knowing that the ground will not be shifting under them.

Combined, these three key elements, effective land use planning, a one project-one review model for project assessment, and robust enforcement, would enable Canada and the people of Nunavut to strike a healthy balance between encouraging economic development and safeguarding the environment.

With respect to part 2 of the bill, the Northwest Territories surface rights board act would fulfill the Government of Canada's obligation under the Gwich’in comprehensive land claim agreement and the Sahtu Dene and Métis comprehensive land claim agreement. Both agreements refer specifically to the need for a surface rights board. The establishment of the board is also consistent with the Inuvialuit final agreement and the Tlicho land claims and self-government agreement, which are the other two comprehensive land claims in the Northwest Territories.

The Tlicho agreement allows for the establishment of a surface rights board. The Inuvialuit final agreement specifies that any interim measures related to access across Inuvialuit land to reach adjacent lands would be replaced when a law of general application, such as this bill, is enacted.

The board is authorized to resolve disputes between holders of surface and subsurface rights and the owner or occupants of surface lands when agreements on terms, conditions and compensation for access cannot be reached by the parties in question. The board will have jurisdiction to resolve access disputes through the Northwest Territories. The board will, on application, make orders related to terms, conditions and compensations only where it has been requested to do so and only after such rights have been previously issued. In so doing, this board would contribute to greater certainty and predictability for long-term economic growth and job creation in the territory.

In setting up the Northwest Territories surface rights board, we believe Bill C-47 would create a clear, consistent, uniform process for resolving disputes related to lawful access to lands and resources in a manner that is fair and respectful of the rights held by aboriginal peoples and all northerners. That is not all. Since orders of the Northwest Territories surface rights board would be final and binding, rights holders, landowners and occupants would have a powerful incentive to negotiate and agree on terms, conditions and compensation for access that would benefit all parties, and in turn contribute to greater certainty and predictability.

Bill C-47 would fulfill the Government of Canada's legislative obligations flowing from the negotiated land claims in both Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. It proposes mechanisms to improve regulatory processes, encourage investment and allow resources to be developed in a sustainable manner. This would lead to jobs and benefits for future generations of Canadians.

One of our key priorities is ensuring a stronger, more dynamic economy for northern families and businesses. This bill was made in the north. We consulted with northerners, for northerners. The Nunavut planning and project assessment act is the result of open and widely held negotiations, discussions and consultations with the government of Nunavut, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Nunavut Planning Commission and the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

Consultations on the development of the Northwest Territories surface rights board act were extensive, as well. As I mentioned earlier, this bill would respond to our last legislative obligation from the Gwich’in and Sahtu land claims agreements and complete a regulatory regime that was originally envisioned in the Northwest Territories land claims agreements. This bill would ensure that further developments in the north are reviewed in a timely, clear and predictable manner. It would ensure that appropriate measures would be taken to protect fragile northern ecosystems, that those measures would be enforced, and that northerners and Canadians will enjoy the benefits of responsible resource development.

I can assure the House and all Canadians that we in this government are committed to creating a strong and prosperous north that realizes its resource potential while safeguarding its environmental health and heritage. Every day we uphold our pledge by working with northerners. This includes decisive, prudent actions for general greater economic development in the north, so that northerners prosper from the growth of northern businesses, skills and employment.

What specific recent advancements have been made to spur sustainable economic development in the north? The list is long. We have made economic development a central element of Canada's northern strategy. We have invested in the people of the north through programs like the northern adult basic education program, which was announced last year. We have taken firm steps to improve the system and processes we use to manage the exploration, stewardship and development of northern resources.

In May 2010, our government's action plan to improve the northern regulatory regime was announced. We have used our economic action plan to make hundreds of millions of dollars worth of targeted northern investments, to build infrastructure, undertake research, promote tourism and help young Canadians develop vital job skills. We have established the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and the northern projects management office to make sure investments are managed and delivered effectively.

Bill C-47 would greatly contribute to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of project management in the north. For projects in Nunavut, there would be no more overlapping and inconsistent processes, no more ad hoc procedures and shifting requirements, and no more duplications and delays.

For resource right holders seeking lawful access to resources in the Northwest Territories, the establishment of the surface rights board has potential to improve timely access to surface and subsurface resources. It would also increase the predictability and consistency of the northern resource management regime, which in turn would lead to long-term economic growth and job creation in the territories.

Many northerners remain closely tied to the land and the waters of the north, some for their livelihood, some for their very survival. The bill, if passed, will put in place legislated land use planning and environmental assessment processes in Nunavut that respect the northern environment and the distinct needs of the people who live there. In the Northwest Territories it will establish a clear balance and fair dispute settlement mechanism for access disputes for all Northwest Territories that is respectful of the rights of the aboriginal people and all northerners.

For generations, the people of the north have carefully managed their land, water and other resources. It is our duty as government, as parliamentarians and as legislators to ensure that the promising potential of economic prosperity in the north is managed in a sustainable fashion that protects the environment and unique ecosystem in the north. I urge my hon. colleagues to support Bill C-47.

Northern Jobs and Growth Act
Government Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-47 impacts both the constituencies that I and the minister represent. One of the issues with the bill is the fact that these very different entities were not treated with respect and given separate bills for the purposes of carrying on this discussion and to ensure that the issues inherent in such complex bills were well established in Parliament.

Land use planning is a very important element in the bill and I agree with the minister that this is important in the Northwest Territories. In the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, we have had a section on land use planning since its creation. Unfortunately, no land use plans have yet been put in place through that process, so the land use planning is much retarded.

We heard presentations from the Nunavut Planning Commission, which indicated that when the bill was passed with the kind of single entry approach, with the resources now had available to it, it would likely be in contravention of the act going forward.

The government is not putting forward the dollars to do environmental assessments. We saw that the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board—

Northern Jobs and Growth Act
Government Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, as I stated very clearly in my comments, the legislation supports the implementation of the land claims agreement in place. Northerners want development and clear and concise time frames identified in the environmental review processes, and the bill does that.

In terms of resources, the member mentions there are provisions in place where the organizations go forward with work plans. They submit those work plans to the federal government that determines their budget allocations based on projects.

Northern Jobs and Growth Act
Government Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to explain for the minister that northerners who came before our committee did not feel that they had been listened to. In fact, the NTI worked very hard on comprehensive amendments to ensure that the language in the bill would mirror the language in the land claims and they were not accepted by the government.

As my colleague from the Northwest Territories said, the planning commission said that it would not be able to enact this legislation without additional funding and the government refused to accept any amendment that would allow for real participant funding or a five-year review. It is clear that with the concerns and the amendments put forward by northerners, which were not accepted by the government, there seems to be a need to at least review the legislation in five years.

Why did Conservatives not listen to the northerners at committee?

Northern Jobs and Growth Act
Government Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, the legislation has been in the works for a long time. I was on the Nunavut Impact Review Board when that party was in government and introduced an unacceptable bill under this provision.

Over the last few years, our government has consulted with northerners. We have worked very closely with Nunavut Tunngavik, the Nunavut government and the Nunavut Impact Review Board, as well as stakeholders. We were able to agree to many of the recommendations that came forward, but there were some that we could not.

Most of the recommendations that came forward from all parties were incorporated into the legislation now before us. I believe it draws a balance on what is the land claims agreement and it also does not change the language of the land claims agreement. We have accepted all the recommendations going forward that would be appropriate.

Northern Jobs and Growth Act
Government Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, it is so vitally important to the Canadian economy that we have the opportunity in an environmentally responsible way to develop the north.

I grew up in a northern community, in fact in Fort McMurray, Alberta, where natural resources coupled with the environment made it just a fabulous place to grow a family, but also ensured that we contributed to the Canadian economy.

This is new legislation moving forward to build the Canadian economy in the north. Could the minister comment on the specific economic benefits that we will see as a result of the legislation on which she and her colleagues have worked so hard on and have held many consultations?

Northern Jobs and Growth Act
Government Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, northerners want to move forward in development. Northerners want jobs and want to see young people taking advantage of the training opportunities that come with development.

Yesterday we were at the PTAC conference in Toronto where we met many companies that were working with northerners and putting forward projects. It is important that we move quickly to ensure there is legislation in place that identifies predictable timelines and that allows greater certainty for businesses.

I have seen development in the north first hand. Just outside of Baker Lake we have a gold mine that opened in the middle of a global recession. The Agnico-Eagle company hired approximately 400 or 500 people. That community of Baker Lake had an unemployment rate of about 60% prior to the mining coming into force. Through the partnerships that the mining company established with the community and with the Inuit of that region, we were able to reduce the unemployment rate of Baker Lake to 4% in a very short period of time. People are working. Young people are working.

More northerners want to take advantage of those opportunities. Therefore, it is very important that we support the bill to allow that.

Northern Jobs and Growth Act
Government Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 12:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was evident during the committee hearings that changes should have been made to the legislation.

Maybe the minister could tell us why the Conservatives voted down every amendment that was put forward. We put forward 50 amendments, and they were all voted down. These amendments were put forward by the witnesses. They were the ones who wanted the changes, because they were the ones who had to deal with the legislation.

Is the minister concerned that including land claims areas still under dispute in the legislation could lead to legal action, in particular, Dehcho and Akaitcho territories? What doe she have to say about the fact that there are still some concerns? We tried to put forward an amendment asking that it be reviewed within 4 or 5 years, as opposed to 10 years, to ensure organizations would not have their hands tied and that the legislation actually worked properly.

Could the minister elaborate on my questions?

Northern Jobs and Growth Act
Government Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 12:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, as I said, the work relating to drafting the legislation has been years in the making.

I was on the Nunavut Impact Review Board when a draft bill was presented to our board without ever talking to any board member or without ever looking at the land claims agreement. There were many problems associated with the bill presented to northerners without any discussion or consultations with them, the governments or even the board. Clearly, it was against some of the provisions of the land claims agreements.

Through this process of consultation in developing the bill, a number of recommendations were put forward by a number of stakeholders and organizations. We worked with them for over two years to draft the bill. Many of those provisions were incorporated, but there were some areas on which we did not come to a consensus.

At the end of the day, the language is still consistent with the land claims agreements.

Northern Jobs and Growth Act
Government Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 12:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-47, An Act to enact the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act and the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts. I will not use the wildly inaccurate short title the Conservatives have dreamed up for this bill, because this is a bill that speaks to more than simply job creation.

The bill affects two regions of the country that are moving toward more self-determination at all times, two regions of the country that are settling their land claims in a good fashion with the opportunities that come with settled land claims.

We have a situation in the Northwest Territories where aboriginal governments and public governments have to get along. We have to learn how to get along and how to work together.

In Nunavut there is a single government that represents all the inhabitants of Nunavut, one land claim. Its job is slighty less complex than that of the Northwest Territories, but both are working very hard to achieve unique and satisfactory arrangements between the constitutionally entrenched rights of first nations and Inuit and the rights of public government that are held by all of us.

Bill C-47 was shown in committee to be very flawed. The Conservative member for Mississauga South said about it at committee, “No one got exactly what they wanted from this legislation”. None of the people in the north who wanted to see the legislation go forward got what they wanted.

The bill is so flawed that the Conservative member for Palliser said, “None of the stakeholders involved in the development of the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act got everything they wanted in the bill”.

Why is that? This is a bill for those people. This is a bill for the people of Nunavut to deal with their rights going forward. Why did they not get what they wanted? What was the problem?

This is a bill so poorly executed that the Conservative member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River said, “Nobody, including industry, got everything they wanted in this legislation”.

The bill is going forward in a flawed fashion. It is an essential bill. It is a bill that is needed by Nunavut, especially, for its requirements for the legislation from this Parliament. It needs this. It has been waiting for this for a long time.

Committee witness after committee witness brought forward numerous mistakes Conservatives made in developing the bill, but they chose to ignore those. They chose not to address amendments. They simply voted them down, one after another.

As Chief Roy Fabian of the Kátl'odeeche First Nation in the Northwest Territories said of the process used to develop this legislation, “It is extremely frustrating to attend meetings and express concerns, provide recommendations to address the concerns, and then see that input ignored”. Who knows better what is good for the north than those who reside in the Conservative headquarters in Ottawa?

Because the bill was so badly drafted, the opposition put forward 50 amendments to fix these mistakes and 49 of those amendments were recommended by various stakeholders. The 50th, which was another one, was based on wording from the parliamentary secretary who attended meetings in Yellowknife, substituting the word “and” for “or” in the legislation when he talked about the use and the understanding of traditional knowledge by those who were to be appointed to the board. We wanted to clarify that, but the Conservatives would not accept that either.

Let us look at some of the amendments we have put forward.

There were two amendments that would ensure the Nunavut Planning Commission would hold public hearings as part of its review of an application. This amendment was requested by Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated. It provided for transparency of process, which would make the commission more accountable. What is wrong with that?

There was an amendment making clear that projects approved under one land use plan would be grandfathered and would remain unaffected by changes or amendments to a land use plan. This amendment was requested by the NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines. People in the industry wanted assurance when they went forward with a project that they would not be blind-sided later on by changes to any land use planning. Why would the Conservatives turn this down?

There are amendments replacing the vague word “opinion” with the word “determined”. These changes would have strengthened the language of the act. The amendment was requested by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the land claims group that worked so hard to establish its homeland in Nunavut. Its ideas for the bill were turned down.

There was an amendment that would require the board to have a participant funding program. By providing participant funding, the review process would be more efficient and economical. This amendment was requested both by NTI and by the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

We all know that in the north, communities that want to talk about projects that are going forward on their land are separated by large distances. It is very expensive to travel. The ability to get expert witnesses in front of a board to deal with these issues is absolutely imperative for these communities so that they can deal with the difficult questions that come out of projects of the magnitude we have seen proposed in Nunavut. This amendment would have guaranteed participant funding for those groups. It was turned down as well.

Another amendment from the NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines would require that the act be reviewed by a committee of Parliament five years after it came into force. This was pretty straightforward. If 50 amendments came forward to us on the precise nature of the changes required to make the act work better, and all of them were rejected, would one not think it would be appropriate to provide a review process after five years? I sat on the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board when it was first set up. It was quite clear within two or three years of being put into practice what changes to that legislation were required.

We have a situation such that we will not have a review. The review is not going to take place. This legislation is going to be stuck. The opportunity to bring it back to Parliament will require political support from whatever government is in power at the time. It will have to be put back on the agenda to get some changes made. That is really not very good.

There was the amendment restricting the NWT surface rights board's jurisdiction to lands outside municipal boundaries. It provided certainty to municipalities that have planned for land use inside their own communities. This amendment was requested by the NWT Association of Communities and also by the non-governmental organization Alternatives North. It was a simple amendment that would have allowed municipalities to deal with their land in an appropriate fashion without having the strange situation that can come up when there are mineral claims within municipal boundaries.

Finally, and this is not finally in terms of all the amendments made but is the final one I am going to talk about, there was an amendment giving authority to the NWT surface rights board to require financial security to ensure compliance with its orders. This amendment was requested, once again, by Alternatives North. This comes from the practices we have had over the years. We have seen the results if we do not insist on financial security on behalf of the companies that want to use the land. We do not have to be told that this is a bad idea. This is a good idea. This would give certainty to everyone involved in the process.

All of these amendments went down and continue to go down. Discussion by Conservatives on the committee was practically nil. They did not want to talk about it. They were not instructed to talk about it. It really is an unfortunate fact of this legislation.

I could go on and on about these amendments, but I will now move on to the bill itself.

Parts of the bill implement long-standing commitments Canada has made under land claims agreements, most of them signed in the 90s, some under the Mulroney government and some under the Liberal government. It should really have been the Liberals who developed the legislation as part of the land claims implementation process. However, like so many other things, the Liberals just did not get around to it. When they did produce drafts, as the minister has pointed out, they were not successful. Because of the Liberals' failure to complete their work in Nunavut, the land use planning process has been muddling on for 20 years.

Meanwhile, on the other side, in the Northwest Territories, the lack of a surface rights board has had absolutely no impact. In the absence of a surface rights board, an ad hoc system of arbitration panels was set up to deal with land access issues. In their 20-plus years of existence, only one application to resolve an access dispute has been filed, but it did not even proceed. In fact, even with this legislation in place, it would be unlikely that the board would be used. As the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs said to the committee: “[I]t probably won't be asked to do very much”.

To paraphrase Norman Snowshoe, vice-president of the Gwich'in Tribal Council, testifying at the committee on the bill, what is the rush? Where is the problem? In fact, Mr. Snowshoe went on to say that they could have said more about the bill, but they do not have the resources to do a proper job of analyzing what the government is up to. Most of the other land claims groups and the groups in unsettled areas simply do not have the time to put into the kind of consultation required to determine whether this is in their interests or not.

The government's response is that we need to get this done for devolution. Devolution is an important aspect of moving forward in the north. There is no doubt about that. Certain agreements have to be in place. However, we have time.

The Conservatives chose to lump these two bills together. The surface rights board act probably should have been brought forward at a later time, when more aspects of the devolution deal were fully understood by northerners.

There has been very little public input, to this day, about devolution. When we talk about a bill that has to be done before devolution, we are talking about something that actually impacts on how devolution is going to turn out. Why do we have this rush now to put this in before devolution? Really, it should be part of the devolution discussions. It could have been put into any of the other amendments that are going to be required for devolution at the time devolution comes forward. If the government is serious about devolution and is serious about moving it forward, as it has said, then certainly, the NWT surface rights board act could have been dealt with at that time. It could have been part of that package.

We are really talking about a bill that is dealing with two regions of the country: NWT and Nunavut. If the bill was for these two regions of the country, why did the Conservatives consistently, and without any discussion, ignore all the recommendations for amendments that came forward from the legitimate groups that were witnesses in front of these committees? These were simple amendments. These people were not against the bill. They wanted to ensure that the bill would work correctly and would work for them and their interests. Surely, in this country, we can understand that.

Should the Conservative MPs not have been saying how the people of the north got what they wanted from the legislation rather than that no one got what they wanted? I learned a long time ago that if no one is happy with the job one has done, one has done a poor job. This legislation for Nunavut is required. It is part of what has to happen in Nunavut. The fact that so many of the amendments came from Nunavut says that people in Nunavut are not going to be satisfied in the end with the job the legislation does.

The NWT is close to a devolution agreement, according to press statements, but not according to any public process we have been able to identify that allows people in the Northwest Territories to understand what devolution actually is. However, Nunavut is still a long way from an agreement. Given these differences in where each territory is in the devolution process, why did we bundle the two acts together, implementing vastly different land claims requirements?

As Kevin O'Reilly, of Alternatives North, submitted at committee:

[W]e do not believe that placing several different implementation provisions in one bill is a proper approach. This makes amendments and meaningful debate difficult at best. We would have preferred for separate bills for each land claim area to allow for better consultation and opportunities for improvement.

That is precisely why the government bundled these two acts together. It does not want to hear from Canadians. The Conservatives have an assumption that they are right, that they are the ones in charge, and that their rightness is self-evident. Therefore, every act they have put forward in this new Parliament, with their shiny new majority, is perfect, and anyone who says otherwise is not really a good Canadian. As a northerner and a person who listened to the northerners, I would say that we did not get this bill completely right. We have not dealt with what the northerners want in it.

We have a requirement for this bill, and it will move forward. What gives me hope is that the other day, the Premier of the Northwest Territories indicated in a northern newspaper article that he was under the understanding that the surface rights board act would become NWT legislation after devolution. If that is the case, and it does become legislation that the Northwest Territories legislature can amend, then that act will only be imperfect for as long as the people of the north decide it is. That is a positive aspect. If the devolution agreement goes as the premier said, and the legislation will actually be transferred to the government of the Northwest Territories, then it will be our responsibility to make it work right. I have no doubt that we will do that.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Nunavut in the future. We have no devolution agreement in principle. It is my understanding that a negotiator has been appointed for devolution. That is a good sign. However, there was a negotiator appointed for devolution in the Northwest Territories probably a dozen years ago or more. That is not a hopeful sign for Nunavut. Nunavut needs its say over the legislation it uses in its territory. Let us hope that Nunavut can move forward with devolution as well so that it can make the choices it needs to make for itself.

Northern Jobs and Growth Act
Government Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for the Western Arctic for his eloquent speech on the bill. He obviously has long-time experience working with peoples of the north, both first nations and those who have located there more recently.

I had the privilege of sitting in on one of the committee meetings. The witnesses were raising issues and concerns about their capacity to review projects. They were proud of the fact that they have a consensus-based government in Nunavut and that in many cases, the legislation requires or at least suggests that there be participation. It would be obligatory for plans and optional for policies. I note, in going through the bill, that there is no requirement to provide intervener costs or any kind of participatory funding. The witnesses appeared concerned about that and shared some of their struggles in the past trying to intervene in big projects, such as Mary River, where they were dealing with complex information without assistance.

Could the member speak to whether he thinks the bill could be improved? Perhaps that could be a topic for the review he recommends should occur in five years.

Northern Jobs and Growth Act
Government Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, the topic of participant funding was well understood by all the groups that spoke to us from Nunavut. They understand it was a good idea to include it in there. There was unanimity when we asked the different witnesses if they would support including participant funding in there. We are talking about a population diffused over 33 communities over 1.7 million square kilometres, a huge area. These people need resources to accomplish almost anything: the travel budgets, the need for consultants. The cost of these things goes up dramatically in the north.

We want small communities to respond correctly and appropriately because, if they do not, then confusion just reigns. Without participant funding, we are not going to see the certainty around the projects that we could with participant funding, so it is a very important part of what environmental assessment does.

We know the government is fiscally very conservative. However, was it simply the money that stopped the Conservatives from going along with the participant funding, or was it something else? They would not indicate to us by standing up and speaking to these amendments. There was silence on the other side.

Northern Jobs and Growth Act
Government Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, in response to why the government members did not support opposition amendments at committee, it is important for us to understand that extensive consultation with our aboriginal partners and other stakeholders happened in the Northwest Territories. Accommodations were made for various issues that occurred. Extensive policy discussion and review of legislative language was undertaken. The governments of Nunavik and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated had a chance for their voices to be heard. Both parts of the bill were designed and drafted in accordance with provisions in the land claim agreement in the Northwest Territories and Nunavik. None of the amendments proposed in the bill were required to improve the proposed acts and ensure consistency with existing land claims, so therefore they were not brought forward.

Northern Jobs and Growth Act
Government Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments of my fellow committee member here. However, in reality what we heard from Chief Roy Fabian was somewhat different. He participated in those hearings and said that he really got nothing from them. Interestingly enough, when the parliamentary secretary was talking about whether there should have been aboriginal representation on these committees—which is the case in the Yukon with its surface rights board where there is guaranteed aboriginal participation—the parliamentary secretary indicated that traditional knowledge would be part of it.

However, when we actually read the bill, we found that it was not an absolute. They could either be experienced in land and environment or traditional knowledge. Really what the parliamentary secretary said was a compromise to the aboriginal participation and, out of these sessions that were taking place on consultation, there really turned out to be nothing at all.

Northern Jobs and Growth Act
Government Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, just for some clarification for the member across, here is the exact quote from Chief Roy Fabian, K'atl'odeeche First Nation. He said:

I did deliver a written submission in November 25, 2010 and I do not see any the revisions that we recommended reflected in the Act. This is not in accordance with meaningful consultation. At that time I expressed concern that Canada was simply "going through motions" of consultation and it appears that I was right. I do not see any of the substantive revisions that we recommended in November of 2010 are reflected in the Act. It is extremely frustrating to attend meetings and express concerns, provide recommendations to address the concerns and then see that input ignored.

Just on that note, given the fact that we have seen Idle No More and we continue to see action on Idle No More, when we are looking at the consultation piece here, does my colleague share the view that there was still consultation that could have been made, given the fact that there should have been some amendments? Also, how imperative is it to have a review done before the 10-year term?