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
John Duncan Conservative
Committee Report Presented
Subscribe to a feed of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-47.
Indian Affairs and Northern Development—Main Estimates, 2013–14
Business of Supply
May 9th, 2013 / 6:50 p.m.
Bernard Valcourt Madawaska—Restigouche, NB
Mr. Chair, the northern jobs and growth act, as members may know, would fulfill obligations flowing from land claim agreements, and it would respond also to economic development and needs of northerners, and it would build on our government's commitment to create jobs, new wealth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians.
Bill C-47 would establish in legislation the Nunavut Impact Review Board and the Nunavut Planning Commission, which we know stem from those land agreements, as well as systems for environmental assessment and land use approaches in Nunavut. The bill would also establish the Northwest Territories surface rights board act, which would resolve disputes in cases of access to the land.
Importantly for the member asking the question, because it touches his homeland, Bill C-47 would amend the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act, advancing the objective of the northern strategy. A more predictable regulatory regime would allow northerners to benefit from 24 major resource projects worth more than $38 billion. That is huge. There is a lot of potential there and, with the government as an ally of the north, we will see that development occur.
Indian Affairs and Northern Development—Main Estimates, 2013–14
Business of Supply
May 9th, 2013 / 6:50 p.m.
Ryan Leef Yukon, YT
Mr. Chair, obviously we know no government has done more to advance the interests of Canada's north than we have. I know we will certainly continue to do so. We introduced the northern jobs and growth act to allow northerners to benefit from projects in mining, oil, gas, transportation and other businesses across the north and across Canada.
Could the minister tell us briefly how Bill C-47 fits into the broader northern regulatory initiative and what this means for the future regulatory improvements?
Indian Affairs and Northern Development—Main Estimates, 2013–14
Business of Supply
May 9th, 2013 / 6:35 p.m.
Ryan Leef Yukon, YT
Mr. Chair, I will be using the first 10 minutes of my time to speak and the last 5 minutes to pose questions for the minister.
Before I begin, I would like to congratulate the minister on his position. As a northern member of Parliament, I have had numerous opportunities to speak directly with the minister and I thank him for his availability to his northern MPs and for his willingness to work on northern issues directly with me and my other colleagues.
I also appreciate this opportunity to take part in today's debate. I would like to discuss Canada's northern strategy, its achievements and its benefits to residents of our north.
Since the government's 2007 Speech from the Throne, we announced Canada's northern strategy, which outlined an overarching vision for the north. It focused on four priority areas: strengthening Canada's sovereignty, protecting our environmental heritage, promoting economic and social development and improving and developing governance.
The north is a special and iconic place for Canadians, majestic in its vast geography and magnificent in its wildlife. It is a homeland for many aboriginal people and possesses world-class natural resource wealth.
Northerners are at the heart of the northern strategy. Our government is committed to ensuring that a strong and prosperous north helps shape the future of our nation. Every Canadian can take pride in the progress we continue to make on issues of importance for people living in the north and for the future of our country.
Since 2007, Canada has made significant investments to improve social and economic development in the north, one of the key pillars of the northern strategy. Today I will touch on a few of the significant achievements that allow us to achieve our full potential.
The northern jobs and growth act would contribute to the Government of Canada's plan to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity by making improvements to the review process for major resource projects. The overly complex regulatory environment in the north has been repeatedly identified as a major source of frustration for those invested in our resources. Northern regulatory processes have often resulted in delayed regulatory decisions. These delays have discouraged new investors and undermined the economic viability of major projects. To be globally competitive, northern regulatory processes need to provide for timely, efficient and effective project reviews. At the same time, these processes also need to ensure strengthened environmental protection and respect aboriginal consultation obligations.
For residents of Nunavut, the northern jobs and growth act would mean improvement to the regulatory regime, which would provide a highly efficient single-entry system and would enshrine the concept of a one project, one review approach for major project proposals. These improvements would add clarity and predictability to the land use planning and environmental assessment process in Nunavut.
In the Northwest Territories, the northern jobs and growth act would mean a new Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board. It would have jurisdiction throughout the Northwest Territories to resolve disputes over the terms and conditions and over compensation for access to land when an agreement cannot be reached by the parties through negotiation or mediation, thereby providing predictable conclusions to reaching those agreements.
The northern jobs and growth act would also respond to the call for action from resource companies and Canadians asking for better coordination and clearly defined time periods for project reviews, more streamlined and predictable review processes, and improved regulatory approvals. Bill C-47 would help make these a reality and in turn would contribute to resource wealth and create economic opportunities for individuals and communities that would benefit not only northerners but all Canadians. Our government's aim is a northern regulatory regime that would be more effective and predictable, while safeguarding the environmental health and heritage of the region and including meaningful aboriginal consultation.
The northern jobs and growth act is an important part of moving forward with the Government of Canada's northern strategy. It would support social and economic development, it would protect the north's sensitive environment, and it would uphold Canada's responsibilities under modern land claim and self-government agreements. With an improved regulatory regime, northerners would have an efficient and effective system now and for future generations.
I would now like to touch on the important work being done by CanNor, the economic development agency for Canada's north. It is also supporting the social and economic pillar of the northern strategy. CanNor works with its many partners to develop a diversified, sustainable and dynamic economy for northerners and aboriginal people across Canada's three territories. It does this by delivering programs, building partnerships and incorporating the activities of other federal departments, particularly as they relate to resource development in the north.
Our government is also continuing its important work under the Arctic science and technology pillar of the northern strategy by demonstrating leadership in Arctic science. As part of his northern tour, the Prime Minister, visited Cambridge Bay, site of the Canadian high Arctic research station, and remarked:
The north is a fundamental part of Canada's heritage, future and identity, and we must continue to assert our sovereignty over Canada's Arctic. This new station will undertake science and technology (S&T) research that will support the responsible development of Canada's North, inform environmental stewardship, and enhance the quality of life of Northerners and all Canadians.
It is estimated that the construction of the station will generate up to 150 jobs locally, across the north and in more specialized sectors in other parts of Canada.
As a part of the governance pillar of the northern strategy, our work in the Northwest Territories over the course of the last year has resulted in the successful negotiation of a consensus agreement on the terms for the devolution of lands and resource management from the Government of Canada to the Government of the Northwest Territories.
The Prime Minister said:
Our Government recognizes that Northerners are best placed to make the important decisions about how to run their economies and how to maximize use of their resources. Once finalized, this historic agreement will provide the Northwest Territories (NWT) with greater decision-making powers over a range of new responsibilities which will lead to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity across the Territory.
Devolution in the NWT will mean the transfer of decision-making and administration for land and resource management from the Government of Canada to the Government of the Northwest Territories. The territorial government will become more responsible for the management of onshore lands and the issuance of rights and interests with respect to onshore minerals and oil and gas. It will also give it the power to collect and share in resource revenues generated in the territory.
With the conclusion of negotiations, the Government of Canada has engaged in a second round of consultations to gather input from aboriginal organizations in the NWT that will lead to a final devolution agreement.
At this time, I would like to speak of yet another example of our government's commitment to our northern strategy. The nutrition north program provides northerners with greater access to nutritious perishable food, such as fruits, vegetables, bread, meat, milk and eggs.
Recently the Arctic Co-op Ltd. announced how nutrition north Canada has enabled them to provide direct 767 super freighter service from Winnipeg to Iqaluit. Duane Wilson, vice-president of the merchandising and logistics division at Arctic Co-op, recently noted that this change represents improved efficiency, innovation and collaboration in the supply chain.
Early efficiencies under nutrition north Canada have seen prices in communities fall and stay below where they were under the former program. Nutrition north Canada benefits 103 remote northern communities in Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon, Nunavut and Northwest Territories. It is more focused and transparent than the outmoded program it replaced.
What is more, northerners have a direct impact on the new program by voicing their opinions and suggestions for improvement in the way it works. I have certainly been advised on some of those, and we have had direct contact and communication with the first nation communities that are working under and with the nutrition north program in my riding.
Nutrition north Canada is also guided by an advisory board, the members of which represent a wide range of northern perspectives and interests. They provide information and advice to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development on the management, direction and activities of the program.
Our government has made the north a top priority, placing it higher on the agenda than it has been in many decades. This government has a clear vision for the north as a healthy, prosperous region within a strong and sovereign nation.
I would like to end by thanking all of our partners who contributed to our significant achievements under the northern strategy. I look forward to continuing our work on jobs and growth across the north.
Northern Jobs and Growth Act
March 4th, 2013 / 6:05 p.m.
Ryan Cleary St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member who spoke before me. I particularly liked his expression near the end of his last question about drive-by consultation. If the definition of Conservative consultation is lowering the window and asking what people think, then he is pretty well dead on the money.
I rise today to speak in support of 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. The short title is the northern jobs and growth act.
Why is the member of Parliament for Newfoundland and Labrador, from the great riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl, speaking to a bill for the Northwest Territories? I feel that the Labrador part of my province has a lot in common with the Northwest Territories. Labrador is a relatively untamed land. Labrador is a vast land. Labrador is known as the big land. Labrador is rich in minerals, ore and precious metals. Labrador is under constant exploration and development. Labrador's environment is under constant pressure, be it from renewable hydro development or from new mines. We must be vigilant to ensure that there is balance between development and the impact on the environment. We must ensure that there is balance in everything. The north must also be vigilant.
This legislation is far from perfect. We wanted to amend the bill at committee with changes based on witness testimony, but all 50 opposition amendments were voted down. The Conservatives ruled the amendments out of order. There were 50 NDP amendments and three Liberal amendments. I will come back to that in just a moment.
The bill packages together two bills that should be considered separately. The first bill, the Nunavut planning and project assessment act, is pretty well a straightforward implementation of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. Simply put, it would improve regulatory regimes in the north. It would create a more efficient, more predictable regulatory regime. The roles, powers, functions and authorities of all parties, including how the members are appointed, would be clearly defined. These parties include the Nunavut Planning Commission, the Nunavut Impact Review Board, Inuit groups and governments.
The act requires that Inuit and the Government of Canada establish a joint system to oversee the way resources are managed in the territory. I like the sound of a joint system or joint management. There have been calls in recent years for joint management of the east coast fisheries, for example, but I will not get into that right now. Give me time.
The second part of the bill is the Northwest Territories surface rights board act, and it is more complicated. It would implement sections of three aboriginal land claims agreements, but the board would apply to all parts of the Northwest Territories. The board would receive applications from one or both parties to a dispute when a negotiated access agreement could not be reached. A panel of the board would then conduct a hearing and would determine the compensation, if there was to be compensation, and terms and conditions related to access. The board would then make an order containing the terms and conditions by which access could be exercised and any compensation payable for that access. When making its decision, the board would take into account market value, loss of use, effect on wildlife, damage, nuisance or inconvenience and cultural attachment.
The Mining Association of Canada welcomes this legislation, particularly the inclusion of the Nunavut planning and project assessment act. The association says that it would help spur more responsible mining projects in the territory, which currently has one operating mine. This legislation would result in a framework to determine how environmental assessment and permanent processes in Nunavut will proceed as new land use plans for the territory come forward, and they will most definitely come forward.
I have a quote from Pierre Gratton, president and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada:
The legislation comes at a critical time for Nunavut, with its promising mineral potential and opportunities for economic development never before seen in the territory's history.
Here is another quote from Mr. Gratton:
By providing clarity and certainty around the regulatory framework, this new legislation will help give industry the confidence it needs to move forward with development decisions.
The key word there is “confidence”. Over the next decade, the Mining Association of Canada estimates that new mine development across the north could bring more than $8 billion of investment to Nunavut. That could translate into some 4,500 new jobs and a significant increase in local business development.
Mining is the largest private sector contributor in the north, making up 29% of the gross domestic product of the Northwest Territories. However, mining is also a boom and bust industry. The people of Labrador would tell us that.
There are 45,000 northerners in the Northwest Territories. In Labrador, there are just over 26,000 people. They are both vast lands with few people, but we must ensure that the people benefit. We must ensure that the industries thrive. We must also ensure that the impact on the environment is minimal.
Mining has incredible ups and incredible downs, depending on the price of ore or on world markets. I mentioned earlier in my speech about the amendments we proposed to the bill, the 50 NDP amendments, the 50 suggestions from northerners, which were all voted down, each and every one, by the Conservatives.
The proposed amendments included having the bill reviewed after five years. The amendments included creating a participant funding process and having hearings of the various boards and commissions held in public. One amendment in particular tried to change the language around appointments to the boards, which held that representatives must have knowledge of the land, knowledge of the environment and traditional knowledge.
The great MP for Western Arctic, whom we heard earlier today, said that all representatives should meet all three requirements: knowledge of the land, knowledge of the environment and traditional knowledge. That did not happen. Those amendments were not adopted, despite the best efforts of the New Democrats, the opposition. However, we still support this legislation.
There are three points with which I want to wrap up.
Do I have one minute left, two minutes, Mr. Speaker?
Northern Jobs and Growth Act
March 4th, 2013 / 5:40 p.m.
Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to 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.
I am going to take a minute to take a personal detour, because someone might ask why the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca is so interested in this act. The story for me begins 40 years ago. I almost hate to say that out loud. I was a young university graduate, and my first job was in Yellowknife where I had the privilege of working for the territorial government as the superintendent of treaty Indian band membership and the director of vital statistics. Suffice it to say I was way over my head for my age. I had worked in summer jobs as a health researcher and ended up in this very wonderful job in the Northwest Territories.
At that time, the Northwest Territories included Nunavut and was ruled by a commissioner appointed by the Prime Minister. It was just beginning the process of devolution and self-government. I have to say that any of us at that time would be surprised that we are still dealing with these issues 40 years later. Part of what is important about the bill is that it helps, despite its flaws, to bring us forward on those devolution questions that have certainly been dealt with the entire time of my working career.
I decided to go back to university for a graduate degree and started teaching. Then I was persuaded by a very persuasive member of Parliament to come to Ottawa for two years. I was a staff person here at the House of Commons for two years from 1981-83. I do not usually confess that. At that time it was my privilege to be attached as an NDP researcher to what was called the Indian self-government committee or the Penner committee. In that position, I was privileged to travel the entire country with the committee, listening to first nations talk about self-government and what would be needed, both in terms of laws and in terms of resources and development to achieve self-government.
Again, 30 years ago, those who participated in that commission would be very surprised that we would still be standing here talking about and dealing with the same issues, the same lack of resources and the same lack of respect for first nations self-government in this country. Yes, progress is a long road not yet finished.
After having spent two years in Ottawa, I returned to British Columbia because it is hard to keep a British Columbian in Ottawa for more than two years, and the weather outside certainly speaks to that again today. However, when I went back to British Columbia I was involved with a small non-government organization until the time I was elected to Parliament, called Pacific Peoples' Partnership. That non-government organization attempts to build relationships between indigenous people around the Pacific and first nations in Canada, because indigenous peoples all around the Pacific Rim face many of the same problems. Whether we are talking about Australia, New Zealand or Pacific islanders, many of the same problems exist in getting the outsiders, the colonists, to recognize rights and responsibilities they have to first nations.
One could say all of my life I have been involved as a supporter in these issues, not so directly as some of my colleagues here, like the member who spoke earlier, but certainly I remain very interested in these issues.
When I look at the bill, the first thing I would say is, having separated the two territories and having quite different issues, it is a surprise to find them jammed together into the same bill. That may be efficient for Conservative legislative purposes, but it is not efficient for consulting the public and for getting meaningful input from the communities and for separating out those important issues that need to be debated both here in Parliament and at the community level. We would have been far better served with two bills and with a separate consultation process at the local level for both of these bills.
I am also disappointed at the failure of the government to respond to the many amendments that were put forward. Members on the other side have referred to them as the opposition amendments. Yes, it is true we moved them in the House of Commons, but those amendments came from all across the north. They came from northern organizations, which pointed out significant flaws in this legislation, groups like the Nunavut Impact Review Board, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., NWT Association of Communities, NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines and Alternatives North. That is where we got the ideas for these amendments, not things to hold up government business, not things we dreamt up by ourselves, but things that came about from listening to northerners about what needs to happen in the north.
It is hard to understand how many of these very practical solutions could be ignored or rejected by the government. There is an example in this bill of what happens when there is not adequate consultation and when opinions of northerners are not taken account. In 1994, the Yukon land claims agreement was implemented. Now we have amendments in this bill, thrown in with the other two territories, to correct the problems that have existed since 1994 in trying to bring about fulfillment of the federal government's obligations under the Yukon umbrella final agreement.
Why do we have those amendments in the bill? I would argue it is because at that time a different government, a Liberal government, also failed to listen to northerners about all the things that were necessary to implement full recognition of first nations land and treaty rights, and also the devolution of self-government into the territories.
The other reason that I remain interested in this as a member of Parliament is the fact that I have five first nations in my riding. I want to take a little detour into what is happening with land claims and with development issues for the first nations in my riding.
At the far western end of my riding is a first nation called Pacheedaht, led very ably by Chief Marvin McClurg. It is a relatively small first nation, with 259 members. They are in the process, under the B.C. Treaty Commission, of negotiating a settlement to their claims. They are at a common table with the Ditidaht First Nation with whom they share the Nuu-chah-nulth language and culture, but they are not part of the larger Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council.
These two small first nations, with very limited resources, are attempting to work their way through this treaty process. They are now in stage four of the six-stage process. They are at the stage of negotiating an agreement in principle. They are focusing on things like parks and protected areas, and recognition of the rights of first nations to hunt and fish in those parks and protected areas. They are also focused on wildlife, migratory birds and fish.
The Pacheedaht, in the meantime, while they are negotiating what we hope will be a final agreement, have become very involved in forestry economic development initiatives. Right now they actually run a wood lot licence, in the San Juan River area, which is very close to their reserve.
The point I am making is that it is the first nations who have created the most jobs in that part of my riding. It is the first nations initiatives in forestry that have put people to work. It is not just first nations people but everybody in that end of my riding who have benefited from the recognition of giving back the woodlot to the Pacheedaht First Nation.
In what I would call the middle of my riding, we have three first nations who are working together in an alliance called the Te'Mexw Treaty Association. These three nations were all signatories to the Douglas Treaties, but they decided there would be a benefit for their nation in negotiating a comprehensive and modern treaty that dealt not just with land issues but with governance issues as well. These are first nations with somewhat larger resources, larger memberships, but, again, they do not really belong to any tribal council. They have come together with two first nations from outside my riding, the Malahat First Nation and the Nanoose First Nation, to form the Te'Mexw Treaty Association.
The largest of these is the T'Sou-ke Nation, located near what we in English call Sooke, led by Chief Gordon Planes. Again, while trying to negotiate a settlement and implement a treaty, they have embarked on a very interesting initiative in the T'Sou-ke First Nation. They had a visioning exercise with their leaders, and their leaders said they wanted to go back to the days when they were self-sufficient, independent and able to stand on their own. They have embarked on what I think is probably the largest solar power initiative in the province of British Columbia. They have proceeded to install solar power on the reserve and will eventually, and in not very much longer, take themselves off the grid and be producing their own power.
What they did in doing that was to train first nations people as solar technicians. They are now supplying services to the surrounding community and helping other people make that transition to renewable and sustainable energy. That is another very good example of what we have to learn in this process of recognizing first nations rights to self-government, and to land and resources, and how much all of our communities could benefit from that.
The third first nation in my riding is the Scia'new First Nation, led by Russell Chipps. They are very much involved in attempting to create employment on reserve by taking advantage of the rural economy around them, where many of the non-first nation people are involved in what we might call hobby farms. They are having trouble finding ways to process the products they are raising. Therefore, there is a very good partnership developing between the Scia'new First Nation and the municipality of Metchosin in an attempt to develop agricultural processing industries that will take things being raised on the hobby farms and make jobs on the reserve for both first nation and non-first nation people.
The fourth first nation in my riding, the Songhees First Nation, is the largest and is located very much in the city. It consists of 547 band members who, unfortunately, lost their long-term and very distinguished chief just less than a year ago.
Again, I want to talk about the vision they had. While trying to get a land claim solved and trying to get the resources they need, they have embarked upon the construction of a very large wellness centre. The wellness centre is going to focus on addiction treatments, recreation and all those things to help people recover, in the first nation, both their sense of selves and their sense of culture.
However, to finish the wellness centre, to finish those jobs in the Scia'new First Nation on the reserve and to finish those initiatives that the T'Sou-Ke has taken, they need to get a comprehensive treaty settlement underway.
We were very happy to see, last week, the announcement of an incremental or an interim treaty agreement that has transferred some land in the interim and some resources in the interim. Again, they are at stage four of the six-stage treaty process, but we have those interim transfers of land and resources.
One of the concerns in my riding has been about a very prominent site in the municipality of Esquimalt, a very prominent corner, where that land has now been transferred to the Songhees First Nation under the interim agreement.
I think it is important for people to realize that in the interim the resources that were transferred have been transferred in fee simple, and so the development that is bound to take place on that corner would be under the same zoning laws, the same regulations and, as any other landowner, they will pay municipal taxes and will receive municipal services.
However, once again it is an important spur to redevelopment of downtown Esquimalt, or the Esquimalt village as it is known, and this is being pursued by first nations under the interim agreement.
The last first nation in my riding is called Esquimalt First Nation, led by a chief I very much respect, Chief Andy Thomas. Esquimalt First Nation has decided not to be part of the treaty commission process. Instead, it has pointed to the Douglas Treaty, saying, “We already have a treaty and that treaty has been ignored”. There has been a failure. There was a failure, at the time, by the colonial government to survey the lands promised, to set aside those lands and to protect those treaty lands. Then, as time went on, those lands were alienated to third parties.
There was a second failure under the Douglas Treaty for the Esquimalt Nation, and that was a failure to pay any compensation when those lands were transferred to third parties.
Therefore, for Chief Thomas, the treaty process is not a new process but very much a question of unfinished business.
That brings me back to the bill we have in front of us today. What it is really dealing with is unfinished business, whether it is the Yukon land claims for which the final settlement needs some amendments, whether it is the Nunavut planning and project assessment act or the Northwest Territories surface rights board act.
Despite our concerns about the failures of the Conservatives to recognize the necessity for amendments to the bill, we will be supporting the bill, as we know that would mean a similar bill will eventually come back to the House of Commons and those 50 amendments will eventually be dealt with in this place. They are necessary to implement the treaty agreements; they are necessary to get on with the business of creating jobs and development for everyone in the north, not just first nations but all residents of the north. We know that when the north prospers, the rest of Canada will also prosper.
I am sad to say I look forward to the day when there is a different government that will bring in the bill and bring back the amendments, which will be a chance to listen to the voices of northerners and first nations people and actually accomplish their goals in the House of Commons.
Northern Jobs and Growth Act
March 4th, 2013 / 5:20 p.m.
Ève Péclet La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC
Mr. Speaker, today we are talking about Bill C-47, which has to do with a part of Canada I have not yet visited. I hope to have the chance to visit northern Canada one day.
One of the main roles of government is to represent all Canadians, to make decisions in the interest of Canadians and to work to unite all Canadians. Today, we are seeing the difference between the official opposition, which rises to speak and is interested in northern perspectives, and the government, which remains silent and rises from time to time to read out a question written by the Prime Minister's Office, without perhaps knowing what it is really about.
The first thing that I said today was that it is true that the bill as a whole is relatively good. However, it needed improvements that the government refused to make. We proposed about 55 amendments to the bill, having to do with transparency and consultations, but the government rejected them all. What reason did the government give? I really have no idea. Earlier today, a member tried to make a little public service announcement, but I do not really understand how that explained the rejection of those 55 amendments. I do not think it justified anything.
The economy in the northern regions is cyclical, which is why it often depends on mining development. We need to be aware of this reality. We also have to understand that the economic contribution of natural resources is often limited to where the mining companies are located. So the environmental issue is extremely important because people living in the north, in particular, live in much greater harmony with the environment. We have a lot to learn from how they live with the environment, from how they fish in the ocean and hunt.
The fact that the government just waived all the environmental regulations does not inspire confidence in the government's willingness to negotiate with the territories on mining or other projects. We should ask the government to respect the will of the people who live there. In fact, these territories are part of Canada, but the people who live there have to live with the consequences of pollution caused by mining projects.
For example, my colleague from Western Arctic mentioned the Giant Mine catastrophe in his speech. The government had to use taxpayers' money to deal with the environmental disaster caused by the dumping of 270,000 tonnes of arsenic into the ground. Therefore, it is important to point out that the bill could be improved in order to prevent the government from having to accept responsibility for cleaning up such environmental disasters with taxpayers' money.
Thus, we need serious and rigorous environmental assessments. We are saddling the next generation with a huge environmental debt. Canadians are truly ashamed of this government, which is an international embarrassment. I will come back to that later.
There is also the need for a long-term vision. When we develop natural resources, we should always take into consideration the fact that a mine will not operate forever. It is fine to pass bills that talk about development, but that is taking a short-term view. Do we really invest 100% in these communities? Will a bill that deals with negotiations for mining projects solve all the problems of the people living in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut? No.
For example, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development is studying the fact that Canada will take over the chair of the Arctic Council in May 2013, which is only a few weeks away. A number of experts who appeared before the committee talked about the serious lack of port facilities, roads and railways. It is ridiculous.
The government can pat itself on the back and say that it is capable of negotiating with the territories, but that is completely ridiculous because they never do any work. We have very few if any deep-water ports. We do not have any decent roads or trains that go to the north, and people cannot even get food supplies.
In committee, one witness said that, if there were a crisis or a major storm, one of the municipalities would have to be completely evacuated because there would not be any food or medication. That is completely ridiculous. It is all well and good to talk about the government's good faith and its desire to negotiate for the good of the territories, but as long as the government is not making long-term investments or providing infrastructure that will help these communities to develop, nothing will change. These communities have been neglected for decades and now the government is waking up and saying that it might be a good idea to negotiate and do something. In my opinion, that is not how things work, and Canadians do not think so either.
Land claims are extremely important. The communities were abandoned by the Conservative and Liberal federal governments. They have been abandoned for years. The government is not creating any infrastructure and does not have a long-term plan. The Conservatives are relying on band-aid solutions. They are patchworking.
We support what the government is trying to do, but it could do more. A regulatory regime is all well and good, but we know that the government deregulates everything. The government's desire to negotiate to regulate something goes against its habits. The Conservatives are deregulating when it comes to the environment and the financial system, and now they are talking about regulating. In my opinion, that does not make sense. Either the government is acting in bad faith or it does not have any idea what it is doing.
I would also like to talk about the fact that a UN report was published today on poverty in Canada's northern communities, about the fact that these communities do not have access to food, that they live in poverty and that the government has completely forgotten them. I would like to remind hon. members of something: it is all well and good to negotiate with the territories, but this does not change anything. This should have been done about 20 years ago. Whether or not the communities agree to a pipeline or mining project is not the heart of the matter.
The heart of the matter is that the government neglected northern Canada and is now trying to put a small band-aid on a gaping wound. However, this does not hide the fact that the government has been neglecting infrastructure, food security and poverty in northern Canada and that it is still refusing to negotiate with aboriginal communities and the people living in Canada's north in order to resolve these problems.
I understand the purpose of this kind of bill. Regulations can enable northerners to make decisions and negotiate with the government. However, if the government does not negotiate in good faith, what is the point? If the government does not consult people, what is the point? Is this just an empty shell of a bill that the Conservatives hope will appease people? I would really like to know.
Today's UN report states that Canada has neglected the north. The Government of Canada neglected its own country. What do the Conservatives have to say about that? Today, not one of them has stood up and demanded that the government help northern communities. No member from Nunavut or Yukon has said anything in the House of Commons about what the territories need. Neither has the Minister of Health. I am sorry, but when negotiations are not conducted in good faith, there is no point.
We know all about the Conservatives' good faith in negotiations. They take the bosses' side, pass special laws and force workers back to work. They tell aboriginal communities that if they want to solve their problems, just talking amongst themselves should do the trick. But it will not. The government lacks both the leadership and the will to take care of Canada's north. It has no business saying that the opposition is scaring Canadians.
All we want the government to do is consult people and respect the rights of northern residents. I think that is pretty clear. Even the government has to admit that we are right about that.
Northern Jobs and Growth Act
March 4th, 2013 / 5:05 p.m.
Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC
Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to indicate that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île.
The short title of 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, is the Northern Jobs and Growth Act.
Having observed the government for nearly two long years now, I am skeptical, to say the least, when I see the words “jobs” and “growth” in the same sentence. This is a far cry from what the constituents of my riding and other ridings in Canada have seen since May 2, 2011. What they are seeing is an effective opposition that is always vigilant. We do not have any choice.
But, let us give the government the benefit of the doubt. The bill's intentions are certainly good, since they respond to many of the expectations of the public and stakeholders affected by this legislation. It is important to point that out. We will support the bill introduced by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development on November 6, 2012. The bill brings together two acts, which I named earlier. However, these two acts should have been examined separately.
Ideally, we wanted the bill to be sent to committee so that amendments could be made based on the testimony heard. To our utter amazement, our 50 amendments were all rejected or deemed inadmissible by the Conservatives in committee. It's not a perfect world. This is proof positive that the Conservatives have no idea what a fair and democratic Parliament entails. Let us not talk about fairness. They do not know what that means.
Fifty amendments were proposed. They were all based on the requests of witnesses from the Nunavut Impact Review Board, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Northwest Territories Association of Communities, the Government of the Northwest Territories, the Nunavut Chamber of Mines, and Alternatives North. This is yet more proof that the government does not listen to the public or to the various stakeholders from the communities involved.
Subsequently, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement provides that the Inuit and the Government of Canada establish a joint system, in partnership, to oversee how resources will be managed in the territory of Nunavut. The Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act provides a legal framework for this, as does the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act, which was created in 1994 to fulfill an obligation of the Canadian government at the time resulting from the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement.
The board is a tribunal whose primary role is to resolve access disputes between those owning or having an interest in the surface of the land and others with access rights to the land. These disputes are primarily related to accessing or using Yukon first nation settlement land and, in certain circumstances, disputes involving access to or use of non-settlement land.
As I said, we will be supporting the bill. However, we also wanted to support consultation and decision-making based on a consensus that respects the autonomy of the governments of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. This is a crucial part of any discussion about development, jobs and economic growth. We know that all the research done on minerals and the development of these areas represents the economy of the future. Since it is the economy of the future, we need to take these populations, their rights and their demands into account.
We based our amendments on important testimony we had heard. However, all of our amendments were rejected or deemed out of order in committee. This is unacceptable on the part of a government that claims to be democratic and that has been talking non-stop about jobs and growth since it won a majority on May 2, 2011.
Fortunately, on May 2, 2011, Canadians also elected a strong and effective opposition: the NDP. We will continue to work hard and defend the interests of all communities.
The Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act has six components.
Part 1 confirms the establishment of the Nunavut planning commission and the Nunavut impact review board.
Part 2 defines how planning will be done in the territory.
Part 3 sets out the process by which the commission will examine repercussions. It will also examine specific project proposals and determine whether they conform to the land use plan.
Part 4 provides an opportunity for the board, with the support of government, to review and assess projects outside the Nunavut settlement area that may nevertheless have an adverse impact on the Nunavut settlement area.
Part 5 contains provisions for coordinating the activities of government institutions, the use of information, monitoring, the establishment and maintenance of public registries, grandfathering, and administrative matters.
These are all administrative, technical and sometimes complex measures. The population and the governments of these regions who will be affected by the application of these bills should be consulted.
That is why we wanted those 50 amendments. Even if the Conservatives had accepted only five amendments, that would have represented 10% of the total, which would surely have been a record.
I am shocked every time I see the definitions included in this bill. Every bill provides definitions, but in this bill there is a definition for wildlife area, critical habitat, wildlife sanctuary, migratory bird sanctuary, wetland of international importance, marine protected area, Canadian heritage river and a historic place designated under the Historical Resources Act.
It makes me crazy because the government botched a bill that eliminated protection for 98% of our navigable waters.
When we talk about the environment and such things as wildlife sanctuaries, we have to wonder what the government has in mind. We wonder how the government will define and apply these laws that protect important resources for the first nations living in those areas when the time comes to enforce them.
We wanted the government to consult more and to listen, but most of all we wanted the governments of those regions to be heard.
This will always be a disappointment because we live in a democratic society where we share information and help one another. However, often there is a total lack of any such process.
Fortunately, the NDP is here. We will continue to protect the rights and interests of northern residents and to promote sustainable prosperity for these northern communities. I have already spoken about the reasons for this. It is because the far north holds the key to the future. Wherever there is development and growth, my colleagues and I will be present to defend the interests of the people who live there. This will have an impact on all of Canada.
Northern Jobs and Growth Act
March 4th, 2013 / 5:05 p.m.
London North Centre
Susan Truppe Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women
Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to hear that the official opposition supports the bill.
We have done our homework, and Bill C-47 is good sound legislation that will implement land claim agreements. It is good for Nunavut, and it is good for the Northwest Territories. It will help increase predictability and efficiency so that northerners can achieve the prosperity they seek. Let us allow Bill C-47 to continue its journey through the legislative process in the Senate and help to ensure that the benefits of this legislation make their way to northern citizens.
Northern Jobs and Growth Act
March 4th, 2013 / 4:35 p.m.
Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise and speak to this important issue as represented by Bill C-47.
Bill C-47 is not a small piece of legislation by any stretch of the imagination. I think there are upward of 170 pages. It deals with two very distinct matters, one involving Nunavut and the other involving the Northwest Territories.
There has been some concern raised, and frankly I think it well placed, that these two issues should be dealt with separately. They have sufficient magnitude in and of themselves and deal with similar yet very different issues and contexts. Therefore, the people of those regions, the people of Canada and the members of this House would have been better served had we had the opportunity to deal with these matters separately.
Having said that, I will begin by addressing each matter.
It has been said by many members of this caucus and other members of this House that matters of development in the north are very significant. The climate is changing, which is having an impact on the territories, on ice cover, on the seasonality of hunting and transportation and on the culture of many communities throughout this region. There is a great deal of work being done, but some would suggest that there is not enough work being done at this stage. However, we continue to push for the science to properly understand the environmental changes that are happening in the north as a result of climate change.
I was talking with a couple of scientists the other day who are studying fisheries under the ice to try to determine a baseline for existing species of sea life in order to discern the results of climate change, when the ice melts and there is increased marine traffic, which is happening, to hopefully know how to properly respond. There is also some research being done in Cambridge Bay where electronic monitoring devices have been placed under the water to better understand exactly what is happening as the environment continues to change.
The changing environment has a huge impact on the people who live in our north. It is creating great pressures not only in terms of the environment and the culture of the people but in terms of others wanting to exploit both the resources and possible transportation routes through the north. All of those pressures will create additional problems for that area, environmentally, culturally and otherwise.
Part 1 of the bill is the Nunavut planning and project assessment act. It is a piece of legislation that would give some structure, some framing, to development issues and how they would carry forward when there are disputes and how they would be resolved. It has a lot to do with the whole science of land use planning. It is a matter that has been under some considerable discussion with the Government of Nunavut. They recognize that this is an important piece of legislation as they transition to their own independent government as a province. That work, that devolution, is still in the works. The land claim agreement was initially signed in 1993 and ratified in 1999, I believe. The next step is to negotiate those governance questions in terms of devolution of authority from the Crown. That is expected to take a number of years yet.
In the interim, I think it is fair to say that the Government of Nunavut has been very active in trying to get this type of legislation in place to set particular standards and a particular regime for land use planning and project assessment for now and in the future, until it turns over strictly to their authority.
The Nunavut planning and project assessment act would require that the Inuit and the Government of Canada establish a joint system to oversee the way resources are managed in that territory. This agreement would represent the last outstanding legislative obligation of the federal government related to the Nunavut land claims agreement established, as I indicated earlier, in 1993. It would also fulfill the first deliverable of the recently introduced action plan to improve the regulatory regimes of the north.
This provision of Bill C-47, as it relates to the Nunavut planning and project assessment act, would also clearly spell out the roles, powers, functions and authorities of all parties, including how their members would be appointed. The parties include the Nunavut Planning Commission, or NCP; the Nunavut Impact Review Board, or NIRB; Inuit groups; and governments.
The proposed process for impact assessments would be streamlined and made more efficient, especially for smaller projects, which, it is hoped, would make investments in Nunavut more attractive and profitable, not only for come-from-away companies but for locally based operations. It would establish timelines for various decision-making points in the land use planning and environmental assessment processes to create a more efficient and predictable regulatory regime. trans-boundary and trans-regional projects would now be reviewed by joint panels. Environmental assessment requirements would also be harmonized. As necessary, enforcement provisions would establish new and more effective tools for ensuring that developers follow the terms and conditions set by the NIRB. It would also provide for the development of general and specific monitoring plans that would enable both governments to track the environmental, social and economic impacts of projects.
The bill would go further. It would define how and by whom land use plans would be prepared, amended, reviewed and implemented in Nunavut. It would define what kind and scope of activity would constitute the project. It is fair to say that these regulatory improvements are important steps toward providing Nunavut with decision-making power over the pace and magnitude of resource and land development in Nunavut.
What has already been said here today in debate is that we see this section of the bill as being something that has been sought after by the Government of Nunavut. We have certainly heard some concerns that some tweaking needs to be done. We hope that while the government was resistant to any amendments brought forward at committee, it will recognize that the bill is not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. It does set out some direction to achieve the outcome as required, so we will certainly be supporting this part of the bill.
I want to make it very clear that the NDP supports consultation and consensus-based decision-making that respects the autonomy of the governments of both Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. We suggest that there should have been more consultation in play as it related to the Northwest Territories surface rights board act, which is part 2 of Bill C-47.
Finally, I would underline that the NDP will continue to fight for the rights of northerners and for the long-term prosperity of northern communities.
Let me move now to part 2 of Bill C-47. Part 2 is the Northwest Territories surface rights board act. The bill proclaims to apply to all of the territory of the Northwest Territories, and the land claims there too. The problem is that not all of that territory is covered by land claims. Not all of the groups have, in fact, reached agreement with the Crown on land claims.
Section 26 of the bill implements section 26 of the Gwich’in Comprehensive Land Claim Final Agreement. It implements section 27 of the Sahtu Dene and Métis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement and section 6.6 of the Akaitcho land claims and self-government agreement. The preamble of the bill, interestingly enough, also says that the Inuvialuit final agreement provide for such a board. However, it is not clear where the legal provision is found for that agreement. Additionally, there is no provision for a surface rights board in the Salt River First Nations treaty agreement, further complicating the issue of the unsettled land claims for the Dehcho and Akaitcho first nations.
These are very sensitive issues. They do not appear to be issues that have been adequately recognized by the government. We are talking about great areas of land. The territories of the north are one-third the area of Canada. We are talking about huge expanses in the Northwest Territories, with a population of, I believe, 40,000 people. It is over a million square kilometres of area. It is a big territory. The ability to properly consult and engage with the population is significant.
Some witnesses suggested that there was no need for the establishment of this board at this particular time, that the matters that have been in dispute have been minimal and that the problems created by trying to impose a process on a territory where there are no land claims agreements is fraught with difficulty. We have heard government members stand up and say that we have to set out a process and try to avoid the possibility of disputes going into the courts. However, that is where they are headed if they continue to not recognize the rights of the first nations people who are in these territories, the Inuit. They have traditional rights and are demanding that those rights be recognized.
The Idle No More movement has raised the heads of people who have said to the Conservatives that they have a duty to consult with them as Canadians. They have a constitutional duty to consult with them as first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. If they continue to ignore the fact that they have those responsibilities, they will be moving forward in a manner that is not going to be conducive to the proper development of governance and the proper development of ownership and resource development. Certainly, I would suggest, that is in no one's interest.
We were disappointed. Fifty amendments were introduced by the opposition at committee, 47 by the official opposition and three by the Liberals. Those were amendments asked for by witnesses. The Conservatives talk about how they have engaged in fulsome consultation with the groups that would be affected. Yet while these groups recognized that this legislation, in its intent, was solid, there were changes necessary. As I have said in this House on many occasions, it is our responsibility to ensure that the legislation that leaves here is the best it can possibly be. It is one thing to get legislation through, but to get it changed is a whole different kettle of fish. It is extraordinarily difficult.
We have the situation, with respect to the Northwest Territories, that it is much further along in that whole devolution of governance process. It may not be that many more years before it will be able to correct the problems that have already been raised and the authority, as provided under this legislation, will pass to them in a few short years, perhaps, and then it will be able to correct those problems. That is not the case as it relates to the agreement for Nunavut. That is why the member for Western Arctic asked that one of the amendments be for a five-year review. It would be put in this legislation that in five years there would be a proper review to ensure that it was working.
I indicate again our respect for the governments of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut for making sure that development occurs in a manner they approve of and have control of. I urge all members, especially the Conservatives, to recognize our responsibility to recognize the rights of those governments.
Northern Jobs and Growth Act
March 4th, 2013 / 4:30 p.m.
Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB
Mr. Speaker, the member asked a great question. At the end of the day, I think we do need to recognize that, overall, Bill C-47 is worthy of all of our votes. I trust that it will likely pass unanimously from the House.
We will also find a significant percentage of MPs who would ultimately argue that the bill does not go far enough. There are many different things we could have done to improve upon the legislation, which would have made it that much more acceptable in our communities, in particular those communities this bill is meant to serve directly.
Indirectly, all Canadians have a stake in what is taking place. I believe a vast majority of Canadians have very caring hearts and attitudes toward what happens in northern Canada. Whether it is through documentaries or individual contacts, we build relationships and there is an appreciation for what is happening up north.
At the end of the day, is this legislation good enough? Well, it is a step forward. The government did lose an opportunity by not accepting or being more open-minded in regard to amendments, which would have probably addressed a lot of the concerns that member might have had.