Evidence of meeting #41 for Natural Resources in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was community.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Francis Bradley  Vice-President, Policy Development, Canadian Electricity Association
  • Peter Mackey  President and Chief Executive Officer, Qulliq Energy Corporation
  • Melissa Blake  Mayor, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Leon Benoit

You'll have to make the answer short, please, Mr. Bradley.

9:45 a.m.

Vice-President, Policy Development, Canadian Electricity Association

Francis Bradley

Yes, absolutely.

This is fairly new technology. This is work that relates as well to what is being referred to as a smart grid. We have newer, more efficient technologies coming on line that will assist in lower- as well as high-voltage transmission, but also in the distribution system. It's a question of taking some of those technologies that are being developed for urban areas and adapting them for these sorts of circumstances.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

How do you see the adaptation for rural, small, isolated communities? I guess that's what I'm interested in.

9:50 a.m.

Vice-President, Policy Development, Canadian Electricity Association

Francis Bradley

It's going to be a question of the economics, but I believe there's a great deal of potential, and not just for our northern and rural communities in Canada. The sorts of systems we will be developing here would be technologies we would also be able to export around the world.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Leon Benoit

Thank you, Mr. Anderson.

We go now to Mr. Nicholls for up to five minutes.

June 5th, 2012 / 9:50 a.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Your Worship, thank you for appearing here today before the committee.

I have to say that as deputy energy critic for the NDP, I'm looking forward to visiting the Wood Buffalo district later this month. I had a friend in the planning department of Fort McMurray, Cole Hendrigan, whom I used to talk with about Fort McMurray at length.

You mentioned earlier in your testimony the airport. It's ironic, because we have a town in Quebec that doesn't want an expansion of an airport—Neuville—and here we have a municipality that desperately wants expansion of their airport. In both cases the federal government doesn't seem sufficiently engaged in the process.

I'd like to ask you about any other services you're having challenges with in Wood Buffalo, or in Fort McMurray specifically. Could you elaborate on services and infrastructure required for your town in the next five years?

9:50 a.m.

Mayor, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

Melissa Blake

Again, when you look to the increasing population—and we on our part had a doubling of population—any facility that would have been in federal jurisdiction would have experienced what every other association in the community has experienced. You only have so much space, so much staff, and so much capacity to process what comes in; but if you double, triple, and then eventually quadruple that population, you're going to require four times the service capacity that existed before.

I don't think we're looking for a host of new services, other than the potential to have immigration officers in the community. I have the most incredibly multiculturally diverse community. When you look at our school system, we have no less than 100 different countries represented in our public school system. I think I've heard numbers of 127 different countries in the community. Many of them will go through the citizenship ceremonies right here in Wood Buffalo. The necessity for all the transactions that occur forces them to go out of town to get those things addressed.

That would be a new service, and even if it's an exception for a unique place in Canada, it's not about the temporary labour and not about just being able to satisfy oil sands; it's about the combination of all of those entities that would really benefit from having something locally.

9:50 a.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

That brings me to my next point. The census for your community in particular doesn't seem to be the appropriate tool that you need to assess funding. I assume there is a high amount of temporary foreign workers and Canadian workers who consider home somewhere other than Fort McMurray, perhaps the Atlantic or other regions of the country.

One of the members across the way mentioned that they're fast-tracking the people, but without the service funding being fast-tracked as well. This is posing particular challenges for your community. Do I understand that correctly?

9:50 a.m.

Mayor, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

Melissa Blake

I would say that is accurate. When I look at the census numbers that we give for the region, I said there were 104,000 people in 2010. The federal census tells me that it was 65,000 for that same period—or I guess their numbers are for 2011. So there is a dramatic difference for the overall region.

In Fort McMurray they claim that 61,000 are a part of my community. In 2010 I had demonstrated there were 76,000. The difference between those two is how much you put into developing the community and the services. I may be overbuilding some things, but I can prove to you by waiting in traffic for the duration that I do that we have more people than are reflected in that census.

9:50 a.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Thank you.

You said the following in 2010:

Therefore, it is imperative the Provincial and Federal Governments join with the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo to achieve managed growth for the good of the oil sand industry and its surrounding areas. Anything less is chaos as we have experienced short years ago.

Could you please describe what you were referring to when you said “chaos” in those years?

9:50 a.m.

Mayor, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

Melissa Blake

Again, when you have more people than capacity in anything.... I can go to a Tim Hortons lineup—which was a joke from my member of Parliament—but, seriously, we've had to reconfigure how they go through a Tim's line so they're not blocking traffic flow on our two streets where they exist.

If you go into any of the shops or services you'll find, what I'm going to call, a deplorable state. Stock can't get on the shelves quickly enough, because of the volume of sales that are happening and the lack of staff able to manage that.

If you go to the health spectrum, we've made some big improvements in getting doctors into the community. I'm a 30-year resident here, and I still have trouble trying to get a doctor for my family.

These kinds of things are what I would call, maybe not so much chaos as, a good Friday night in town. We have enough policing services now, but honest to goodness, the population is so much greater than capacity in almost every respect.

We're in a better position now. I will say that up front. The two years of the recession gave us an opportunity not only to plan for what we were experiencing but also to hire staff. Frankly, the municipality itself has never been better staffed because of that time.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

What role would you like to see the federal government take to achieve managed growth, as you've talked about in the past, going forward?

9:55 a.m.

Mayor, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

Melissa Blake

At that time, I'm sure I was referring to the pace of the oil sands approvals. Every time a company announces a $10 billion project, for example—which is commonplace in this region—it draws a population that comes with it. What we're not capable of managing is what happens when people come and are not adequately prepared for the cost of housing in the community. We end up with more people having to utilize shelter services and the like.

Again, what we want to make sure of before those transactions occur is that we're sufficiently capable of managing the inevitable effect of the population coming to support those transactions.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Leon Benoit

Thank you, Mr. Nicholls.

Mr. Trost, for up to five minutes.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I believe it was Mr. Bradley in his testimony who talked about how he felt that the regulatory reforms the government has taken have been a good, positive step. I forget how you worded it, but they weren't sufficient or weren't fulfilling everything, and there were still some concerns about things that needed to be done. Could you elaborate on that more for a minute or two?