Evidence of meeting #7 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 north.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Mitch Bloom  Vice-President, Policy and Planning, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency
  • Janet King  Assistant Deputy Minister, Northern Affairs Organization, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
  • Sara Filbee  Assistant Deputy Minister, Lands and Economic Development, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

4:30 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Could you help me clarify something? You talked about a rigorous process before a project is considered by the minister. However, you said that you could not estimate the length of the process.

How can a rigorous process not have clear timeframes? I don't think that adds up.

4:30 p.m.

Vice-President, Policy and Planning, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

Mitch Bloom

I fully agree with you. Our goal is to have an effective and rigorous process.

I myself am not sure of how long each project takes. Some projects are simpler than others. Some projects take several years and others take only a short time. They don't all require the same amount of time; it varies.

4:30 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

As with any rigorous process—

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Leon Benoit

Thank you, Mr. Lapointe.

There will be a spot for the New Democratic Party right after Mr. Harris. We'll go now to Mr. Harris for up to five minutes.

Go ahead.

October 17th, 2011 / 4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Thank you.

I may share my time with Mr. Allen if we have time left.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for appearing today.

Mr. Bloom, I'm really interested in the goals you've set, as you've described them. I think it's certainly worthwhile. Can I just get you to expand on it a little? If a potential investor or stakeholder seeks your help, you would try to make sure they're directed through all the right regulatory agencies that they have to...to try to have their project start up.

Would it be your organization's goal to stay with this stakeholder as somewhat of a shepherd, to get him through the maze of the regulatory levels, until it's either a go-forward or, unfortunately, it wouldn't be happening? Would you play a shepherd's role with some of these people?

4:35 p.m.

Vice-President, Policy and Planning, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

Mitch Bloom

Thank you for the question. I was listening to you pose it and hoping that I would have a chance to make it sound like we don't just point them in the right direction and wish them the best of luck. No, quite to the contrary; the goal is to keep them right through the process.

We're also the keeper of the federal timelines, if I can call them that, around federal regulatory responsibilities. So we watch, to be honest. I watch my colleagues over here and their organization, as well as other organizations, to make sure they are working within the agreed timeframes.

We don't have many established yet, but as is the case south of 60°, we will require all departments to sign what we call “project agreements” with us, which will outline their roles, their responsibilities, and when they will have their work done by. When they don't get the work done on a timely basis, we share that information together.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Okay, thank you.

My next question is to Ms. King and Ms. Filbee. I'm not sure whose department this would be.

Over the summer I was quite taken aback by somewhat of a unilateral statement by AFN Grand Chief Shawn Atleo, where he said, in effect, notwithstanding all of the environmental or the fisheries issues on natural resource harvest, that, in his opinion, first nations will always hold a veto over any and all resource harvests in Canada. I found it unilateral and somewhat unsettling.

Would either of you like to comment on that?

And you may not have seen the statement. It was in the National Post or The Globe, I'm not sure which one. I'm paraphrasing, but it's a fairly accurate paraphrase, I think.

4:35 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Lands and Economic Development, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Sara Filbee

I think he is representing his constituency very well, and that is the perspective, so he's entitled to take that position.

As a federal government, obviously, whether it's environmental assessment or permitting or so on, we look at balancing of a number of different responsibilities. Obviously, aboriginal interests are a significant part of that, but not the only one.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Thank you.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Leon Benoit

Mr. Allen, go ahead. You have about three minutes.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to our witnesses for being here today.

Ms. King, when you were talking about the McCrank report you started going through some of the challenges. With the regulatory...the environment in the north is confusing and incomplete, so you started talking a little bit about some of your challenges in trying to deal with that. The action plan had a $25 million investment over three years. I think you indicated that in your statement. It was regulatory, environmental monitoring and ensuring a strong aboriginal voice, and then you went on to the cumulative impacts.

Is this investment intended to have that new regime fully in place in three years? Or do you see that regime happening earlier than the three-year investment?

4:35 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Northern Affairs Organization, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Janet King

Some of that investment is happening now. We have already launched some of the cumulative impact work. So some of it's happening now. As you are aware, we are looking forward to tabling a legislative initiative, the Nunavut project and planning act, which is coming shortly.

So we are actively investing now. We hope to conclude all of the commitments within that three years and continue to move forward with what we've learned from that time after the three years.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

I'm assuming--and I shouldn't assume anything, but at the end of the day we want to try, I would hope, to reduce the EA timelines a little bit and at least lower the red tape and actually get in through this process. You talked a little bit about that. And there's some discussion about introducing timelines in this legislation as well.

How are you reconciling what are potentially competing initiatives in terms of lowering timelines? As Mr. Bloom said, he was actively watching your timelines, which was an interesting view going back and forth there. But how are you going to reconcile those initiatives when you're actually implementing more types of things into this process, but yet you're going to try to legislate and regulate the timelines? How much flux is there in those timelines? Just how are you going to manage that process? It seems they potentially could be competing initiatives.

4:35 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Northern Affairs Organization, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Janet King

First, we work with all of our federal colleagues, in terms of effectively managing those timelines, including having consulted quite extensively in terms of proposing certain timelines going forward in the legislation. We broadly consulted with other levels of government, communities, first nations, and our colleagues in other federal departments.

On competing initiatives, I think what I would say we're aiming for is an appropriate balance between time, efficiency, effectiveness, finding developing processes that can effectively address the competing interests' activities in such a regulatory regime, but at the same time providing some degree of transparency, stability, and certainty as all of the proponents on any side of the discussion move forward through the process. So there's a transparency and a certainty that the issues will be addressed in certain timeframes, but again I emphasize by following significant consultation in terms of what appropriate timelines those would be.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Leon Benoit

Thank you.

Mr. Allen, you are on the list here after Mr. Lapointe and Mr. Bevington.

Go ahead, Mr. Lapointe.