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

5 p.m.

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

Janet King

If I may, as well, this belongs in my colleague's realm of responsibility.

5 p.m.

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

Sara Filbee

Thanks very much.

The responsibility for oil and gas on first nations lands lies with Indian Oil and Gas Canada.

As some of the folks in the room might know, we have been engaged in bringing up to date the Indian Oil and Gas Act. It was brought through about a year or so ago, and we're now engaged in working on the regulations. One of the problems is that this particular piece of legislation was significantly outdated in terms of the enforcement abilities, even lack of audits, and so on. So it was very difficult for Indian Oil and Gas Canada to ensure that it was fulfilling its fiduciary obligations to the first nations for whom it was the regulator.

For example, some of the new federal regulations will be targeted at reclamation, remediation, abandonment of oil and gas sites, and also better enforcement capabilities. Currently, under the old act, the only enforcement ability is to actually stop the lease and terminate everything, which, if it's a more minor violation, becomes a bit of an overreaction, so it basically is not available. Going forward there will be more graduated types of responses. As I say, we're still working through the details of the new regulations with the Indian Resource Council and with our experts, but it will be a much more up-to-date piece of legislation.

5 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

What's the process, then, to have those changes made? Can you just go through that quickly?

5 p.m.

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

Sara Filbee

The act was brought though by the House, but it was not proclaimed. It will be proclaimed when the regulations are completed.

We are working with the Indian Resource Council to develop the issues. This means heavy engagement by the first nations in terms of the issues that are important to them and identifying them with significant use of technical experts with respect to the details. As you can imagine, it's a highly complex area and there's just an awful lot.... We're talking about books and books and books of background information. So it's a very time-intensive process.

5 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

It would be similar, then, to off-reserve requirements?

5 p.m.

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

Sara Filbee

The challenge is that on federal reserve lands the provincial requirements don't apply. This will incorporate, by reference, provincial regulations where appropriate. One of the problems in attracting investors is a reserve system that is vastly different from that which exists in the neighbouring province's lands. When the regulatory system is not up to date or competitive, we say you could effectively “sterilize” the lands of their value. So we're trying to remedy that problem.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Leon Benoit

Thank you, Mr. Anderson.

Mr. Trost.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Someone noted that one of the benefits that accrues to northerners through development is to work with local businesses. Now here's the question that arises from that: how does one work with and encourage local business while still finding best value for dollar? How are the two elements integrated? If it is best value for dollar with local businesses on projects, they'd naturally get it. So how do you balance between the two?

5 p.m.

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

Mitch Bloom

In certain ways, northern economic development is not like southern economic development. There is always the ability to work with local people as the job force. But to work with local businesses as a business force is an incredible advantage from an economic perspective, both for the businesses and the companies that are relying on their services. I don't think they're mutually exclusive choices. The ability to work with those northern businesses offers the potential of a good financial return.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

I've worked up north, too, and I know sometimes that's true, though it may not always be quite as representative. But if that's automatically true, why would there need to be any sort of preference, or is there any preference for local aboriginal or local northern businesses? Is it all across-the-board lowest bid, best-quality product, or is there some sort of preferential program in place?

5:05 p.m.

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

Mitch Bloom

Earlier, one of us spoke of the impact benefit agreements. When projects go forward in the north, often on aboriginal lands, you have to sign an agreement with the landholder. It's our intention and desire to see that development works its way through the community, and to see a trickle-down or spillover effect.

Moreover, the development in the rest of Canada is vital to this. Major labour needs, skilled labour, and large equipment used for development in the north are coming from all across this country.

But there is a real incentive to try to work locally. There's actually an economic incentive as well.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

That will do.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Leon Benoit

We go now to Mr. Saganash.

October 17th, 2011 / 5:05 p.m.

NDP

Romeo Saganash Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and my thanks to the witnesses today for their testimony.

First of all, I have a general question. Given the constitutional realities of today, especially related to the duty to consult, everyone realizes, finally, that the future of Canada is in its north. I'm pretty happy about that. Given that new context of political and legal realities, and we can add to that the new social and environmental realities, what types of adjustments have INAC and now AANDC put in place to take into consideration the new reality up north?

Second, I'd like to hear from you on the impact of the 2% cap on funding, especially as it relates to education. This is a question that's directly related to human resources up north. What impact has this 2% cap on funding had, particularly as it relates to education, on resource and economic development up north?

Also, because I wasn't satisfied with the answers you provided to my colleague, Mr. Gravelle, about the duty to consult, how do you analyze your role with respect to the duty to consult the other departments and the fiduciary responsibility of the Government of Canada toward aboriginal peoples?

Finally, you mentioned that you are aware of a list of projects being proposed in your region of responsibility. Is it possible to have that list for the benefit of this committee?

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Leon Benoit

Ms. King, go ahead, please.