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 ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 4:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today to address what I believe is in fact a very important bill, Bill C-47, and the impact it is going to have, which I believe is quite significant.

Even though it has been made very clear this afternoon and this morning that the government should have been, and could have been, a lot more open-minded in listening to the amendments that were being proposed and in accepting amendments, I must say I did find it somewhat interesting. We have had a number of speakers address the issue. In the last series of questions, a Conservative member stood in her place and virtually read a statement. That statement was in defence of the government. No doubt she was doing a little bit of cherry-picking as she tried to explain why it is that a particular amendment did not meet the government's satisfaction and therefore the government did not accept it.

The point is that at the end of the day there was a significant number of amendments, more than 50 in total, that did not originate with the government. For whatever reasons, the government made the decision not to accept them.

Portions of the bill regarding Nunavut do not mirror the language in the land claim agreement. The Conservative government rejected any amendments put forward to rectify that particular issue. I think we could go on and on in regard to the number of amendments and to what degree the government was sympathetic to listening to what was being said in justification to those amendments.

The leader of the Green Party posed a question. It did not necessarily have to do with just Bill C-47 but with government legislation in general. What we see is that when a bill goes to committee, the government has virtually zero tolerance in terms of opposition amendments. It is almost as if the Conservatives perceive an amendment coming from the opposition as being something that is bad, and whether it makes sense or not, whether it makes the legislation better or not, they are obligated to vote against it.

It is interesting. I have had the opportunity to chat with some of my colleagues who have been around a bit longer than I have in the House, who were around when there was a Liberal government. We found that there were many opposition amendments, a significant percentage of them, that were not only accepted but were appreciated, because at the end of the day what we wanted to be able to achieve in government was healthier and stronger legislation. The then-government was more open to the type of amendments opposition members were making. That even includes amendments from the Reform Party, New Democrats and others.

That is an important point. Hopefully the government—not only in dealing with Bill C-47, because it has already gone through that particular process—will listen to what is being said, not only by itself but also by members in opposition, and that it will be a little more sensitive to improving legislation by allowing even opposition amendments to pass through the system.

I wanted to be able to comment on Bill C-47 because I believe there are a lot of similarities to what has happened in the province of Manitoba, with what is happening in Bill C-47 and some of the issues related to natural resources and compensation, planning, our environment and so forth.

The province of Manitoba, like many other regions of our country, has vast spreads of land. We have first nations and others who have been there for a good number of years. Through that settlement, we can see that there has been some significant development. In Manitoba, for example, we had the northern flood agreement.

We talk about planning. Little planning was done back in the late sixties and early seventies and as a result some decisions were made too quickly and there were a number of consequences. Reserves, whether it was Split Lake, Nelson House or Norway House, were having issues in terms of compensation, relocation, things of that nature.

By not having agreements or legislation in place to protect some of those interests to ensure that more planning is done before some of this construction takes place results in paying more or relocating more. It demonstrates a lack of respect for those individuals both socially and economically.

That is why there is a great deal of sympathy. We should not take this for granted. First nations are suing the government because they feel the government did not necessarily compensate them, but too much water was diverted in terms of flooding in the city of Winnipeg and that water ultimately ended up in Lake Manitoba. This had a significant impact on reserves with respect to displacements and so forth. Now they are having to go to court.

It is critically important that we recognize the need to plan well in advance. Some settlements have been around for hundreds of years. With respect to natural resources, we owe it to those settlements and to our environment to go out of our way to protect where we can and try to marginalize the negative impacts.

A good example of that is in remote areas. Quite often there are no roads leading out of them so people have to fly out. These remote areas are quite pristine and beautiful to look at. They are quite impressive. We want to do what we can to preserve them, while looking at our natural resources. It is easy to understand why there is such a huge demand for economic development. There are phenomenal natural resources in those vast acres of land that generate wealth for individuals far beyond those who happen to live in the community.

Nunavut has a population of around 45,000 people. A significant amount of resources are developed in that territory. As a result, we need proper legislation in place that would protect those interests. All Canadians benefit immensely from the type of development that takes place in these communities, whether it is mining or other resources. The sky is the limit. If we do not do our due diligence and have the necessary infrastructure, and I am referring to environmental laws and strong regulations, then many mistakes will be made and some of those mistakes could be costly.

It does not take much to damage the environment and it could cost tens of millions of dollars because of one relatively small mistake. I listened to some of the discussions today at third reading and I am sensitive to the fact that maybe the committee should have done a little more. When I say “maybe”, I say that tongue in cheek. It should have done more.

The Liberal Party is going to be voting in favour of the legislation. That does not mean we believe the government has done a good job in getting the bill to this stage. It has come a long way in terms of process.

I have heard the New Democrats talking about the process, even periodically taking some shots at the former government. I tend to want to defend the former government. Whether it was Paul Martin, Jean Chrétien or Pierre Trudeau, they did a wonderful job in terms of the development in northern areas. In fact, it goes all the way back to Pierre Trudeau, who started the negotiations on the division of the Northwest Territories. The note that was provided to me said that it was in 1999 when Jean Chrétien did the final declaration, if I can put it that way, in Nunavut becoming a province. I recognize a lot of work and negotiations had to take place. Plebiscites were required. That is something we believe is absolutely essential in going forward. We need to work with the people who live in and call the north their home.

I reflect on individuals who I have met over the years. One of the most prominent individuals is a former speaker of the Manitoba legislature, George Hickes, a fabulous speaker. He was Manitoba's first elected speaker in the chamber. I had the opportunity as house leader to have many discussions with George, everything from his ability to jump out of boats and catch beluga whales to how important Nunavut was in terms of economic development, the opportunities that existed and the sense of pride he had in that territory. It made him feel good because many of his family and friends originated from that area. Nunavut is on the northern Manitoba border and Manitobans like to think there is, indeed, a special relationship between the territory and their province.

When we look at the territory, much like we think of northern Manitoba, the extraction of natural resources is a wonderful thing. It adds so much to the development of our great nation. What is also important for many of the people who call these communities home, which are scattered throughout Nunavut or the northern regions of the province, is not just natural resources being tapped into and taken south or circulated throughout the world, they want more in the development of their economy.

There are certain industries there that need to be encouraged and fostered. This is something the Liberal Party has talked about and wants to move forward. I could go back to my example of former speaker George Hickes of the Manitoba legislature and the beluga whales and the attraction that could potentially bring for tourism. There are polar bears and all sorts of wildlife that exist to potentially develop tourism.

It is interesting, on Baffin Island there were archeological digs. It was discovered that there had been individuals from Europe, landing and trading for centuries with the indigenous people in that area. One of those digs showed very clearly that it was well before the year 1400. These are the types of things that would attract tourists. The development of its infrastructure, housing and other types of commercial developments are really important.

When we talk to the local people who call these communities their home and who live up north, they want to see more development of their ports. By providing the development of ports, we would be providing more opportunities for economic activity. Not necessary just the type of activity I have referred to, but also natural resources. The potential for research and development is phenomenal up north.

Looking at what else we can do to further develop and encourage economic activity, most people might be surprised with some of the long-term population projections. We are not going into the hundreds of thousands. We are still talking about a relatively small, but wonderful population, which will likely grow 5,000, 10,000, 15,000 over the next number of years. A lot this will be determined by the economic development that takes place. Quite often, through economic development, more people are attracted to the area or more people are born in the area and want to stay there.

It is always encouraging when individuals make the commitment to go north, whether it is Yukon, the Northwest Territories or maybe other communities outside of Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, all of which are wonderful destinations, but these are big population bases.

It is critically important that we support this legislation going forward. We would be surprised at the number of Canadians who are familiar with the type of development taking place up north. We can rest assured they are concerned about that development and the impact it will have on the broader community.

I visit high schools, whether it is Maples Collegiate or Sisler High, and I have had the opportunity to talk to high school students over the years, as I am sure all of us have. I do not mean just those two schools. I could also include St. Johns and R.B. Russell. The point is, I have had the opportunity to talk to many young people who live in Winnipeg North and these individuals care passionately about our environment.

When I was in high school, the environment was not really a hot topic of discussion. Today in our high schools throughout our country the environment is a hot topic.

When we want to deal with the issue of the environment, preserve and protect our environment up north, we look at the current infrastructure and the bureaucracy of the government. We need to recognize that we need to have a strong national role to protect and support our environment up north.

Our high school students and others, but I focus on the high schools students because of changing attitudes, recognize how important it is to improve legislation and our regulations so industry can be developed and natural resources can be tapped into in an appropriate fashion, which adds value to the communities there, first and foremost. It brings value to all Canadians in a very real, tangible way. These regulations and laws will protect and ensure there is an orderly flow of planning and our environment is being protected at the very least.

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March 4th, 2013 / 4:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, in his opening remarks, the member for Winnipeg North mentioned Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and mentioned that we were not open-minded to some of those recommendations it brought forward. I noticed in the speeches earlier by the official opposition, the NDP members, that they mentioned we were not doing enough in the consultation process.

I would like at this point to remind all members of the House that NTI was involved in the initial stages of drafting this legislation, and many of the issues members are bringing forward to the House today were actually discussed and debated at length during the working level of the bill.

Again, some of the changes that were brought forward and discussed at the working level were actually incorporated into the bill, and that is what they are seeing at the committee stage, so some of the comments members are making today are really unfounded.

In some instances, some of those recommendations that may have been discussed were not necessarily accepted, but it was not regarding the different interpretations about which the member has just spoken. It was in most cases on how the legislation was to be put together.

I think our government has been pretty clear on the bill. We believe it is clear and concise, and I wish the opposition parties would stop putting through comments that are not really justified.

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March 4th, 2013 / 4:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative member who stood previously and posed the question about amendments actually made a statement saying how the government is responding positively toward amendments.

We have found that is not necessarily all that accurate. If I could ask the member a question it would be: Could she tell us one opposition amendment that was accepted and voted on and supported by the Conservatives—

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 4:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

One of my colleagues suggested that this is in any committee.

Dealing strictly with this bill, I do not believe that every one of the amendments that were being provided by the opposition were fundamentally flawed to the degree in which the government had to vote against them. However, there seems to be a mentality that it is not good if Conservatives allow for an opposition amendment to pass, so it does not really matter; they are not going to pass it.

Maybe that is one of the differences between the Liberal government and the Conservative government, which were both majority governments. We find that the Liberal majority government often accepted amendments from the opposition. When I say often, I am talking about 20% to 30% of the time.

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March 4th, 2013 / 4:30 p.m.
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NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, the member for Winnipeg North spoke about planning and development in the territory, and I know economic development and development of resources are certainly important, but there is also the environment and social aspects of this development that need to be taken into consideration. We know this proposed legislation is being supported by the mining industry, among others.

Could the member tell us if he thinks this proposed legislation meets today's standards in terms of development, taking into consideration that the developments benefit the people who live in the north?

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March 4th, 2013 / 4:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal 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.

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March 4th, 2013 / 4:35 p.m.
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NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask just a quick question because I know this is the third question and we probably do not have much time.

The Dehcho and Akaitcho peoples in the Northwest Territories have not completed their land negotiations with the Northwest Territories at this time. This legislation imposes a surface rights regime on them. Is the member concerned that this could affect the pace of land claims negotiations in the Northwest Territories?

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March 4th, 2013 / 4:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I suspect it will. At the end of the day, we need to take into consideration land surface claims and land claims in general. I always feel a little frustrated because I think some of the greatest beneficiaries of these claims are in fact lawyers. I have nothing against lawyers; they deserve what they get.

Having said that, I suspect there will be some additional pressure as to speeding up the process of land claims. Hopefully, it will be done in a fair fashion.

I am somewhat disappointed that resolving land claims seems to take a lot longer than most people think it would. The types of issues that are there are fairly wide in scope. It does not just exist within the Northwest Territories or our territories in general, even though we are talking about significant pieces of property and surface lands, but it exists in many different regions of our country.

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March 4th, 2013 / 4:35 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP 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.

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March 4th, 2013 / 4:55 p.m.
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Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, as I understand it, non-designated areas, unsettled areas, are crown lands, and inherently the Crown consents to surface access when issuing subsurface rights under the act of Parliament.

Where there is an owner-occupant on those lands that are not part of the land claims agreement, a dispute could be heard before the board. The act would not impact land claims negotiation, as it would not be within the board's jurisdiction on unsettled land claims unless there is an owner or occupant on those lands.

Those who are negotiating claims have been consulted throughout the development of this bill. I would like to get the member's comments on that.

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March 4th, 2013 / 4:55 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is not unlike the way the government responded when we said, under Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, that it was not consulting where it was required to, and it said that it had consulted just fine and that everything was good to go. Subsequently we have seen the Idle No More movement. We have seen first nations groups from one end of the country to the other file suit in the Supreme Court of Canada to challenge the government on that very question of consultation and rights.

That is the point the government continues to miss. Even though there is not an agreement, it fails to recognize the inherent right of the first nations people, the Inuit and the Métis to these lands.

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March 4th, 2013 / 5 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question for the member is in regard to development of the Northwest Territories, or any territory in the north. There is always a great concern about economic development. I share in many of those concerns, especially those related to the environment, along with the impact it is going to have on those who call these communities their home.

Does the member feel there is enough environment protection today to meet the potential demands from the different interests or stakeholders who are not necessarily associated with the north today but who would no doubt like to get their foot in the door?

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March 4th, 2013 / 5 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very concerned about the lack of environmental protection to deal with any development that will go forward.

As we know, under Bill C-38, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act was completely repealed and rewritten. The Fisheries Act, and the ability or responsibility of the government to protect fish habitat, has been seriously constrained. The changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act have resulted in very significant changes, as have the changes to the responsibilities of Canada's offshore petroleum boards. There have been so many changes over the past year that have taken away much of the ability of the government to protect an environment as vulnerable as that in the north that it causes me, and a lot of other people, concern.

That is what exists now, let alone what is going to exist in the future. As I said, the ice melts and marine traffic increases, and the questions of oil spills, of invasive species, continue to rise. We are in no position at this point to protect the environment the way we should, with or without our partners.

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March 4th, 2013 / 5 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Chair, we have heard a lot about perfect consultation. The Liberals said they might have done it in the past. I am wondering if the member could describe perfect consultation to me. This is a concept that I do not understand anymore, because obviously in committee the Conservative government has not answered any of our requests with respect to amendments.

Could the member describe perfect consultation to me?

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March 4th, 2013 / 5 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I could talk to the member more about what is not perfect consultation, and that is the way the Conservative government has been conducting itself.

The government failed to consult with respect to Bill C-38 and Bill C-45. It failed to consult with respect to the changes to EI. It failed to consult with provincial premiers whose provinces are going to pick up after the people who are turfed off the EI roles because of ineligibility as a result of what the government is doing with its integrity police. Employers and unions were not consulted. There has been a real lack of consultation on the part of the government. The Conservatives have taken the attitude that something is either done now or later but it has to be done. Unfortunately, we are going to be doing more of it in the courts, and that could have been prevented had the government held consultations now.