moved that 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, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, our government's priorities reflect the primary concerns of all Canadians, which are jobs and economic growth. Northerners, like all Canadians, want good jobs and access to the economic opportunities that will allow them to prosper for generations to come. The north is home to world-class reserves of natural resources, representing tremendous economic opportunities, not just for northerners but for all Canadians. Our government is committed to doing its part to allow northerners to take advantage of those opportunities.
During his recent trip to the north, the Prime Minister stated, “Our government is committed to ensuring that northerners benefit from the tremendous natural resource reserves that are found in their region”. For the benefits to flow, it is necessary to get resource projects up and running in an effective and responsible way and to put agreements in place with territorial governments to ensure that revenues generated by the initiatives stay up north.
Since 2007, we have taken concrete steps toward this objective. For instance, in 2007 we announced Canada's northern strategy, which recognizes the unique place the north holds in Canada's great history and the important role that it must play in the future for our country. The northern strategy is focused on fulfilling four key goals: first, exercising our Arctic sovereignty; second, promoting economic and social development in the north; third, protecting the north's environmental heritage; and fourth, improving and devolving territorial governance. Building on these priorities, we launched our action plan to improve northern regulatory regimes in 2010. The action plan committed our government to addressing some of the regulatory impediments to job creation in the north.
On November 6, 2012, our government introduced the northern jobs and growth act. This act would fulfill legislative obligations flowing from land claim agreements and it would contribute to improving the conditions for investment that will lead to jobs for Canadians while ensuring the north's resources are developed in a sustainable manner.
An improved regulatory regime will allow aboriginals, communities and others to better participate in decision-making concerning the use, management and conservation of land, water and natural resources in the north. We have been working with our northern partners to develop such a regulatory regime. I am pleased to report that we are well on our way to success.
Bill C-47 represents an historic contribution to an improved regulatory regime for the north. Through this bill, we would create a regulatory regime for resource development in the north that is consistent across the three territories, that is based on sound science, that has clearly defined timelines, that safeguards the environmental health and heritage of the region, that is founded on balanced input from the people who have a stake in development projects, that includes meaningful consultation with and contributions from aboriginal people, that reflects the intent of the land claim agreements, and that puts northerners in an ideal position to reap the benefits of resource development, more well-paying jobs, increasing levels of prosperity and greater long-term economic growth.
As Jane Groenewegen, the MLA for Hay River South in the Northwest Territories said following the introduction of Bill C-47:
But what we have in place here, right now in the Northwest Territories, does not work, so good on the federal government for finally figuring out a way to streamline this and let’s get on with business.
We have had support from others as well. Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak called Bill C-47 “an important milestone in establishing an effective and streamlined regime for Inuit and government to manage resource development in Nunavut together”.
The private sector, too, has recognized the importance of this legislation. The Mining Association of Canada's Pierre Gratton said:
The new regulatory regime will help to enhance the territory's economic competitiveness for mineral investment, while ensuring projects go through a robust assessment and permitting process.
Those are just a few examples of the support for our northern jobs and growth act.
We believe that we have garnered such strong support from the people it would impact the most because we developed it by listening to northerners. Our government recognizes that northern Canada is unique and that resource development must be pursued in a manner that reflects the political, economic and cultural aspirations of the northern people, and that reflects the unique environmental challenges of northern development.
With this legislation, we would fulfill our legislative obligations to the people of Nunavut under the landmark 1993 Nunavut land claims agreement. Specifically, Bill C-47 would fulfill the Government of Canada's obligation to enact legislation governing the development of land use plans and the conduct of environmental assessment processes for resource development projects. With Bill C-47, we would meet our final legislative obligation related to the agreement by legislating the roles and responsibilities of the Nunavut Planning Commission and the Nunavut Impact Review Board and clearly defining the powers, duties and functions of those two bodies. This would provide the legal certainty and predictability required for resource managers and industry, as well as ensure the sustainable development of northern resources, while promoting economic development by boosting investor confidence. This would provide long-term benefits for Nunavummiut.
Furthermore, the approach proposed by Bill C-47 would establish the Nunavut Planning Commission as the single point of entry for all projects that seek approval. In addition, Bill C-47 would make it possible for territorial and federal governments and Inuit organizations to manage northern resources and lands wisely. The bill would affirm the power of governments and Inuit organizations to nominate members to the Nunavut Impact Review Board and the Nunavut Planning Commission.
We would also fulfill our obligations to the people of the Northwest Territories by using Bill C-47 to establish the Northwest Territories surface rights board. The board would contribute to greater certainty and predictability for long-term economic growth and job creation in the territory. I want to make it clear that the board would not grant mineral or oil and gas rights. The Northwest Territories surface rights board would, on application, make orders related to terms, conditions and compensation only where it has been requested to do so and only after such rights have been previously issued. By putting in place the board and the rules under which it would operate, Bill C-47 would fulfill the Government of Canada's obligations arising from the Gwich'in comprehensive land claim agreement and the Sahtu Dene and Métis comprehensive land claim agreement, both of which refer specifically to the need for the creation of a surface rights board.
The provisions of Bill C-47 are also be consistent with the other two comprehensive land claims and self-government agreements in the Northwest Territories: the Tlicho agreement and the Inuvialuit final agreement. Establishing this new board means that the Government of Canada has fulfilled its obligations to the aboriginal peoples of the region.
That is not all. Since orders of the Northwest Territories surface rights board would be final and binding, rights holders, land owners and occupants would have a powerful incentive to negotiate and agree on terms, conditions and compensation for access that would benefit all parties.
Most importantly, the establishment of a surface rights board in the Northwest Territories would not only fulfill land claim agreement obligations, but it has the potential to improve timely access to surface and subsurface resources. It would also increase the predictability and consistency of the northern resource management regime, which in turn would lead to long-term economic growth and job creation in the territory.
The benefits of setting up this new process go far beyond the limits of smoother transactions. By setting up the Northwest Territories surface rights board, Bill C-47 would create a single, clear, balanced and fair dispute settlement mechanism for access disputes for all of the Northwest Territories.
The Government of Canada has worked with our northern partners to develop this improved regulatory regime. In a very real sense, the bill before us is created by and for northerners. To create the legislation that governs planning and project assessment in Nunavut, we worked closely with a variety of people and groups throughout the territory. The focus of our efforts was the Nunavut legislative working group, which comprised the Government of Canada, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the Government of Nunavut, supported by the participation of the Nunavut Planning Commission and the Nunavut Impact Review Board. Our government also consulted with the public, with industry officials and with representatives of local governments, aboriginal organizations and environmental organizations.
The same extensive consultation went into developing the Northwest Territories surface rights board. Beginning in 2010, we distributed a series of draft legislative proposals to our counterparts in the territorial government, representatives of many industry associations and leaders of 13 aboriginal groups and governments.
We followed up with information and consultation sessions with aboriginal groups and governments with settled claims, those negotiating claims and transboundary groups with interests in the Northwest Territories. We also met and consulted with industry associations, environmental non-government organizations and the Northwest Territories government.
Bill C-47 responds to a chorus of other groups calling for action. Territorial governments have asked for better coordination and clearly defined time periods for project reviews. Resource companies have urged us to make the review process more streamlined and predictable. All Canadians want to make sure that promising opportunities will no longer be delayed or lost due to complex, unpredictable and time-consuming regulatory process.
So much is at stake. Canada has tremendous potential in minerals, oil and gas. As The Conference Board of Canada points out:
The world is hungry for Canada's resources, and much of what we have—gold, silver, copper, zinc, diamonds, oil, and gas...are to be found in our vast Northern spaces....
The Prime Minister drove home that point during his recent annual visit to Canada's north. He said,
Those who want to see the future of this country should look north. ...that great national dream—the development of northern resources—no longer sleeps. It is not down the road. It is happening now.
Right now the mining and energy sectors account for 25% of territorial GDP and directly employ 5,000 northerners. The future looks bright.
Currently, there are 25 advanced mining projects in Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. These projects, worth more than $38 billion in potential new investment, are awaiting federal regulatory approval. If developed, they would create more than 8,000 new direct full-time jobs, the majority of which would go to northerners. Thousands of additional jobs would be created for northerners in sectors that serve and support large-scale mining operations. Not only would this create employment, but development would have a positive multiplier effect in the region and in the rest of Canada by contributing to long-term economic growth and prosperity.
Bill C-47 is the way we turn that potential into reality. Let us seize that promise, and let us generate more jobs, increased prosperity and greater long-term economic growth in the north. Let us fulfill our obligations to northerners. Let us adopt Bill C-47.