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

November 26th, 2012 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, New Democrats have some concerns with the fact that two very specific acts were lumped together in one piece of legislation. It certainly may cause some difficulty at committee. We need to have a fulsome discussion of this particular bill at committee, because there are many aspects of it that are extremely important to northerners.

I want to ask the minister a question. Quite obviously, land use plans are an integral part of the Nunavut Act. Over the past dozen years, the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act has been implemented, and one of the provisions in that act was land use plans in the various regions of the Northwest Territories. Every group that has looked at it, including the government's own independent consultant who looked at environmental assessment throughout the north, recognized that these land use plans had to be put in place in order for the legislation to work properly. However, to this day, there are no land use plans in place in the Northwest Territories, and the government is considering other changes to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act that would change the very structure of environmental assessment in the north.

How can the minister guarantee that this Nunavut Act is going to work in a good fashion if the fundamental principle of it is to get the land use plans in place? The federal government has been incredibly slow and inactive on this file. We have a situation where the legislation looks good, but how can we guarantee that the implementation of the legislation is going to move any faster in Nunavut than what has occurred in the Northwest Territories?

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not quite sure where the member is coming from with his question. There is growth in the GDP in Yukon and Nunavut, and the only jurisdiction in Canada in which there was a shrinkage in GDP was the Northwest Territories, which is the very area the member represents. If anybody has a vested interest in streamlining regulations, it is the member for Western Arctic.

The legislation we are putting forward has no critics in Nunavut or Yukon. This is widely accepted as a straightforward proposal. There is one issue. In the NWT, there is a series of comprehensive land claim agreements and some unsettled areas and we are overlapping that with some serious devolution negotiations right now with the Government of the Northwest Territories.

When I met less than two weeks ago with some of the aboriginal groups in the Northwest Territories, it became very clear that they are at the point of adopting their land use plans. We are looking at major progress there. I do not see this as any kind of impediment. All I see is great progress and great excitement in terms of this legislation.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 12:25 p.m.
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Kenora Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his leadership, particularly in this area. I am thinking back to the work on the Eeyou marine agreement. The member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou has worked with us to move this kind of legislation, which considers large swaths of land in the northern parts of the provinces for the purposes of the northern jobs and growth act in the western Arctic and across Nunavut. We know there are challenges in the north. Notwithstanding something like a carbon tax, which would increase expenses and operations in the north, there are other things like land claims and the environment and of course regulatory frameworks that seek to strike a balance on a number of these issues. I wanted to take this opportunity to appreciate that and to then pose a question to the minister.

During the consultation process, we understand the Nunavut land claims agreements needed some amendments and that the Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. organization was required to accommodate some amendments. Would the minister elaborate on the agreement that was struck with NTI and Canada to ensure that the bill conforms with its land claim agreements, all for the purposes and superordinate goal of unlocking the potential for economic opportunity across vast regions of northern Canada?

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary's question is a good example and illustration of the support this legislation has with respect to the Nunavut territory.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. is the organization that represents the Inuit in their land claims settlement. It worked very closely on this working group. It is my recollection that it had to make 21 changes to the land claims agreement in order to accommodate what this legislation is proposing. It did that more than willingly, which is what has allowed us to move forward, along with the co-operation of all of the other partners.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank both the minister and the parliamentary secretary for their roles and participation in this morning's dedication ceremony of the beautiful stained glass window in the outside foyer commemorating the apology for the residential schools and the efforts to reconcile that. It was a great ceremony.

However, I have a question about this legislation. Would the minister describe the extensive consultation process that took place leading specifically to the development of the bill in relation to the Nunavut planning and project assessment act? Would he share that consultation process with us?

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, work on the Nunavut planning and project assessment act began in 2002, so there has been over a decade of diligent negotiations. In my speech I spoke to the Nunavut legislative working group. Obviously, it was the major workhorse in getting this bill together in draft form in the summer of 2006.

There have been several iterations of the bill since 2006. Therefore, many people have had an opportunity to share in this legislation. There have been public meetings since that time. The industry sector also had a good chance to kick this around. I detect wholesale agreement that we have the best possible legislative package, in this case.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 12:30 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, the Northwest Territories is a prime example of a mining economy. When the minister talks about our GDP going down this year, that is because the capital investment in the mines took place in the previous year.

We all know the mining industry in the Northwest Territories. We understand its pitfalls and benefits. However, the minister is denigrating the Northwest Territories on its economic performance, when it is really about how the mining industry works. When diamond mines invest hundreds of millions of dollars in one year to do their underground works and then do not invest the next year, yes, we see a drop in the GDP.

Does the minister not agree that is the sort of work we have to deal with in the Northwest Territories and the mining industry throughout the north?

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are many statistics out there.

Recently, I met with members from the Mining Association of Canada and there were representatives there from the north. It is very clear that the economic indicators are of concern for NWT and that is why they are embracing the legislation, which is one of the reasons we are starting to see renewed confidence.

I think this is all good. I am certainly a booster of NWT, the NWT government and the aboriginal organizations, which are working with a spirit of co-operation that I would say is enlightened and progressive.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 12:30 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on this particular bill. It is a bill that is very important to the people of the north. As a northern representative, I look forward to dealing with our northern regulatory issues in good fashion, in a fashion that can promote development but can also protect our environment.

Northerners have lived through all of that. There is no question that in the Northwest Territories we understand the nature of the mining industry. As I mentioned to the minister earlier, it is an up-and-down industry. Mines are created. There is huge capital investment in the mines. Afterwards there is an ongoing process with operations and maintenance of those facilities. That creates an up-and-down nature in the gross domestic product of our very small territory. Our territory has 45,000 people in it. Adding in a very large capital investment causes the GDP to rise. We are accustomed to that. We have lived through these boom-and-bust cycles with the mining industry over and over again.

It is very important that we understand the mining industry. It is very important that we know what mine plans do to our economy. It is very important to understand how much mining will benefit the north and where that line can be drawn. When the minister talks about 8,000 jobs in the mining industry going to northerners, he is not really being accurate. It is pretty hard to fill the existing mining jobs in the Northwest Territories with northerners. We run about 50%, and we are topped up. We are topped up in the mines that we have already.

We do have some room to add on mining jobs in the Northwest Territories. However, when we talk about 8,000 jobs, we are talking about increasing our population by a very large extent if we want to fill those with northerners. When the population of the Northwest Territories is increased, enormous pressure is put on the government because the cost of living and the cost of providing facilities in the north is so high.

We view mining very carefully. It is important for our economy. We live with the results of mining. When it comes to the environment, throughout the Northwest Territories we live with the results of mining. We live with the results of bad decisions, decisions improperly made or made too quickly. Those decisions have led us to projects such as the Giant Mine, the worst environmental nightmare in Canada. The only solution for the 270,000 tonnes of arsenic underground is to perpetually freeze it in place so that future generations can deal with it.

The government is on the hook for billions of dollars for the Giant Mine over the foreseeable future. What we see there is what happens when environmental assessment does not work right. What we see with other projects is the same thing. We can look at the Pine Point Mine and the result of that. There is no money left for reclamation. The site was left abandoned. The investment in the community was abandoned.

These are things that we live with in the Northwest Territories. We understand mining very well. We understand its relationship to the environment. Probably more so, the Yukon has the same understanding. Nunavut is just moving into an understanding of mining and how it will work out in its vast territory. I am glad to see that the Nunavut land claims agreement is moving forward, considering that it has been in preparation for almost two decades. We can perhaps understand the frustration of those people who live in Nunavut, in getting their legislation in place and in understanding how that is going to work.

That is one of the reasons why I would love to see the bill split. Nunavut could move forward very quickly. There would be minor amendments, which we understand people are interested in making. That would open an opportunity for Nunavut's people to have a better hold on their regulatory process, a process that, as I pointed out earlier in my question to the minister, is focused on land use planning.

Land use planning is the key element. It is certainly very important. However, we have seen little progress in the Northwest Territories on approving land use plans, which have been worked on for a dozen years. Whether in the Sahtu, Gwich’in or Inuvialuit areas, land use plans need to be developed. In the unsettled claim area of the Dehcho in the Northwest Territories, an interim land use plan was proposed to deal with the issues. That has not found success with the federal government.

We want to see the bill move forward as quickly as possible. It is a start in the right direction for Nunavut. However, let us hope that when it is put in place the land use plans come very quickly. These land use plans are not written in stone. They are amendable over a certain period of time so that people can adjust them accordingly, so that they work for people in a good fashion. That is exactly what should happen with them. Let us go ahead with Nunavut and get that through.

With regard to the Northwest Territories and the surface rights board, it is a much more difficult issue in some ways. Unlike Nunavut and the Yukon, we have unsettled areas where there has not been an agreement to have a surface rights board. That is not in place yet. That has not been negotiated between the traditional landowners, the first nations of the Dehcho or the Akaitcho, which is quite a large area of the Northwest Territories. Therefore, what we would be doing with the act is putting in place legislation that has not gone through the process that it has for the Tlicho, the Sahtu and the Gwich’in, where this was negotiated and agreed to by both parties. What we have is a situation where it is going to be put in place, regardless.

Within the bill there is a clause that says the minister must review the act upon the creation of any new land agreement with any party in the Northwest Territories. However, is that review sufficient for the people of the Northwest Territories, for the Dehcho and Akaitcho people, who are still negotiating their land claims? Is it sufficient that this would simply be subject to a review? Without qualifications to a review, without understanding what a review could accomplish for those two groups, that question needs to be further outlined in committee. It needs to be answered for a very important part of the Northwest Territories. There are things that have to be done there.

In the briefing, it was indicated that the municipalities have not been engaged on this issue. There was a feeling from the department that they did not have a role here. That is not correct because we have existing mines that are located within municipal boundaries, so there are some surface rights that extend into municipal areas. Therefore, access is important to municipalities. As landowners they have to be part of it. They do have a role here. Consultation has not taken place with them, so we will have to do that at committee as well, in order to understand how municipalities feel about and understand the legislation, which could affect their role.

There are private landowners as well, although not many in the Northwest Territories, that may have some interest in the legislation. Hopefully, we can accomplish this in a fulsome committee examination. We could do the work of government for them at committee. I think that is fair enough.

The minister says this is all about economic development, that the government in effect is passing environmental legislation all about economic development. Is there not something wrong with that statement? Should we not be passing environmental legislation to protect the environment, to ensure for future generations that projects are conducted in a good fashion that yields a good result, and that when companies leave their disturbances are taken care of? That is just what needs to be done.

Good development also ties in with the needs of the people of the region. In the three territories, we have a problem, because we are not provinces. We cannot go to developers and tell them that we want a road in an area as well, that we will work with them to create the infrastructure because it will benefit our people later on. No, under the NWT Act, any new road has to be approved by the federal government; it is a federal government responsibility.

How do we see it playing out in the Northwest Territories? With the diamond mines, which are a great economic development opportunity for the Northwest Territories and for Canada, we have seen very little public infrastructure developed.

Now that fuel prices have gone through the roof, companies are saying that they cannot make a go of it in the future with these prices. However, if we had done it in an orderly, planned fashion, we would have put in hydro-electric power in the Slave province area where the three diamond mines exist right now. That did not happen. The federal government was in charge of that environmental assessment. It chose not to even examine hydro-electric power at the time in 1998, and now today the economy of those mines is suffering. The economy of the Northwest Territories has missed an opportunity to develop more infrastructure and more resources.

Therefore, resource development is a very important tool for human development as well. We miss the connection when we do not have a good say over development. When we do not take a long and careful look at how development would work, we miss the opportunity that could actually enhance and build our territories, which could also perhaps some day become provinces.

These are not areas that are simply set aside for resource development. That attitude should not prevail. The attitude should be one in which the north is for northern people and that they should be served first by development, so that development works to enhance the lives of every single northerner. That is what we look at when we talk about development.

We can look at the past and see that there was one great example of a properly developed resource, although the company did not do a very good job after it finished. That was the Pine Point Mine. The company developed a hydro-electric system and a road and railway, and all of those legacy items remain today as part of the infrastructure and economy of the Northwest Territories.

We want to see that kind of development continue, but we do not want to see big holes in the ground filled with water that have an environmental impact. We have some real goals with environmental assessment, and they are not predicated on slamming things through the system but on careful planning. That is how we make success for the north. We do not make success simply by throwing the doors open, getting through the process as quickly as possible, getting the shovels in the ground as quickly as possible without planning carefully what we are doing.

I do not see that attitude from the government at all. I do not see that planning attitude implicit in what it is doing, and the federal government still holds all the cards when it comes to northern development.

We need to take the part of the legislation dealing with the proposed NWT Surface Rights Board and give it close examination in committee. That is where we want to go. We will find out there what people really think and how to make this work for us. That is our goal.

We had hoped that the bill could be split so that the territories could be dealt with as separate entities. We are not all the same. I do not agree with the minister's attitude that the three territories should be dealt with as one unit; we are not one unit.

Nunavut has one common government and one land claim. It has a system it has designed for itself. The Yukon has a completely different system of party politics, which has been established over many years. In the Northwest Territories, we are different. We have six major claims areas that are going to have self-government and a large say in the resources and the development of those particular regions. We do not want that changed.

If the members were to talk to people in the Northwest Territories, they would see that they are not talking about giving up their unique identity. They are not talking about getting in line with the other two territories and marching to the same drum as good little soldiers for the federal government's plans. No, we have our own way of dealing with ourselves, just as Alberta has its own way and puts up with the representation it has.

We have our own way. I have been elected three times by the people of the Northwest Territories on a strong environmental platform. I did not get elected simply on resource development; I got elected because people knew I would stand here and speak up for the values that we hold in the Northwest Territories. That is what I am going to do every day I am here. I do not care what Albertans say, I do not care what Ontarians say: I am here for the people of the Northwest Territories.

We look forward to the bill coming to committee, but it needs a fulsome discussion there. If the Conservative government thinks this is simply a slam dunk, it can forget about it.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 12:50 p.m.
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Kenora Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I did not think I would feel this way, but I am truly inspired by the member's speech, especially his finishing statements. Unfortunately, his voting record does not necessarily reflect that kind of enthusiasm, such as on things like the Tuktoyaktuk highway. However, in fairness, he did talk about the 8,000 jobs and the exercise of ensuring that northern Canadians, particularly in the western Arctic and Nunavut, capture most of them.

I have a question and a comment for the member.

My comment to the member is that he has a rare opportunity. Indeed, the bill has two essential components, one of which deals with the Northwest Territories surface rights board act, which we will be dealing that at committee. I look forward to not just continuing the working relationship we have but also to moving forward on this component.

However, does the member think that introducing a carbon tax, if the NDP has its way, would be helpful to northern Canadians? I see it as stifling small business and growth in that vast region, where things are already very expensive.

Will the member be supporting this act? Will he look at getting this to committee as quickly as possible so that we can talk about the issues he raised and move forward on this bill in the same manner his colleagues did with the Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou relationship on the Eeyou marine agreement? Will he move forward to take care of these kinds of agreements that deal with environmental sustainability and responsible resource development?

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, there were a number of points made, one of which was on a carbon tax.

In the Northwest Territories over the last decade, the price of fuel oil, the prime element in our energy system, has gone up by almost 400%. How much has that changed consumption patterns in the Northwest Territories? Not so much. Therefore, I see a carbon tax as probably not being that effective in moving us from that.

However, what we need from the Conservative government is some commitment to invest and provide incentives for renewable energy throughout the whole of northern Canada. We do not need a carbon tax, but we do need the incentives to change. That is one element that I think is quite clear; indeed, our party has always said that cap and trade is a good idea because it promotes renewable energy.

The parliamentary secretary also said that he hoped that we would work well together in committee on this. That is my record. I will continue to do whatever is good for the people of the north, whatever fits with their values, which is what I was elected to represent, and ensure that is taken care of at committee.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Western Arctic always stands up for people in the north.

I was curious to hear the parliamentary secretary point out to the member that he had a rare opportunity to support this legislation. If this is a rare opportunity, it is because the Conservative government has not brought in legislation, policies or programs that could help develop our northern territories in a sustainable and environmentally responsible way.

The member for Western Arctic has constantly spoken up for northerners and is very familiar with the file. Could he describe the government's record in the northern Arctic?

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to contract some work the other day looking at the impact of Bill C-38 on northern Canada. Under environmental assessment, it is clearly just a terrible disgrace what is happening in the north. What is happening across Canada is only magnified in the north, because northerners do not have the strength of being provincial governments that hold the cards. In so many respects, we are reliant on the federal government to do the heavy lifting when it comes to environmental issues, and the Conservative government is not interested in heavy lifting on environmental issues and quite obviously is setting us up for some very difficult times.

This is something that the government is going against. The development of environmental legislation was all-encompassing through the government. The Department of Transport website always used to talk about the environment until the Conservative government removed those words. We have within Canada an understanding that environmental concerns are holistic, covering all aspects of life. The government is trying to push these aspects down into one little spot and take them away. That is not the direction to go.

What the Conservatives are doing will hurt in the end because they are not going to be here forever. When we get a decent government that understands Canadians' values, it will go back to more environmental protection. How is that going to leave the certainty of what is going on in this country? You are disturbing the certainty of our country.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 12:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member commented to the parliamentary secretary that he would like to see incentives for renewable energy. I will just inform the member that there is such an opportunity in Bill C-45, where there is a capital cost allowance incentivizing the use of more machinery in producing renewable sources of energy. First of all, I would like to know if the member will support that legislation as it proceeds.

Second, I understand the importance of having local say in decision-making. As a former city councillor, I am supportive of land management because it does provide a lot of environmental protections, as those closest to the resources and the issues should have the most say. Would my colleague agree that the minister has done a good job of consulting widely in bringing this together?

Third, I would like my colleague to answer the parliamentary secretary's question. Are he and his party going to support this important legislation so that we can change some of these processes and see more development that is environmentally sustainable and provides jobs and growth for people in the north?

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 12:55 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, tax incentives have been in place for a variety of renewable energy sources for many years. I am glad to hear there is a new one. However, the government is hanging its hat on one little bit of legislation when changing northern energy systems requires a major effort on the part of all of us. There are 300 communities across northern Canada that are totally reliant on diesel fuel right now. The cost of that diesel fuel has gone up 400% over the last decade. Who is paying the bill In a lot of those communities? It is the federal government. Therefore, the government should have a vested interest in converting these communities to cheaper energy forms. It is absolutely the case.

In the Northwest Territories, we are moving a great number of our large buildings to biomass heating. Has the federal government converted one building in the north yet to biomass heating? No. It has not engaged in that program. I raised that issue with the Minister of Public Works and Government Services months ago. Where is the participation? It is not good enough just to put out one little tax incentive for somebody to do something. We need to get behind these programs. We need to invest money because we will get a return on that. I thought the Conservative government had an interest in making government more effective. I do not see it in the north.