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 / noon
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Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

moved that, the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, Canadians recognize that Canada's north plays a fundamental role in the wellbeing of our country. In fact, the north is poised to lead the country in terms of GDP growth in the next two years. The prosperity, security and environmental health of the north will go a long way toward determining the ongoing prosperity, security and environmental health of the entire country.

Given its essential role in Canada's present and future, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the north is a leading priority for our government. As the Prime Minister has often pointed out, Canada's north is a higher priority for our government than it has ever been under any past governments.

Many Canadians often think of the northern regions of this great country in terms of raw, untamed and resilient land, beautiful in its diversity, yet harsh and unforgiving. Our northern lands are all of these things, but also much more. The north is home to thousands who rely upon the land and upon the resources of the north for their livelihood and their future.

The parliamentary secretary for aboriginal affairs and CanNor was today speaking at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada's aboriginal forum, entitled “Promoting Excellence in Engagement”. Through events like this aboriginal forum, ways can be found to promote successful aboriginal participation in the mineral industry. We all benefit from sustainable and strategic development of natural resources in Canada.

We recognize that the ecosystems that survive in the north are delicate and must be protected for those who depend upon them. The cornerstone to ensuring the preservation of these delicate ecosystems is sound resource management based on principles and practices of sustainable use.

Part 1 of Bill C-47 is the Nunavut planning and project assessment act, which I believe will provide the people of Nunavut with the tools to plan and assess land, water and resource use in a responsible and sustainable manner. I believe the bill will empower the people of Nunavut to manage their own land and resource development in order to fuel strong, healthy and self-reliant communities.

Indeed, I am convinced that the bill would help the people of Nunavut make planning and project assessment decisions that would not only lead to greater economic development of the territory's land and resources, but also enable them to protect their environment and preserve a precious and unique natural heritage for future generations.

The importance of that balance between environment and development can be found in the preamble to part 1, where we clearly express our commitment to responsible economic development and protection of northern ecosystems while promoting the interests of Inuit, northerners and all Canadians. Our government is determined to ensure that responsible economic development and healthy ecosystems would both feature in Nunavut's future.

The Nunavut planning and project assessment act would provide the tools to achieve this goal. It will encourage community growth and prosperity and help ensure our land, water and air are safe and clean. It will assist in developing exciting new projects and preserving wildlife. It will encourage economic development and safeguard the environment.

The Nunavut planning and project assessment act will include three critical elements that would make this balance between environment and development possible.

The first element is land use planning.

Bill C-47 would set out a clear and comprehensive framework for land use planning. Effective planning starts with the development of priorities, policies and objectives, which would provide the foundation for that plan. In Nunavut, these priorities, policies and objectives were developed by the Nunavut Planning Commission in partnership with both the Government of Nunavut and the Government of Canada. This partnership allowed for a balance of local, regional and indeed national interests in the development of land use plans.

As development of the land use plan proceeds, extensive consultations will be undertaken. While much of the consultation will focus on the community level, Bill C-47 also ensures a balanced perspective by directing the commission to solicit the views of other stakeholders, including interested corporations, organizations and Canadians.

It is also important to note that the balanced approach to the development of priorities, policies and objectives in the land use planning stages will extend to the approval stage. In addition to requiring approval by the Government of Nunavut and the Government of Canada, land use plans will also require the approval of the Inuit leadership.

The second element that makes the balance between environmental protection and economic development possible is the single entry model for project assessment. Under this approach, development projects enter the system through a project description submitted to the Nunavut Planning Commission. The commission ensures that all development projects are guided by, and conform to, the land use plan.

Project proposals that are accepted by the commission are then sent to the Nunavut Impact Review Board, where they are subject to environmental assessment. The board carefully examines each project to ensure the ecosystem is protected and the wellbeing of Nunavummiut is also protected, while at the same time taking into account the wellbeing of all Canadians. In Nunavut, we truly implement the one project-one review principle. The board is also responsible for preparing project certificates for successful projects. These certificates set out the terms and conditions of projects which have been approved by the responsible regulatory minister.

I should point out that this part of the bill allows the Nunavut Impact Review Board to coordinate the environmental review process with the Nunavut Water Board, which manages the water licensing process. This will further strengthen the environmental scrutiny of potential projects while providing greater efficiency of process. In the end, a single entry model provides an effective, efficient and fully integrated process for considering project proposals, from the beginning of the planning process to the regulatory approval.

Finally, the Nunavut planning and project assessment act would ensure the balance between protecting the environment and allowing resource development to be maintained through strong enforcement provisions. It prescribes a robust enforcement scheme to help ensure that proponents follow precise requirements for both the land use plan and the approved project certificates after an environmental assessment.

An important feature of Bill C-47 is the balance between the requirement for the Nunavut Planning Commission and the Nunavut Impact Review Board to provide regulators and project proponents with clear objective determinations, recommendations, and terms and conditions. These parameters allow all partners to fully understand their respective responsibilities and obligations during project development and the enforcement provisions that proponents would be subject to. When the rules and consequences are clearly set out, proponents will have the confidence to invest in Nunavut knowing that the ground will not be shifting under them.

Combined, these three key elements, effective land use planning, a one project-one review model for project assessment, and robust enforcement, would enable Canada and the people of Nunavut to strike a healthy balance between encouraging economic development and safeguarding the environment.

With respect to part 2 of the bill, the Northwest Territories surface rights board act would fulfill the Government of Canada's obligation under the Gwich’in comprehensive land claim agreement and the Sahtu Dene and Métis comprehensive land claim agreement. Both agreements refer specifically to the need for a surface rights board. The establishment of the board is also consistent with the Inuvialuit final agreement and the Tlicho land claims and self-government agreement, which are the other two comprehensive land claims in the Northwest Territories.

The Tlicho agreement allows for the establishment of a surface rights board. The Inuvialuit final agreement specifies that any interim measures related to access across Inuvialuit land to reach adjacent lands would be replaced when a law of general application, such as this bill, is enacted.

The board is authorized to resolve disputes between holders of surface and subsurface rights and the owner or occupants of surface lands when agreements on terms, conditions and compensation for access cannot be reached by the parties in question. The board will have jurisdiction to resolve access disputes through the Northwest Territories. The board will, on application, make orders related to terms, conditions and compensations only where it has been requested to do so and only after such rights have been previously issued. In so doing, this board would contribute to greater certainty and predictability for long-term economic growth and job creation in the territory.

In setting up the Northwest Territories surface rights board, we believe Bill C-47 would create a clear, consistent, uniform process for resolving disputes related to lawful access to lands and resources in a manner that is fair and respectful of the rights held by aboriginal peoples and all northerners. That is not all. Since orders of the Northwest Territories surface rights board would be final and binding, rights holders, landowners and occupants would have a powerful incentive to negotiate and agree on terms, conditions and compensation for access that would benefit all parties, and in turn contribute to greater certainty and predictability.

Bill C-47 would fulfill the Government of Canada's legislative obligations flowing from the negotiated land claims in both Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. It proposes mechanisms to improve regulatory processes, encourage investment and allow resources to be developed in a sustainable manner. This would lead to jobs and benefits for future generations of Canadians.

One of our key priorities is ensuring a stronger, more dynamic economy for northern families and businesses. This bill was made in the north. We consulted with northerners, for northerners. The Nunavut planning and project assessment act is the result of open and widely held negotiations, discussions and consultations with the government of Nunavut, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Nunavut Planning Commission and the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

Consultations on the development of the Northwest Territories surface rights board act were extensive, as well. As I mentioned earlier, this bill would respond to our last legislative obligation from the Gwich’in and Sahtu land claims agreements and complete a regulatory regime that was originally envisioned in the Northwest Territories land claims agreements. This bill would ensure that further developments in the north are reviewed in a timely, clear and predictable manner. It would ensure that appropriate measures would be taken to protect fragile northern ecosystems, that those measures would be enforced, and that northerners and Canadians will enjoy the benefits of responsible resource development.

I can assure the House and all Canadians that we in this government are committed to creating a strong and prosperous north that realizes its resource potential while safeguarding its environmental health and heritage. Every day we uphold our pledge by working with northerners. This includes decisive, prudent actions for general greater economic development in the north, so that northerners prosper from the growth of northern businesses, skills and employment.

What specific recent advancements have been made to spur sustainable economic development in the north? The list is long. We have made economic development a central element of Canada's northern strategy. We have invested in the people of the north through programs like the northern adult basic education program, which was announced last year. We have taken firm steps to improve the system and processes we use to manage the exploration, stewardship and development of northern resources.

In May 2010, our government's action plan to improve the northern regulatory regime was announced. We have used our economic action plan to make hundreds of millions of dollars worth of targeted northern investments, to build infrastructure, undertake research, promote tourism and help young Canadians develop vital job skills. We have established the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and the northern projects management office to make sure investments are managed and delivered effectively.

Bill C-47 would greatly contribute to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of project management in the north. For projects in Nunavut, there would be no more overlapping and inconsistent processes, no more ad hoc procedures and shifting requirements, and no more duplications and delays.

For resource right holders seeking lawful access to resources in the Northwest Territories, the establishment of the surface rights board has 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 territories.

Many northerners remain closely tied to the land and the waters of the north, some for their livelihood, some for their very survival. The bill, if passed, will put in place legislated land use planning and environmental assessment processes in Nunavut that respect the northern environment and the distinct needs of the people who live there. In the Northwest Territories it will establish a clear balance and fair dispute settlement mechanism for access disputes for all Northwest Territories that is respectful of the rights of the aboriginal people and all northerners.

For generations, the people of the north have carefully managed their land, water and other resources. It is our duty as government, as parliamentarians and as legislators to ensure that the promising potential of economic prosperity in the north is managed in a sustainable fashion that protects the environment and unique ecosystem in the north. I urge my hon. colleagues to support Bill C-47.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-47 impacts both the constituencies that I and the minister represent. One of the issues with the bill is the fact that these very different entities were not treated with respect and given separate bills for the purposes of carrying on this discussion and to ensure that the issues inherent in such complex bills were well established in Parliament.

Land use planning is a very important element in the bill and I agree with the minister that this is important in the Northwest Territories. In the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, we have had a section on land use planning since its creation. Unfortunately, no land use plans have yet been put in place through that process, so the land use planning is much retarded.

We heard presentations from the Nunavut Planning Commission, which indicated that when the bill was passed with the kind of single entry approach, with the resources now had available to it, it would likely be in contravention of the act going forward.

The government is not putting forward the dollars to do environmental assessments. We saw that the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board—

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, as I stated very clearly in my comments, the legislation supports the implementation of the land claims agreement in place. Northerners want development and clear and concise time frames identified in the environmental review processes, and the bill does that.

In terms of resources, the member mentions there are provisions in place where the organizations go forward with work plans. They submit those work plans to the federal government that determines their budget allocations based on projects.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to explain for the minister that northerners who came before our committee did not feel that they had been listened to. In fact, the NTI worked very hard on comprehensive amendments to ensure that the language in the bill would mirror the language in the land claims and they were not accepted by the government.

As my colleague from the Northwest Territories said, the planning commission said that it would not be able to enact this legislation without additional funding and the government refused to accept any amendment that would allow for real participant funding or a five-year review. It is clear that with the concerns and the amendments put forward by northerners, which were not accepted by the government, there seems to be a need to at least review the legislation in five years.

Why did Conservatives not listen to the northerners at committee?

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, the legislation has been in the works for a long time. I was on the Nunavut Impact Review Board when that party was in government and introduced an unacceptable bill under this provision.

Over the last few years, our government has consulted with northerners. We have worked very closely with Nunavut Tunngavik, the Nunavut government and the Nunavut Impact Review Board, as well as stakeholders. We were able to agree to many of the recommendations that came forward, but there were some that we could not.

Most of the recommendations that came forward from all parties were incorporated into the legislation now before us. I believe it draws a balance on what is the land claims agreement and it also does not change the language of the land claims agreement. We have accepted all the recommendations going forward that would be appropriate.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 12:20 p.m.
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Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, it is so vitally important to the Canadian economy that we have the opportunity in an environmentally responsible way to develop the north.

I grew up in a northern community, in fact in Fort McMurray, Alberta, where natural resources coupled with the environment made it just a fabulous place to grow a family, but also ensured that we contributed to the Canadian economy.

This is new legislation moving forward to build the Canadian economy in the north. Could the minister comment on the specific economic benefits that we will see as a result of the legislation on which she and her colleagues have worked so hard on and have held many consultations?

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, northerners want to move forward in development. Northerners want jobs and want to see young people taking advantage of the training opportunities that come with development.

Yesterday we were at the PTAC conference in Toronto where we met many companies that were working with northerners and putting forward projects. It is important that we move quickly to ensure there is legislation in place that identifies predictable timelines and that allows greater certainty for businesses.

I have seen development in the north first hand. Just outside of Baker Lake we have a gold mine that opened in the middle of a global recession. The Agnico-Eagle company hired approximately 400 or 500 people. That community of Baker Lake had an unemployment rate of about 60% prior to the mining coming into force. Through the partnerships that the mining company established with the community and with the Inuit of that region, we were able to reduce the unemployment rate of Baker Lake to 4% in a very short period of time. People are working. Young people are working.

More northerners want to take advantage of those opportunities. Therefore, it is very important that we support the bill to allow that.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was evident during the committee hearings that changes should have been made to the legislation.

Maybe the minister could tell us why the Conservatives voted down every amendment that was put forward. We put forward 50 amendments, and they were all voted down. These amendments were put forward by the witnesses. They were the ones who wanted the changes, because they were the ones who had to deal with the legislation.

Is the minister concerned that including land claims areas still under dispute in the legislation could lead to legal action, in particular, Dehcho and Akaitcho territories? What doe she have to say about the fact that there are still some concerns? We tried to put forward an amendment asking that it be reviewed within 4 or 5 years, as opposed to 10 years, to ensure organizations would not have their hands tied and that the legislation actually worked properly.

Could the minister elaborate on my questions?

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, as I said, the work relating to drafting the legislation has been years in the making.

I was on the Nunavut Impact Review Board when a draft bill was presented to our board without ever talking to any board member or without ever looking at the land claims agreement. There were many problems associated with the bill presented to northerners without any discussion or consultations with them, the governments or even the board. Clearly, it was against some of the provisions of the land claims agreements.

Through this process of consultation in developing the bill, a number of recommendations were put forward by a number of stakeholders and organizations. We worked with them for over two years to draft the bill. Many of those provisions were incorporated, but there were some areas on which we did not come to a consensus.

At the end of the day, the language is still consistent with the land claims agreements.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to 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. I will not use the wildly inaccurate short title the Conservatives have dreamed up for this bill, because this is a bill that speaks to more than simply job creation.

The bill affects two regions of the country that are moving toward more self-determination at all times, two regions of the country that are settling their land claims in a good fashion with the opportunities that come with settled land claims.

We have a situation in the Northwest Territories where aboriginal governments and public governments have to get along. We have to learn how to get along and how to work together.

In Nunavut there is a single government that represents all the inhabitants of Nunavut, one land claim. Its job is slighty less complex than that of the Northwest Territories, but both are working very hard to achieve unique and satisfactory arrangements between the constitutionally entrenched rights of first nations and Inuit and the rights of public government that are held by all of us.

Bill C-47 was shown in committee to be very flawed. The Conservative member for Mississauga South said about it at committee, “No one got exactly what they wanted from this legislation”. None of the people in the north who wanted to see the legislation go forward got what they wanted.

The bill is so flawed that the Conservative member for Palliser said, “None of the stakeholders involved in the development of the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act got everything they wanted in the bill”.

Why is that? This is a bill for those people. This is a bill for the people of Nunavut to deal with their rights going forward. Why did they not get what they wanted? What was the problem?

This is a bill so poorly executed that the Conservative member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River said, “Nobody, including industry, got everything they wanted in this legislation”.

The bill is going forward in a flawed fashion. It is an essential bill. It is a bill that is needed by Nunavut, especially, for its requirements for the legislation from this Parliament. It needs this. It has been waiting for this for a long time.

Committee witness after committee witness brought forward numerous mistakes Conservatives made in developing the bill, but they chose to ignore those. They chose not to address amendments. They simply voted them down, one after another.

As Chief Roy Fabian of the Kátl'odeeche First Nation in the Northwest Territories said of the process used to develop this legislation, “It is extremely frustrating to attend meetings and express concerns, provide recommendations to address the concerns, and then see that input ignored”. Who knows better what is good for the north than those who reside in the Conservative headquarters in Ottawa?

Because the bill was so badly drafted, the opposition put forward 50 amendments to fix these mistakes and 49 of those amendments were recommended by various stakeholders. The 50th, which was another one, was based on wording from the parliamentary secretary who attended meetings in Yellowknife, substituting the word “and” for “or” in the legislation when he talked about the use and the understanding of traditional knowledge by those who were to be appointed to the board. We wanted to clarify that, but the Conservatives would not accept that either.

Let us look at some of the amendments we have put forward.

There were two amendments that would ensure the Nunavut Planning Commission would hold public hearings as part of its review of an application. This amendment was requested by Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated. It provided for transparency of process, which would make the commission more accountable. What is wrong with that?

There was an amendment making clear that projects approved under one land use plan would be grandfathered and would remain unaffected by changes or amendments to a land use plan. This amendment was requested by the NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines. People in the industry wanted assurance when they went forward with a project that they would not be blind-sided later on by changes to any land use planning. Why would the Conservatives turn this down?

There are amendments replacing the vague word “opinion” with the word “determined”. These changes would have strengthened the language of the act. The amendment was requested by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the land claims group that worked so hard to establish its homeland in Nunavut. Its ideas for the bill were turned down.

There was an amendment that would require the board to have a participant funding program. By providing participant funding, the review process would be more efficient and economical. This amendment was requested both by NTI and by the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

We all know that in the north, communities that want to talk about projects that are going forward on their land are separated by large distances. It is very expensive to travel. The ability to get expert witnesses in front of a board to deal with these issues is absolutely imperative for these communities so that they can deal with the difficult questions that come out of projects of the magnitude we have seen proposed in Nunavut. This amendment would have guaranteed participant funding for those groups. It was turned down as well.

Another amendment from the NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines would require that the act be reviewed by a committee of Parliament five years after it came into force. This was pretty straightforward. If 50 amendments came forward to us on the precise nature of the changes required to make the act work better, and all of them were rejected, would one not think it would be appropriate to provide a review process after five years? I sat on the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board when it was first set up. It was quite clear within two or three years of being put into practice what changes to that legislation were required.

We have a situation such that we will not have a review. The review is not going to take place. This legislation is going to be stuck. The opportunity to bring it back to Parliament will require political support from whatever government is in power at the time. It will have to be put back on the agenda to get some changes made. That is really not very good.

There was the amendment restricting the NWT surface rights board's jurisdiction to lands outside municipal boundaries. It provided certainty to municipalities that have planned for land use inside their own communities. This amendment was requested by the NWT Association of Communities and also by the non-governmental organization Alternatives North. It was a simple amendment that would have allowed municipalities to deal with their land in an appropriate fashion without having the strange situation that can come up when there are mineral claims within municipal boundaries.

Finally, and this is not finally in terms of all the amendments made but is the final one I am going to talk about, there was an amendment giving authority to the NWT surface rights board to require financial security to ensure compliance with its orders. This amendment was requested, once again, by Alternatives North. This comes from the practices we have had over the years. We have seen the results if we do not insist on financial security on behalf of the companies that want to use the land. We do not have to be told that this is a bad idea. This is a good idea. This would give certainty to everyone involved in the process.

All of these amendments went down and continue to go down. Discussion by Conservatives on the committee was practically nil. They did not want to talk about it. They were not instructed to talk about it. It really is an unfortunate fact of this legislation.

I could go on and on about these amendments, but I will now move on to the bill itself.

Parts of the bill implement long-standing commitments Canada has made under land claims agreements, most of them signed in the 90s, some under the Mulroney government and some under the Liberal government. It should really have been the Liberals who developed the legislation as part of the land claims implementation process. However, like so many other things, the Liberals just did not get around to it. When they did produce drafts, as the minister has pointed out, they were not successful. Because of the Liberals' failure to complete their work in Nunavut, the land use planning process has been muddling on for 20 years.

Meanwhile, on the other side, in the Northwest Territories, the lack of a surface rights board has had absolutely no impact. In the absence of a surface rights board, an ad hoc system of arbitration panels was set up to deal with land access issues. In their 20-plus years of existence, only one application to resolve an access dispute has been filed, but it did not even proceed. In fact, even with this legislation in place, it would be unlikely that the board would be used. As the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs said to the committee: “[I]t probably won't be asked to do very much”.

To paraphrase Norman Snowshoe, vice-president of the Gwich'in Tribal Council, testifying at the committee on the bill, what is the rush? Where is the problem? In fact, Mr. Snowshoe went on to say that they could have said more about the bill, but they do not have the resources to do a proper job of analyzing what the government is up to. Most of the other land claims groups and the groups in unsettled areas simply do not have the time to put into the kind of consultation required to determine whether this is in their interests or not.

The government's response is that we need to get this done for devolution. Devolution is an important aspect of moving forward in the north. There is no doubt about that. Certain agreements have to be in place. However, we have time.

The Conservatives chose to lump these two bills together. The surface rights board act probably should have been brought forward at a later time, when more aspects of the devolution deal were fully understood by northerners.

There has been very little public input, to this day, about devolution. When we talk about a bill that has to be done before devolution, we are talking about something that actually impacts on how devolution is going to turn out. Why do we have this rush now to put this in before devolution? Really, it should be part of the devolution discussions. It could have been put into any of the other amendments that are going to be required for devolution at the time devolution comes forward. If the government is serious about devolution and is serious about moving it forward, as it has said, then certainly, the NWT surface rights board act could have been dealt with at that time. It could have been part of that package.

We are really talking about a bill that is dealing with two regions of the country: NWT and Nunavut. If the bill was for these two regions of the country, why did the Conservatives consistently, and without any discussion, ignore all the recommendations for amendments that came forward from the legitimate groups that were witnesses in front of these committees? These were simple amendments. These people were not against the bill. They wanted to ensure that the bill would work correctly and would work for them and their interests. Surely, in this country, we can understand that.

Should the Conservative MPs not have been saying how the people of the north got what they wanted from the legislation rather than that no one got what they wanted? I learned a long time ago that if no one is happy with the job one has done, one has done a poor job. This legislation for Nunavut is required. It is part of what has to happen in Nunavut. The fact that so many of the amendments came from Nunavut says that people in Nunavut are not going to be satisfied in the end with the job the legislation does.

The NWT is close to a devolution agreement, according to press statements, but not according to any public process we have been able to identify that allows people in the Northwest Territories to understand what devolution actually is. However, Nunavut is still a long way from an agreement. Given these differences in where each territory is in the devolution process, why did we bundle the two acts together, implementing vastly different land claims requirements?

As Kevin O'Reilly, of Alternatives North, submitted at committee:

[W]e do not believe that placing several different implementation provisions in one bill is a proper approach. This makes amendments and meaningful debate difficult at best. We would have preferred for separate bills for each land claim area to allow for better consultation and opportunities for improvement.

That is precisely why the government bundled these two acts together. It does not want to hear from Canadians. The Conservatives have an assumption that they are right, that they are the ones in charge, and that their rightness is self-evident. Therefore, every act they have put forward in this new Parliament, with their shiny new majority, is perfect, and anyone who says otherwise is not really a good Canadian. As a northerner and a person who listened to the northerners, I would say that we did not get this bill completely right. We have not dealt with what the northerners want in it.

We have a requirement for this bill, and it will move forward. What gives me hope is that the other day, the Premier of the Northwest Territories indicated in a northern newspaper article that he was under the understanding that the surface rights board act would become NWT legislation after devolution. If that is the case, and it does become legislation that the Northwest Territories legislature can amend, then that act will only be imperfect for as long as the people of the north decide it is. That is a positive aspect. If the devolution agreement goes as the premier said, and the legislation will actually be transferred to the government of the Northwest Territories, then it will be our responsibility to make it work right. I have no doubt that we will do that.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Nunavut in the future. We have no devolution agreement in principle. It is my understanding that a negotiator has been appointed for devolution. That is a good sign. However, there was a negotiator appointed for devolution in the Northwest Territories probably a dozen years ago or more. That is not a hopeful sign for Nunavut. Nunavut needs its say over the legislation it uses in its territory. Let us hope that Nunavut can move forward with devolution as well so that it can make the choices it needs to make for itself.

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March 4th, 2013 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for the Western Arctic for his eloquent speech on the bill. He obviously has long-time experience working with peoples of the north, both first nations and those who have located there more recently.

I had the privilege of sitting in on one of the committee meetings. The witnesses were raising issues and concerns about their capacity to review projects. They were proud of the fact that they have a consensus-based government in Nunavut and that in many cases, the legislation requires or at least suggests that there be participation. It would be obligatory for plans and optional for policies. I note, in going through the bill, that there is no requirement to provide intervener costs or any kind of participatory funding. The witnesses appeared concerned about that and shared some of their struggles in the past trying to intervene in big projects, such as Mary River, where they were dealing with complex information without assistance.

Could the member speak to whether he thinks the bill could be improved? Perhaps that could be a topic for the review he recommends should occur in five years.

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March 4th, 2013 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, the topic of participant funding was well understood by all the groups that spoke to us from Nunavut. They understand it was a good idea to include it in there. There was unanimity when we asked the different witnesses if they would support including participant funding in there. We are talking about a population diffused over 33 communities over 1.7 million square kilometres, a huge area. These people need resources to accomplish almost anything: the travel budgets, the need for consultants. The cost of these things goes up dramatically in the north.

We want small communities to respond correctly and appropriately because, if they do not, then confusion just reigns. Without participant funding, we are not going to see the certainty around the projects that we could with participant funding, so it is a very important part of what environmental assessment does.

We know the government is fiscally very conservative. However, was it simply the money that stopped the Conservatives from going along with the participant funding, or was it something else? They would not indicate to us by standing up and speaking to these amendments. There was silence on the other side.

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March 4th, 2013 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Ray Boughen Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, in response to why the government members did not support opposition amendments at committee, it is important for us to understand that extensive consultation with our aboriginal partners and other stakeholders happened in the Northwest Territories. Accommodations were made for various issues that occurred. Extensive policy discussion and review of legislative language was undertaken. The governments of Nunavik and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated had a chance for their voices to be heard. Both parts of the bill were designed and drafted in accordance with provisions in the land claim agreement in the Northwest Territories and Nunavik. None of the amendments proposed in the bill were required to improve the proposed acts and ensure consistency with existing land claims, so therefore they were not brought forward.

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March 4th, 2013 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments of my fellow committee member here. However, in reality what we heard from Chief Roy Fabian was somewhat different. He participated in those hearings and said that he really got nothing from them. Interestingly enough, when the parliamentary secretary was talking about whether there should have been aboriginal representation on these committees—which is the case in the Yukon with its surface rights board where there is guaranteed aboriginal participation—the parliamentary secretary indicated that traditional knowledge would be part of it.

However, when we actually read the bill, we found that it was not an absolute. They could either be experienced in land and environment or traditional knowledge. Really what the parliamentary secretary said was a compromise to the aboriginal participation and, out of these sessions that were taking place on consultation, there really turned out to be nothing at all.

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March 4th, 2013 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, just for some clarification for the member across, here is the exact quote from Chief Roy Fabian, K'atl'odeeche First Nation. He said:

I did deliver a written submission in November 25, 2010 and I do not see any the revisions that we recommended reflected in the Act. This is not in accordance with meaningful consultation. At that time I expressed concern that Canada was simply "going through motions" of consultation and it appears that I was right. I do not see any of the substantive revisions that we recommended in November of 2010 are reflected in the Act. It is extremely frustrating to attend meetings and express concerns, provide recommendations to address the concerns and then see that input ignored.

Just on that note, given the fact that we have seen Idle No More and we continue to see action on Idle No More, when we are looking at the consultation piece here, does my colleague share the view that there was still consultation that could have been made, given the fact that there should have been some amendments? Also, how imperative is it to have a review done before the 10-year term?

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March 4th, 2013 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, there are two different situations. In Nunavut, the five-year review is an essential element that should have been included in this bill. My own personal experience with federal legislation on land use and environmental assessment says that there are going to be problems with the bill that will come up very quickly. The thought that the Conservatives would not support the review says to me that they are really not open to change. They are really not interested in anything other than their blinkered view of how legislation should work.

My hope lies with the Government of the Northwest Territories, if what the premier said was correct. The legislative assembly in the Northwest Territories is going to be the place where combinations can be made properly. That is where this power should reside in the end and, hopefully, will.

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March 4th, 2013 / 12:50 p.m.
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Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Western Arctic for his commitment on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Northern Affairs.

I continue to refer back to the five-year agreement of which we keep speaking. In Nunavut, in particular, it may well be within the first five years of the act that only one or two projects move forward. This would seem to be a very limited sample from which to try to draw any meaningful discussions with regard to the five-year act. In addition, such reviews often consume more resources, both financial and human, than are saved by marginal improvement results from what can turn out to be a very lengthy process.

I wonder if the member could comment on that.

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March 4th, 2013 / 12:55 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, getting things wrong in legislation that deals with projects and environmental assessments is opening oneself up to going to court. Court would eat up a lot more costs and time than a review of legislation. The argument brought forward in committee not by Conservative members but, to a great extent, by government officials who seem to be running interference for the government, which is fair enough, just does not stand up.

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March 4th, 2013 / 12:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, Liberals will be supporting this bill but, yet again, want to express our concern that the government seems to not understand what a parliamentary process is supposed to look like. When the committee travels to the north, the thoughtful people who have been dealing with these issues for a long time deserve to be heard in a real and meaningful way, which is two-way accountability between knowledgeable citizens and Parliament.

Yet again, the government has refused to accept one, not one, amendment to this bill. The government seems to think that amendments wreck bills. We on this side think that amendments improve bills and resolve weaknesses that have been identified by witnesses. Amendments reflect what members heard. As the member for Western Arctic said, the thoughtful people who went to committee had actually crafted the amendments themselves and yet the government refused to listen.

As I have said in the House before, the Liberal Party understands and supports the goal of bringing further clarity to the regulation of land use in the north and, in particular, the dispute resolution process for surface and subsurface rights. The 2008 McCrank report made it clear that the north is struggling with gaps in surface rights legislation to resolve disputes with landowners who did not want to grant access to their lands for development projects.

With an estimated $8 billion worth of mining investments ready to pour into Canada's north over the next decade, the Liberal Party supports closing these legislative gaps. However, as the member for Western Arctic said, we are not sure why this was not done in two dedicated bills for the two jurisdictions being folded into this one piece of legislation.

This government needs to take a much more comprehensive approach to the issue of northern development.

With regard to the land claims agreement, the first part of the bill enacts the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act, which implements certain provisions of articles 10 to 12 of the 1993 Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.

Since 2002, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., or NTI, and the government of Nunavut have been working on developing the legislation through the Nunavut legislative working group. This work has been supported by the Nunavut Planning Commission and the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

We are troubled about the concerns raised by NTI that portions of the bill regarding Nunavut do not mirror the language in the land claims agreement and the government's refusal to address these concerns with the amendments that they proposed.

We also heard from the Nunavut Planning Commission that, based upon current information, an initial $2,918,284 is necessary to effectively prepare for and implement the new legal requirements that accompany the legislation. In addition to this needed funding, $1,878,284 of indexed core funding would also be required for ongoing implementation responsibilities.

We heard testimony from Sharon Ehaloak of the commission who made it clear when she said, “We will not be able to enact this legislation without additional funding. There's just no question about it”.

It is not just the planning commission that is raising concerns. Mr. Rick Meyers, vice-president for the Mining Association of Canada, told us:

...most of the boards across the north have been marginally funded, if you like, if not underfunded. They do get the work done and deliver good product, but they do it at some challenge....

I think it's very important that the co-management boards be funded properly.

We are concerned that if those responsible to implement the legislation do not have the resources to do it, we are setting them up to fail, and northerners will not see the benefits that are expected from this legislation. When the minister, the member for Nunavut, was speaking this morning, it was disappointing to hear that she was not able to give any assurance that there would be funding to accompany this legislation.

The government's response to this concern is that necessary money will be provided through the implementation phase of the process. Essentially, the government has said simply, “Trust us; we will handle it; don't worry about the needed funding”, but Ms. Ehaloak testified that

The government has told us that it's moving forward as cost neutral. That's been unacceptable. We will not be able to fulfill the obligations if the legislation moves forward without the funding.

In fact, the Nunavut Planning Commission has been trying without success to negotiate an implementation contract for years, so how can we trust the government when it says it will now resolve this crucial issue of adequate funding?

The goal of part 1 of Bill C-47 is to ensure that any project proposed in the Nunavut settlement area will be carefully examined for its potential impact and benefits. The Nunavut Planning Commission and the Nunavut Impact Review Board will examine, consult and respond to specific project proposals, determine whether they conform to the land use plan and assess how these projects will affect the Nunavut settlement area. This determination will require appropriate consultations, but affected parties and relevant organizations may not have the financial resources to participate effectively or at all.

That is why Liberals have called for a participant fund to be established to ensure that proper consultation will take place. This is at the suggestion of many witnesses and many northerners who felt that a participant fund was not without precedent. When the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act was enacted, sections 57 and 58 recognized this challenge and provided there for participant funding.

All other parties to the working group advocated for such a fund, but the government alone refused to agree with the negotiations. It was disappointing to hear the official make it sound as though it was approved, when indeed it was quite clear that there was only one party at the negotiations that refused to agree to a participant fund, and that was Canada. When the Liberals later proposed that the responsible minister should establish a participant funding program to promote public participation in the review of the projects, the government again refused to consider it.

Bill C-47 is an incredibly complex legislation, and the portions pertaining to Nunavut are the product of more than a decade of negotiations. We have heard concerns from the land claims organization, NTI, about some of the language in the legislation not mirroring that in the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement and we have heard concerns from the Nunavut Planning Commission about a lack of funding to properly implement this legislation. The Nunavut Chamber of Mines and the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada testified that given the complexity of this legislation, “further refinements and adjustments will be necessary”.

Given this complexity and these concerns, a mandatory five-year review of how this legislation performs, once implemented, would have been prudent, but the Conservatives refused our amendment to insert such a review out of hand. The Conservative government's refusal to accept any amendments, regardless of how sensible or minor or bottom-up, is truly troubling.

As for the broader question of northern development, the Liberals believe that a lot more needs to be done besides simply streamlining regulations related to surface rights and dispute resolution mechanisms in order to develop the enormous economic potential of the north.

For example, the federal government still has no plan or capacity to clean up a major spill in icefield waters. Canada must develop the capacity to respond to environmental threats, such as an oil or gas spill resulting from resource extraction in the arctic. These emergency response capacities must be part and parcel of any streamlining of the regulatory process for land use in the north.

Northern economic development will also require investments in basic needs such as education, housing and health, as well as the infrastructure required to support a growing population and economy.

The Prime Minister does not actually seem to understand northern development. It has to be more than military deployments and extracting natural resources. Northern development must also deal with the societal, social and economic welfare of the people who live there.

For instance, Canada has a serious food insecurity problem. In northern communities some estimates put it as high as 79%, or 8 out of 10 people, without sufficient food. The Food Banks Canada report “HungerCount 2012” brings that struggle into disturbing focus. The report notes that one of the few long-standing food banks in the territories has seen an alarming 18% increase in use over the past year and that residents of Iqaluit spend 25% of their total expenditures on food, compared to the Canadian average of 11%, yet the Conservative government has stubbornly refused to admit that the nutrition north program that was supposed to deal with the situation has failed to bring down the costs of weekly food budgets.

The stark reality of Inuit education today is that roughly 75% of children are not completing high school, and many who do find that their skills and knowledge do not compare with those of non-aboriginal graduates. Low education outcomes are associated with adverse social implications, including greater unemployment, greater numbers of youth entering the criminal justice system and greater incidence of illness and poverty.

Without equal access to education and training, northern Canadians will not benefit from the employment opportunities that resource development will create. Instead of developing appropriate programs to address this need, the Conservative government is actually cutting existing support.

For example, the Conservative government has ended the successful aboriginal skills and employment partnership. Canada's resource sector companies were some of the most active participants in this program and have criticized its cancellation.

Critical gaps also remain in terms of transportation, such as the planned development of a deepwater port at Nanisivik that has been scrapped in favour of a part-time summer-only fuelling station.

Iqaluit still does not have a deepwater port and Nunavut Premier Aariak recently indicated that the lack of ports and roads connecting northern communities to each other and to the south is constraining economic and social development.

In short, unlocking the tremendous potential of the north is much broader than streamlining the regulatory process for land use and development. The government needs to have a much more holisitic approach to economic development in the north. However, as I said earlier, despite the fact that this bill is by no means perfect, we do believe that there are significant positive aspects to the legislation.

In closing, one of the great privileges of being a member of Parliament is getting to see all over this wonderful country. It was in the summer of 1998 that I was first able to visit Nunavut, a year before it became a territory. We had an arctic caucus with former Nunavut MP Nancy Karetak-Lindell. We were then visiting Baffin, Grise Fiord and Resolute. I was just captivated by the majesty of the land and the dignity of the people who live in Canada's north.

I think I have been back at least once a year ever since, and that is why the Prime Minister's annual trip to Canada's north is always tough for me: because it never deals with the real problems facing northerners. Northerners deserve more from a Prime Minister than an annual photo op focused on military exercises, ignoring the real challenges of the people of the north and refusing to listen to the solutions that must come from northerners.

The standard of living and quality of life for northerners must meet both Canadian and international norms and minimums. The Arctic millennium development goals are way behind. The federal government must invest not only in basic needs such as education, housing and health but also in the infrastructure, like the ports that will be required to support the growing population and the economy as well as natural resources extraction.

The Prime Minister does not seem to understand northern sovereignty. It has to be more than military deployments and extracting natural resources. Northern sovereignty must also deal with the social and economic welfare of the people who live there. Our northern sovereignty depends on northern peoples. It is time he listened to them and worked with them on their priorities.

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March 4th, 2013 / 1:10 p.m.
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Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, I would mention to the member that it was our government that increased the living allowance for the north. I believe that when we increased it in one of our first budgets, it was the first time the increase had been given to northern persons for decades and decades.

The other point I would mention is mining and how important it is. This weekend we were in Toronto. There were mining companies there from around the world and across Canada. They were very excited about the potential for mining in Canada. Not just the mining companies were excited, but aboriginal leaders were there as well among the groups learning how they can work together to develop the industry responsibly.

I would encourage the member to visit or to have dialogue with some of the industry and the leaders who were visiting this past weekend, because they do have some concerns about a bill that the Liberals will be putting forward on mining.

That is just a comment and not a question. Thank you.

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March 4th, 2013 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, increasing a living allowance by a tiny amount and then watching the food prices go through the roof is exactly what the government keeps trying to defend. It is defending the indefensible.

The fact on the ground is, before people could feed their families, and now they are hungry. This is serious. There is no housing up there. There are 12 people living in one house. It is the reason northerners wanted the long form census. They want people to know the dire straits in terms of housing needs that exist up there.

Frankly, for the government to have cancelled the very successful aboriginal skills and employment partnership, means that what we have described from the chambers of commerce out there, even Whitehorse, where first nations are there, the mining companies are there, it is a situation of jobs without people and people without jobs.

We actually need a federal government that is prepared to invest in the people so that they can be equipped to realize the potential of the north, but also be able to direct the priorities themselves by both education and training.

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March 4th, 2013 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech on this issue and for the work she did in committee, along with the official opposition. We presented many amendments that should have been listened to in a better fashion.

I would like the hon. member's understanding of why the Conservative members refuse to really even talk about these amendments. We would think, after the amendments were presented by witnesses before the committee, friendly witnesses, not hostile witnesses, that there would have been a more fruitful dialogue on committee.

Does my hon. colleague have any explanation for the silence that came from the government side?

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March 4th, 2013 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member will be surprised at my answer. I remember as a backbench Liberal member of Parliament occasionally being confronted with a situation where a government would bring a bill to committee thinking it was perfect, thinking it had already consulted enough and wanted to ram it through. Its ears were closed. It did not seem to be able to listen to thoughtful, constructive amendments. It is like a baked cake that comes to committee and anything else is just a nuisance.

We once overheard Parliament referred to as a minor process obstacle. That is unfortunately what the Conservative members opposite have been persuaded is their job, to just not be an obstacle and let the government do whatever it wants and to not listen to witnesses because that will get in the way of this masterpiece government bill.

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March 4th, 2013 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, my experience around here is that when a government bill is put forward and the opposition brings forward amendments, often not legal amendments in that they would change the scope of the bill once it has passed second reading, if the amendment is accepted, the opposition uses it as an opportunity to bash the government, to say that the government did not know what it was doing. It becomes a negative instead of a positive.

Would the member agree that is really what happens with politics and that it is not necessarily a good use of our time and proper legislation overview?

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March 4th, 2013 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

I feel sorry for the member, Mr. Speaker. That cynical view is really not why I came to this place. I came here to make better bills and better policy.

We see the shenanigans of the Conservative government at in camera meetings of committees. We go in camera to try to write a committee report and find great hunks of testimony hacked out. The Conservatives do not even understand that people who read Hansard know what we heard.

In a situation like this we are thoughtful people. The NTI came with many amendments that it had written itself. This is not us staying up all night trying to write things that will wreck a bill. This is us listening to northerners on what is going forward.

Going forward, I hope the member will understand that we are not here to play politics. We are here to make good laws for the people of Canada.

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March 4th, 2013 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that the questioner before me has no idea what this legislation is all about, because he chose to ask a question that had nothing to do with the bill.

I want to raise some awareness about what we heard at committee. Sharon Ehaloak, executive director of the Nunavut Planning Commission, said:

This legislation brings new obligations that are outside of the NLCA, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. First and foremost is the public registry; the commission will be obligated to do that. We proposed to government back in 2010, and all our partners, a proposal for an online public registry—not a Cadillac model, but something that would work and provide the commission with adequate systems to be able to respond to the additional applications that will be coming to us. We will require language obligations with that registry, and with this bill, that will be significant. For us to provide one word in English, it's a $2 cost to the commission as the cost of translation.

She goes on to say, “In our organizational capacity, currently we have left positions vacant simply to meet our current needs. We will not be able to enact this legislation without additional funding”.

Maybe my colleague would like to raise the issue about funding again since the colleague across did not know what he was talking about.

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March 4th, 2013 / 1:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, we were quite concerned in hearing the testimony from the commission that it would be unable to implement the law when it was passed because it did not have the money to even do what it was being asked to do now, such as a program that would meet the language tests in the three languages of the territory. This is a very serious issue with regard to funding

As we know, both the opposition parties were very worried that without participant funding none of these organizations could do their work if people could not afford to come to talk to the commission about their needs. I thank the member for reminding us about the need for an online registry. That would make things so much easier, but it would cost money.

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March 4th, 2013 / 1:20 p.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier.

I rise to speak to 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. The New Democrats will be supporting this bill despite the reluctance on the part of the government to adopt any of our amendments, which is surprising since it is such a lengthy piece of technical legislation. Even Conservative committee members acknowledged that it was not all of what anyone wanted, but refused to accept improvements to the bill as requested through witness testimony. The witnesses are the people who will have to implement or abide by the legislation.

Certainly the NDP supports consultation and consensus-based decision making that respect the autonomy of the government of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. Yet it can easily be argued that this should have been two separate pieces of legislation. While that would have made sense, it is also important to move these two items forward.

Part of this legislation is related to mining in the Northwest Territories. My colleague, the member for Western Arctic, has given an articulate account of our thoughts on that matter. His insight reflects the history of mining in that area and frames the way forward through the challenges that have been dealt with, some of which, it must be said, not dealt with particularly well.

My colleague showed how mining was critical to the northern economy, but he also showed how there was a significant public cost associated with projects that went wrong. He explained how the government was on the hook for the environmental fallout associated with the Giant Mine. In that case, we are left with 270,000 tonnes of arsenic perpetually frozen underground and will have to be dealt with by future generations. This is the kind of outcome the New Democrats have been reminding the government about on all manners of projects and its reluctance to admit there are environmental costs that relate to natural resource projects is mind-boggling and speaks to a kind of wilful ignorance that creates a climate of mistrust on all manners of initiatives as a result.

Suffice it to say, the New Democrats feel that more consultation should have been allowed on the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board Act part of this bill. However, that part of the bill does not sit in isolation and we are glad to see that the Nunavut land claims agreement is moving ahead, considering that it has been in preparation for almost two decades. Yes, that was even under the Liberals.

Certainly, that element of this bill is less contentious. This part of the legislation has been around this place for a number of years. It was originally introduced in 2010 as Bill C-25, the Nunavut planning and project assessment act. Given the length of time it has been in the works, we can understand that there may be some frustrations from the people who live in Nunavut. They have been waiting for their legislation to pass so they can move on and begin understanding how it will work.

When we look back at the legislative summary of the former Bill C-25, which still applies to Bill C-47, it reads:

In a landmark ruling in 1973 the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed that Aboriginal peoples’ historic occupation of the land gave rise to legal rights in the land that had survived European settlement. In 1982, the Constitution was amended to “recognize and affirm” the “existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada.” “Treaty rights” include rights under land claims agreements.

Those developments lead to the Nunavut land claims agreement of 1993, which lays out some key objectives that are related to the legislation before us. They are: to provide for certainty and clarity of rights to ownership and use of lands and resources and of rights for Inuit to participate in decision-making concerning the use, management and conservation of land, water and resources, including the offshore; to provide Inuit with wildlife harvesting rights and rights to participate in decision-making concerning wildlife harvesting; to provide Inuit with financial compensation and means of participating in economic opportunities; and to encourage self-reliance and the cultural and social well-being of Inuit.

The provisions of the Nunavut land claims agreement provide for the federal government and the Inuit to establish a joint regime for land and resource management in articles 10 to 12.

Article 10 sets out the criteria for the land and resource institutions to be created, while article 11 sets out the parameters for land use planning within the Nunavut settlement area. Article 12 details how development impact is to be evaluated.

Under article 10, the federal government undertakes to establish the following government institutions to administer the regime: a surface rights tribunal, Nunavut Planning Commission, Nunavut Impact Review Board and Nunavut Water Board. Part of this was dealt with when Parliament enacted the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act, in 2002. The current bill meets the government's obligations as they relate to the other two institutions, the Nunavut Planning Commission and the Nunavut Impact Review Board. That said, we are well aware that both of these institutions already exist; they have existed since 1997, under the Nunavut settlement agreement. Bill C-25, and now Bill C-47, formalize their establishment in legislation and set out how they will continue to operate.

We can look to the legislative summary, which tells us that work on the Nunavut planning and project assessment act began in 2002. To fulfill its obligation for close consultation with Inuit, the Government of Canada established a Nunavut legislative working group, consisting of the Government of Canada, represented by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., and the Government of Nunavut, supported by the participation of the NPC and the NIRB. The working group met regularly through 2007 to discuss and resolve policy issues, gaps that the bill should address, and resolve questions and legal interpretation of the agreement and how these solutions should be reflected in the bill. When these issues were satisfactorily advanced, in 2007, drafting of the bill began, with oversight and direction from the working group.

The government's backgrounder allows us to summarize the parts of the bill that are relevant to the Nunavut planning and project assessment act. It states that the proposed legislation would continue the functioning of the commission and board and clearly define and describe their powers, duties and functions, including how their members are appointed. It would also clearly define the roles and authorities of Inuit, federal and territorial governments. It would establish timelines for decision-making in the land use planning and environmental assessment processes, to create a more efficient and predictable regulatory regime. It would define how and why, and by whom, land use plans would be prepared, amended, reviewed and implemented in Nunavut.

It would also describe the process by which the commission and the board would examine development proposals and harmonize the assessment process for transboundary projects, by providing for a review by joint panels and an opportunity for the board to review and assess projects outside the area that may have an adverse impact on the Nunavut settlement area.

It would 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 and establish effective enforcement tools to ensure terms and conditions from the plans and impact assessment processes are followed. It would also streamline the impact assessment process, especially for smaller projects, and provide industry with clear, consistent and transparent guidelines, making investment in Nunavut more attractive and profitable.

Given the fact that I do not have much time to finish my speech, I will end with this. It is clear that there is a fair amount of support for the Nunavut part of the bill. New Democrats will be supporting the bill, but we feel it should have been improved at committee. Unfortunately, government members refused to do this.

New Democrats will continue to fight for the rights of northerners and for the long-term prosperity of northern communities. In as much as the bill largely supports that idea, we will give it our support. Hopefully, through the questions, someone will ask me to finish my speech.

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March 4th, 2013 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that someone has asked me to continue with my speech because we have so much still to share on this issue.

My colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan indicated this goes back to 2010, when the Nunavut Water Board appeared before the aboriginal affairs committee to support the bill, along with other organizations and some of the mining companies. However, that support was not unanimous and there were still some concerns around parts of the legislation. Among the bigger concerns that the committee heard in 2010 were questions related to funding, and we heard a lot about funding.

I will leave it there to see whether anyone wants to know something else.

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March 4th, 2013 / 1:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, there was an attempt to bring forward several amendments at the committee stage, and it was somewhat of a disappointment that the government did not respond to them.

Could the member indicate what she believes are the three most important amendments that the government could accept and that would make the most significant difference from her perspective?

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March 4th, 2013 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I can certainly say there were a lot of amendments. The NDP alone put forward 50 amendments.

It is unfortunate that the bill has not been passed by now. We know there was work being done by the Liberals on this, but they have dragged their feet.

There were some funding requirements that we wanted to see put in there, and let me speak for a few minutes about these requirements. Mr. Paul Quassa, chair of the Nunavut Planning Commission, was one of the witnesses, and he talked about the importance of this bill, saying:

That said, this organization has been critically underfunded for nearly a decade. Industry and Inuit have told us that the land use planning process takes too long, and we agree. However, without additional resources, the commission is helpless to respond.

Another recommendation we made was with respect to the review process, and the Conservatives certainly did not want to hear about it.

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March 4th, 2013 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her comments and speech. She comes from a community in northern Ontario.

These kinds of comments need to be brought before the House, and she is right to say that we need to look at this bill. I am learning a lot today, hearing my colleagues discuss it.

There are many first nations in my colleague's riding, which is in the north. How does she feel this bill fares in terms of respecting first nations?

We have been hearing a lot about first nations recently. There was the Idle No More movement, Shannen's Dream, Attawapiskat, residential schools and funding for police services for first nations. Now we can add this bill and first nations consultations to that list.

I would like to hear her opinion or what she heard from witnesses and people taking part in consultations. Is this bill respectful? And what do first nations chiefs think about it?

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March 4th, 2013 / 1:35 p.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, the testimony heard in committee clearly showed that chiefs also needed more time to hold consultations because they were limited in terms of obtaining participant funding. That is important to note.

As the members are aware, the NDP supports consultations and consensus-based decision making, which respect the autonomy of the governments of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. More consultations should have been held concerning the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board Act.

The NDP will continue to defend the rights and interests of northerners, and we will promote the long-term prosperity of northern communities. That is exactly what all the chiefs across Canada want.

Chiefs want more consultations to determine which types of bills should be implemented in order to improve their communities.

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March 4th, 2013 / 1:35 p.m.
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NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to join my colleagues in this debate on Bill C-47.

As a number of my colleagues in this House have already said, this bill raises issues of particular importance to Canada's northern communities. It combines two main bills, An Act to enact the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act and the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board Act and makes related and consequential amendments to other Acts.

In addition to implementing some provisions of land claim agreements that were reached more than 20 years ago, this bill includes measures that would have a direct impact on development in Canada's north and the way in which natural resources are developed in that part of the country.

We all know that natural resource development is the basis for a large part of the economic activity in Canada's three territories. As elected members, it is important to do everything possible to promote development and prosperity in the region.

There is no denying that businesses that develop natural resources are major job creators. Their economic activities can also lead to the construction of new infrastructure, such as roads or railways, which benefit the entire territory in which they choose to become established. Sometimes, even when the business leaves, the territorial government may take over the infrastructure and continue to improve it for the entire population.

However, we must not forget that, given the very nature of the industry, natural resource development can have disastrous consequences for the environment and also for the communities that depend on the jobs it creates.

A natural disaster—a toxic spill, for example—affects more than just the environment, the fauna and the flora. If the company has to leave the region because it cannot continue to develop the resources, all the communities that depend on this major source of employment feel the impact. When we talk about the environmental impact, we have to keep this important aspect in mind.

From a sustainable development perspective, it is also important to take into account other aspects, particularly the social aspect. With that in mind, it seems crucial to me to ensure that a sufficiently binding legislative framework is in place to enable the various levels of government to track the economic, social and environmental impacts of all natural resource development projects in the country, particularly in northern Canada.

That is one of the reasons why it is important to study Bill C-47 in the House, because it responds in part to requests that come to us directly from northern communities.

As the member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, I myself represent a riding where natural resource development plays an important role in the regional economy. For example, I am thinking of the forestry industry, which, unfortunately, has suffered significantly in recent years. The thousands of forestry workers have been abandoned by the Conservative government. I am thinking of the former employees of AbitibiBowater in Donnacona and a number of communities in my riding. Despite that, we cannot ignore the fact that this industry was very important to numerous families in my riding, be they in Saint-Raymond or Sainte-Brigitte-de-Laval.

The mining industry also comes to mind. It employs several hundred workers in my riding, particularly in western Portneuf. I know this is also the case in other areas of Canada where the mining industry hires hundreds, if not thousands, of Canadians.

In my riding, the many mining sites, which are mainly sand quarries and gravel pits, are in the municipalities of Rivière-à-Pierre, Saint-Marc-des-Carrières and Saint-Raymond and in the unorganized territories north of the Portneuf regional county municipality.

Having these industries in my riding has given me a better understanding of the benefits they provide to the regional economy, as well as the importance of ensuring that their development of our natural resources complies with the principles of sustainable development.

I think it is essential to ensure that the economic, social and environmental impacts of this kind of project will benefit all members of the community, as well as future generations. That is why I share the concerns expressed by my colleague from Western Arctic in the eloquent speech he made earlier today.

The first part of Bill C-47, which deals with the Nunavut planning and project assessment act, seeks to improve the existing regulatory regime to give Nunavut more decision-making power regarding the speed and extent of planning within its own territory and regarding its resources, particularly by establishing a framework to determine how environmental assessment processes will be conducted and how licences will be granted for various projects.

In addition to focusing on the critical issue of environmental protection, these legislative provisions will also implement part of the Nunavut land claims agreement, while respecting the results of negotiations conducted by the territorial government of Nunavut.

Bill C-47 at least partially addresses a real need expressed by part of Canada's northern community and should pass at third reading. From the beginning, the NDP has been defending the rights and interests of northern Canadians, and we will continue to defend them in the future. That is why we believe that Bill C-47 should pass at third reading.

However, it cannot be said that creating this bill was entirely problem-free or that the version we are discussing here today is perfect. On the contrary, we know that the bill is not perfect and that it does not meet all of the demands of people who live in Canada's northern communities.

The second part of the bill, which deals primarily with the Northwest Territories surface rights board act, continues to raise a number of concerns among the opposition members and the people living in Canada's northern communities.

As several of my colleagues have said, many witnesses were invited to appear before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development regarding Bill C-47. In spite of that, it seems that very few suggestions, if any, were taken into consideration by this government.

This was noted at committee, because consultations had taken place beforehand. When witnesses were given a preliminary version of the bill, some of them said they did not see any of the suggestions or recommendations they had made regarding the bill during the prior consultations.

In committee, my NDP colleagues tried to propose 50 amendments. That is a significant number. These 50 amendments were proposed to try to address the witnesses' concerns. The vast majority of these witnesses came directly from the aboriginal communities where companies are developing natural resources. The witnesses were not all opposed to Bill C-47. On the contrary, the majority of them simply wanted to ensure that the bill truly addresses the needs of our northern communities.

Unfortunately, as usual, the Conservatives refused to listen to the legitimate concerns of the Canadians directly affected by what is in Bill C-47. They once again refused to collaborate with the opposition and would not consider the amendments we proposed. We understand that it is not possible to accept all the amendments, but the Conservatives should at least look at them, think about them and debate them before systematically rejecting them. This would be an improvement over how the government normally operates.

It is as though as soon as the Conservatives formed a majority government, they felt they knew absolutely everything and were no longer required to consult with opposition members or the Canadian public.

It is unfortunate that, yet again, we are faced with the kind of arrogance and closed-mindedness that we have seen from the Conservatives since they became a majority government.

I have spoken out about this a number of times in the House and I am not the only one. My many colleagues, from the official opposition and the third party and from those who belong to unrecognized parties in the House, have all criticized this fact. However, the government refuses to listen to reason and to change its ways. The same thing happened when the government refused to split Bill C-47 in two parts, so that we could examine the impact of the different laws in the bill more closely. Once again, there is more than one.

These laws would have benefited from individual reviews, so that we could properly understand the effects they will have on the different northern communities. I hope that the government will soon drop its arrogant attitude. It refuses to collaborate with the opposition and refuses to listen to our suggestions. The opposition could have helped improve this bill, and we hope to be able to do so in the future.

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March 4th, 2013 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the time to thank the hon. member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier for her excellent speech. I especially appreciated the comparisons she made with what is happening in her riding with regard to the forestry industry and communities. I truly appreciated it, and it was refreshing to hear that in the House. I thank her very much for that.

I want to address the last part of her speech. She spoke about some 50 amendments proposed by the NDP. Unfortunately, all of those amendments were rejected. That is extremely sad because they were all based on testimony given by experts or people affected by this bill.

My colleague is a member of the Standing Committee on Official Languages. My question is really very simple. I do not know if the same thing is happening in her committee as in mine, where the opposition's amendments are being refused. Does she not find this extremely arrogant? As she mentioned, we get the impression that the Conservatives think they are all-knowing. I would like her to expand a bit on that, if she does not mind.

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March 4th, 2013 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her excellent comments, which unfortunately reflect the reality that I face every week at the Standing Committee on Official Languages.

That being said, I love this committee, which at least seeks to address issues that are extremely important to our official language minority communities. It is a shame that these communities, like northern communities and other communities and groups in Canadian society, are directly affected by the Conservatives' uncompromising attitude both in committee and in the House. The Conservatives have a bad habit of imposing time allocation on various bills, limiting debate and restricting the opposition's role.

The Conservatives are trying to prevent the opposition from scoring any victory, no matter how small, even if their actions could end up hurting hundreds or even thousands of Canadians who are truly in need. In this case, the Conservatives completely ignored demands that came directly from northern communities, to their detriment. The communities made specific requests and recommendations, and the Conservatives ignored them because they were contained in amendments put forward by the opposition. It is easy to see just how ridiculous this approach is.

We need to remember that the government won its majority with less than 50% of the votes. It is also important to remember that 60% of Canadians are not represented in the government's values, agenda and approach.

The government must make more room for the opposition and demands that come directly from Canadians. We are here to represent Canadians, not to advance our own personal agendas.

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March 4th, 2013 / 1:50 p.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, for someone who is not a member of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, my colleague has a very good grasp of the concerns raised by this bill. She also understands the importance of moving the bill forward. The testimony we heard has obviously created some concern about the likelihood of obtaining the funding needed to comply with the legislation.

Is my colleague worried about the fact that it will cost even more to go to court if the government does not provide the necessary funding so that these organizations can do the work they need to do?

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March 4th, 2013 / 1:50 p.m.
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NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her comments.

Lack of funding is an issue in far too many areas, thanks to the government's approach, which is to cut funding for various organizations or offload costs onto the provinces, the territories or the organizations themselves.

And that may well happen again if the government is not able to put in place adequate funding measures. Once again, the groups, the people and the communities affected will have to try to find the money and will have to spend unimaginable amounts to guarantee their rights and interests.

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March 4th, 2013 / 1:50 p.m.
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NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak now and I look forward to continuing the remainder of my part of the debate on Bill C-47 after question period.

Bill C-47 was about 15 years in the making. That does not necessarily mean those 15 years made it a perfect bill, and it is not a perfect bill.

On the other hand, Canadians expect us to put forward the absolute best legislation that we can. I like to think that we try to do that in the House. As I will speak to in a few moments, unfortunately what has transpired with respect to the progress of this bill through committee is a little disappointing.

I would first say that we put forth 50 amendments to the bill. By and large, almost all of those amendments were based on witnesses' testimony; in other words, witnesses came forward during committee stage to say what they would like to see in the bill. Unfortunately, all of the amendments were turned down by the majority government people on the committee.

They try to leave the impression that they consulted widely on this bill and on all bills. However, if we look at the record, we see that not just in this committee but in all committees they must surely be under instructions to not accept any amendments from either the Liberals or the NDP, because they simply do not get looked at in the proper light.

I think that is what has happened with this bill. While the bill does have some attributes that I will talk about in a moment, I believe it could have been made better by accepting our 50 amendments and the three amendments the Liberals put forward. That would have made the bill much better.

Amendments are always put forward in good faith. Unfortunately, in this case it was not helpful. The government turned down each and every one of them.

One of the amendments was to separate the bills. However, they have both been bundled together. One is a good-looking bill, which I will talk about in a moment; the other has some flaws that could have been fixed.

The NDP believes in consultation. We believe in building consensus in decision-making. I lived and worked in the Northwest Territories for five years in the 1980s. When I moved to the Northwest Territories to work in the field of education, one of the first realizations I came to was that the Government of the Northwest Territories worked on consensus. There were no overt political parties, and people worked together, building a consensus. I would like to think that we do that in this place as much as we can.

Mr. Speaker, I neglected to mention that I will be sharing my time with the member for Montcalm.

Even though the government says that it consulted widely and continuously on the bill, I still believe that more consultation would have been useful.

We in the NDP stand up for the rights of northerners and all Canadians, and we continue to do that. I wish the government would join us in looking at Canada the way we do.

I will talk about the first part of the bill, which deals with the Nunavut planning and project assessment act. It is fairly straightforward.

I have a couple of good things to say about that part of the bill. There are a couple of very important measures in there that are certainly worth mentioning. One is that the roles, powers, functions and authorities of all the parties, including how their members are appointed, are very clearly defined.

The proposed process for impact assessment is streamlined and efficient, and hopefully this will make investments in Nunavut more attractive and profitable for people wishing to do business in Nunavut.

The act would establish timelines for various decision-making points. That is exactly the way it should be. Consultation with joint panels is also the way it should be.

The enforcement provisions in the act would establish new and more effective tools for ensuring that developers follow the terms and conditions, and there are specific monitoring plans that go along with that. These regulatory improvements are important steps in that part of the act.

After question period, Mr. Speaker, with your permission I will continue my part of the debate.

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March 4th, 2013 / 3:10 p.m.
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NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to continue my comments in this debate. Just before question period, in the first part of my discussion, I was talking about one part of the bill that actually works quite well and would certainly be particularly good for Nunavut. However, let me take a few moments to speak about the Northwest Territories surface rights board act. There are some difficulties there.

I would like to reiterate that Canadians expect us to work together in this place. When amendments come forward, Canadians expect them all to be considered, regardless of where they come from, whether from the government or the opposition. Unfortunately, right across all the Conservative-dominated committees, without exception, they have all been rejected outright. That is sad for democracy, because here we have a bill that has been 15 years in the making and we have a real opportunity to make it not just a good bill but a perfect bill.

One of the big concerns I have is with the preamble, which says the Inuvialuit final agreement provides for a surface rights board, but it is not clear anywhere in the bill where that actually exists. It says it in the preamble, but not in the bill. That could be problematic going forward.

Additionally, there is no provision for a surface rights board in the Salt River First Nation treaty settlement agreement. Further complicating the issue is the unsettled land claims of the Dehcho and Akaitcho First Nations. What will happen is that all the lawyers will be in court some time soon after the act is implemented because there will be some confusion.

It is most unfortunate that we could have a perfect bill if the government had considered even some of our amendments. However, it would not do it. It would make mining more responsible in Northern Ontario if some of our amendments had been accepted.

The other part of the bill that has me concerned is the whole concept of sustainable training. Education and skills development are critical in all of these large projects. I refer to northern Ontario and some of the issues that we have had in the Ring of Fire and some of the other mining developments that are struggling to go forward. Chiefs have been very clear to me that they do not want one-year or year-and-a-half construction jobs for people from their first nations, and then nothing and they are out in the cold. What they want is real training with real, long-term sustainable results for their people. That means things like people being trained as tradesmen and journeymen electricians, carpenters and plumbers.

They are concerned about what happens when the projects end, and almost all of these mining projects do end, whether in five years, 10 years or 20 years. They want to ensure that the people in their communities have the ability to be mobile, that they have skills they can use any place across Canada and can still, in essence, support their communities and come back and visit and perhaps live there full time some day.

As we heard in question period, we are talking about $8 billion of potential investment and some 4,500 new jobs. It is important that there be something in the bill concerning sustainable skills and skills development that really spells out what the responsibilities are.

The member for Western Arctic, in his comments, was very concerned that the NWT surface rights board act may have been rushed and that perhaps not enough time was taken to talk about it.

We put forward the amendments from witnesses to try to clear this whole thing up, and none of them were accepted, so while this bill would be a step forward, it could have been better. I keep on mentioning that because I would like to see us moving forward in the next couple of years, particularly when government bills come forward, to have the opportunity to bring forward amendments and have them considered in the light in which they are brought forward.

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March 4th, 2013 / 3:15 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, my friend from northern Ontario has raised two fundamental concerns that apply not just to this one piece of legislation but across the current government's broad policy, particularly when dealing with rural, remote and northern areas and the implications around first nations consultation and accommodation.

There are two concerns. One is that we have seen, not just with bills that deal with first nations but across the board, that at every committee from transport to first nations to the environment, when we as the official opposition bring some amendments that are garnered out of the testimony from people who would be impacted by the bill and who are experts in that field, on every single occasion the government members vote down those amendments.

At some point we have to wonder if they believe the legislation they introduce is perfect and drawn up without a mistake, without a comma or a period out of place. Of course members of no government—this one, or any other—could be possibly be so arrogant as to think that when they draw up sometimes complex pieces of legislation, they got it exactly right the first time. The whole process that we go through and the reason this place exists is to hold government to account and ensure we get legislation right.

That is the first point: that yet again on this bill the member for Western Arctic and others took the testimony, actually listened and tried to modify the bill.

My question is on the second piece. When dealing with first nations, a big question is around certainty, whether it is the Ring of Fire, in northern B.C. or here in the western Arctic that we are talking about. Having good agreements based on consultation and accommodation is what allows industry and those communities the certainty they need to build that progressive and brighter future.

Can my friend comment on his experiences in northern Ontario as they relate to this bill and the Conservatives' lack of understanding or capacity to listen and consult and at the end of the day to finally accommodate?

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March 4th, 2013 / 3:20 p.m.
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NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, as everyone knows in this place, and certainly in northern Ontario, the government has put the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka forward to try to move the Ring of Fire along. He will know, as will people in northern Ontario, that perhaps the main reason it is not moving along is there has not been the consultation that first nations people expect and deserve, and I know that the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka will do his best to ensure that happens.

In reference to this bill, it has been in the works for 15 years, approaching a couple of decades. This refers to the first part of the comment from the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. There really is an opportunity to put forward perfect or near-perfect legislation. After that period, one would think that the Conservatives would be interested in what the witnesses have to say when they go to committee. One would think that they would take everything that they have to say under proper advisement to ensure that they put forward the absolute best bill that they possibly can.

It is almost as if they go for 15 years, building up and building up, and then in the final hour they just say, “Oh well, let's go with what we got”, instead of going that extra little mile and saying, “Maybe there are some good amendments here; maybe we should look at these; maybe we can make this a better bill”.

Quite frankly, that is what Canadians expect from us.

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March 4th, 2013 / 3:20 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, my comment for the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River is in absolute support of what he has just said.

I had the pleasure, and it was a pleasure, of working for the then Minister of the Environment from 1986 to 1988 and putting legislation forward as part of a majority government, putting forward legislation to committees where we welcomed changes. As an example, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act was put forward without a priority substances list. The idea of a priority substances list came from an opposition member of Parliament on a parliamentary committee for environment. My boss, the Minister of the Environment, Tom McMillan, saw that it would be a benefit and would improve the act. This was a normal occurrence.

Parliamentary committees studying legislation used to be essentially non-politicized zones. We went in there, set our partisanship at the door and worked to make a better bill. I mourn that this is lost now. The comments that the member is making on this specific bill apply to every piece of legislation we have seen go through this House. Every piece of legislation in this place is treated as though accepting a single amendment to any government bill is a political defeat that the administration today will not tolerate. That is an offence to democracy, and I appreciate the member's mentioning it.

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March 4th, 2013 / 3:20 p.m.
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NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments. She is absolutely right. That is the feeling that we in the opposition get in committee. We know that these are worthwhile amendments and we wonder why the Conservatives consider that it would be some sort of defeat if they were to accept any of them. Perhaps the Ottawa bubble syndrome causes them to think that for some reason they would lose votes.

I do not know what they are thinking, but the thinking should be that we go through all of the controls to make sure that we come forward with the best legislation possible.

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March 4th, 2013 / 3:25 p.m.
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NDP

Manon Perreault NDP Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, we are debating 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. This bill seeks to create a framework for determining how environmental assessments and project approval will be done in Nunavut given the new land use plans.

Through these amendments, the bill also seeks to improve the process and make it more efficient in order to support economic growth in northern Canada.

The bill involves two acts, and we are of the opinion that these two acts should have been examined separately. Including different implementation provisions in a single bill was clearly not the best thing to do. Unfortunately, the government decided otherwise, despite the fact that we proposed that the bill be divided in two.

The NDP supports consultation and consensus-based decision-making that respects the autonomy of the Government of Nunavut and the Government of the Northwest Territories.

However, we think that there should have been more consultation about the Northwest Territories surface rights board act. We will certainly continue to fight for the rights and interests of northern residents, and we will promote the sustainable development of northern communities.

I will now turn to some highlights of the two parts of the bill.

The first part of the bill, the Nunavut planning and project assessment act, creates a framework for planning and project assessment in the territory. This part of the bill requires the Government of Canada and the Inuit to create a joint system to supervise resource management in Nunavut. It sets out an apparently simple and effective impact assessment process, particularly for small projects. The goal is to make investment in Nunavut more attractive and profitable in the future.

The bill calls for a regulatory framework that will be more effective and regular, with timelines for territorial planning and environmental assessment processes.

The bill also makes it possible for transboundary and trans-regional projects to be assessed by joint committees, and the environmental assessment criteria have been harmonized.

The bill includes provisions for new and better tools to ensure that investors respect the conditions set out by the Nunavut Impact Review Board. It sets out general and specific monitoring programs, which will authorize both governments to monitor the environmental, social and economic impacts of projects.

The bill also defines how, and by whom, land use plans will be prepared, amended, reviewed and implemented in Nunavut. This will improve the regulatory regime to give the people of Nunavut the power to decide how quickly and to what extent territorial lands and resources will be developed.

The second part of the bill pertains to the Northwest Territories surface rights board act, which will give the board the power to make orders regarding terms and conditions of access and compensation to be paid in respect of that access when the parties are unable to negotiate an agreement.

As such, it affects the entire Northwest Territories and implements provisions of land claim agreements. Only some of the land claim agreements in the territory contain a provision for a surface rights board.

There is no provision in the Salt River First Nation Treaty Settlement Agreement for the creation of a surface rights board. Furthermore, this issue also includes unresolved land claims.

Lastly, the bill would also make changes to the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act, the purpose of which is to fulfill the federal government's obligation under the Yukon umbrella final agreement to establish a dispute settlement process for parties that have land and surface interests.

This has a lot to do with disputes related to access to and use of first nations land in Yukon.

That said, this bill could stimulate the development of responsible mining projects in Nunavut, where one already exists. This is a good sign for Nunavut, which currently has some exciting mining potential. We are talking about $8 billion in investments, which could help create nearly 4,500 jobs. Nunavut's GDP has increased by 12% since 2010.

The bill sets out a framework for determining how environmental assessments will be carried out and how permits will be issued in Nunavut. This new regulatory regime will help maintain economic competitiveness through new mining investments and will also be there to ensure that projects go through a rigorous assessment process.

By promoting new investments in Nunavut, this bill will help ease the uncertainty in the industry. Furthermore, it will now officially be necessary to obtain environmental assessment approval before starting development work.

This bill could clarify the rules on land use and environmental assessments, particularly when the designated Inuit organization is given the power to authorize new land use plans. This is a crucial aspect to take into account when debating this bill. We must absolutely ensure that development in the north benefits residents in the north.

Some important questions remain. The bill includes regions where land claims are still in dispute, which could result in legal proceedings.

Furthermore, the creation of a surface rights board has raised some concerns in many cases. This was the case with the Gwich'in Tribal Council, whose chief has indicated that the Gwich'in were not able to participate in creating a surface rights board in any meaningful way, since they had to deal with changes in the region.

We presented 50 amendments to this bill at committee stage. Unfortunately, they were all rejected or deemed out of order. Quite simply, the Conservatives were not interested in the amendments we wanted made to the bill. The amendments were perfectly legitimate and based on requests from witnesses from the Nunavut Impact Review Board, Nunavut Tuungavik Inc., the NWT Association of communities, the Government of the Northwest Territories, the Nunavut Chamber of Mines, and Alternatives North.

With those amendments, we tried to modify the provisions of the bill that enable the commission to prohibit access and that give it authority over lands subject to outstanding land claims.

Therefore, we support the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act, which will apply part of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. However, we do not want to interfere in an agreement that the Government of Nunavut negotiated.

We also fear that the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board Act was drafted in haste. To compensate, we proposed numerous amendments to properly represent the witnesses' concerns. It was all to no avail because the Conservatives rejected every last one. I find it hard to believe that, out of 50 amendments, none of them had anything special to contribute to this bill.

So I would like to reiterate the fact that we support the consultations and consensus-based decision-making that respect the independence of the governments of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. Having said that, we think more consultations on the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board Act should have been held in the context of this bill.

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March 4th, 2013 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member on her excellent speech.

I would like to ask her why, yet again, the 50 amendment put forward in committee were rejected and sometimes even declared inadmissible. Those amendments were based on excellent testimony from people concerned about the two bills that were merged into one.

Why is the government still rejecting reasoned amendments that are supported by witnesses who are actually living this reality?

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March 4th, 2013 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Manon Perreault NDP Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would simply say that the bill is more than 150 pages long.

How is it possible that not a single one of the 50 amendments we proposed could improve the bill? They should have at least been studied further.

Naturally, the Conservatives decided to do as they saw fit and did not accept any of the amendments. That is really too bad because the amendments were based on testimony and were meant to help northerners.

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March 4th, 2013 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Jonathan Tremblay NDP Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Compton—Stanstead just spoke about the rejected amendments.

People asked for more time so that they could make certain amendments in order to improve the bill. That is a good thing.

I would like my colleague to tell us what she thinks about the idea of giving certain groups more time so that they can study the bill some more and have some input on the amendments.

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March 4th, 2013 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Manon Perreault NDP Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his question.

I have here Paul Quassa's testimony before the committee. He is chair of the Nunavut Planning Commission and he said:

This organization has been critically underfunded for nearly a decade. Industry and Inuit have told us that the land use planning process takes too long, and we agree. However, without additional resources, [they are] helpless to respond.

A bit later, he said:

...without appropriate financial and human resources and the expansion of the commission's jurisdiction to include all land, water, and marine areas...the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act...will miss the mark.

They will not be able to achieve their goal.

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March 4th, 2013 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Jonathan Tremblay NDP Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, as everyone knows, these are not new issues. Something could have been done as early as 1990, but we have seen nothing until now. Only the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives have been in government since 1990. Now the Conservatives are in power, and nothing was done until today.

I think this comes a little late. This needs to be done, and it needs to be done fast.

What does my colleague think of the fact that this issue has been dragging on for so long and no one has done anything until now?

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March 4th, 2013 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Manon Perreault NDP Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his second question.

Since 1993, funding for the commission has been adjusted based on domestic demand implicit price indexes. Taking current funding levels into account, the commission is having a hard time fulfilling its obligations.

Legislative measures will add obligations beyond those imposed by the agreement.

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March 4th, 2013 / 3:40 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, as you have heard several times in the House today, the New Democratic Party is in support of this legislation. However, we think it is important to bring to the House the concerns raised by the many witnesses who came from Nunavut and the Northwest Territories to express some concerns about the legislation. They took the time to make sound, genuine recommendations for improving the bill. Some of the issues were not resolved in the time for consultation. I would like to share some of those, as have some of my colleagues.

I will be sharing my time today with my colleague, the hon. member for Alfred-Pellan.

The bill is a very important one. It is very important that all jurisdictions in Canada have a sound system for reviewing projects, for planning developments in their communities and for environmental impact assessments. This particular legislation has been long in coming, as my colleagues have pointed out. The agreement between the Crown and the people of Nunavut was signed in 1993. Yet here we are, two decades later, and this legislation is only now being brought forward. There have been successive governments in power that have dropped the ball. To the credit of the government, it has moved forward with the legislation. There has been a greater attempt at consultation, but clearly not enough.

Interestingly, in the bill there is reference to the duty to consult. I am not sure that some of my colleagues have raised this issue. In the bill, under part 1, which deals with the Nunavut planning and project assessment act, the minister is obligated to consult closely with the territorial minister, the designated Inuit organization, the commission and the board created under the bill on any amendments to the bill in the future. What is not made clear is whether the minister is obligated to do that consultation in advance of tabling the bill. There are a number of matters that merit improvement. Perhaps the government will listen to my hon. colleagues, who have suggested that it would be wise to have a review of this legislation sooner than 10 years from now so that we might address some of the factors that are missing, particularly in the second part of the bill dealing with surface rights in the Northwest Territories.

Part 1 of the bill deals with Nunavut planning and project assessment. Many of the mechanisms created in this legislation are already set out in the land claims agreement. That is the normal course of what has happened in the modern treaties. The step that was missing was that we needed the federal legislation to actually implement the intricacies of the systems for planning and assessment. To their credit, the people of Nunavut have been proceeding for 20 years to try to deal with these complicated matters without the legislative framework. Now we have a legislative framework.

As I mentioned, I had the privilege of sitting in on the committee for one day to replace one of my colleagues. I had an opportunity to talk with a number of the representatives from Nunavut and with other witnesses who have raised a number of concerns about the bill. They had a number of pragmatic, practical recommendations to improve the bill. Sad to say, none of the recommendations made to the committee, which we brought forward as proposed amendments, were accepted. I think that is most regrettable. It raises questions about how sincere was the consultation on the bill.

One thing I would like to bring attention to, which I am not sure anyone else has mentioned, is relevant to the issues that have arisen with the bill. There has been some suggestion, particularly by the member for Western Arctic, that concerns have been raised by the first nation peoples in the Northwest Territories that the part of the bill to do with the surface rights board is perhaps being rushed through too quickly, for a number of reasons.

Not all of the first nation final agreements include a surface rights board. In some cases they are saying they do not have any issues under the surface rights system, and they are asking, what is the rush? In other cases, some first nations have said that since they have not settled their land claims yet, they will likely litigate.

Therefore, there are a lot of questions about the rushing through and, again, the omnibus nature of it. The personalty of the government when it has dragged its heels seems to be to wrap it all up tight with a ribbon and table it in the House. In this case, these are two very distinct pieces of legislation that cover two distinct territories of our country. It is rather puzzling that it has forced these together.

The matter I want to raise is the series of legal actions, first filed by the Inuit of Nunavut, represented by Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, against the Crown, in 2006. They filed that action, very regrettably, because negotiations had broken down on the duty of the federal Crown to actually deliver its side of that modern treaty. A big part of that was passing over the necessary finances for Nunavut to begin acting as a modern government. The action dealt with breaches of the agreement relating to core funding to establish systems of governance; failure of the Crown to act in a manner consistent with the honour of the Crown; and, contrary to the terms of the Nunavut final agreement, failure of the federal Crown to deliver its responsibilities.

Since 2003, proper and adequate funding has not been provided. It is interesting to hear the list of entities within the Nunavut government that the federal government was not supporting, which goes to the very matters under this legislation. It was failing to adequately fund the Nunavut Planning Commission, the Nunavut Impact Review Board, the Nunavut Water Board, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, the Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal, and the hunters and trappers organizations.

In addition, the action alleged that the federal government was failing to deliver a general monitoring plan, which is required under the agreement. Last year, in June, the court held that in fact the government had erred in law and was required to provide that funding. Guess what happened? The government has appealed that matter. Therefore, instead of simply transferring over the dollars that it signed on to and is constitutionally obligated to transfer, it has simply taken Nunavut to court, again.

They have also alleged no co-operation in the development and implementation of adequate employment and training, which was obviously necessary in order to deliver the functions of all of these boards for planning and assessment. They also advised that there was no Inuit impact and benefit agreement entered into.

There has since been a land claims coalition created, which includes the various Nunavut entities and other governments that have been created under modern treaties. In fact, that coalition of people under modern treaties met in this area just last week and had discussions about the frustrations they are still facing, some progress they are making, and the successes and attributes of working together.

Therefore, the legal actions proceed. Most of their claims have yet to be resolved so they have to continue in the courts, at the same time that they were sitting down and trying to negotiate in good faith. To the credit of the people of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, they did sit down and try to find time, regardless of the lack of appropriate resources and expertise to help them in those negotiations.

It is my understanding that many of these same concerns have been raised regarding the content of Bill C-47. The bill contains no duty or commitment to contribute the resources necessary to implement these selfsame commissions, boards and tribunals established under the first nation final agreements and self-government agreements.

As has been stated by my colleagues, many of the witnesses who came forward said they were delighted that this legislation is finally coming forward after 20 years but they had additional measures they need to make sure it will work properly. Those witnesses are the people who chair and participate on the boards, tribunals and commissions. Among the recommendations that they made are the very ones we brought to the attention of the House. They include the fact that legislation should include a requirement by the government to adequately finance these boards, commissions and tribunals.

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March 4th, 2013 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague who, as all the members on this side of the House know, does a lot of work with first nations and northern communities. She is doing an amazing job on a file that she knows very well.

As I said in the House earlier today, I am learning more and more about this bill, about how it will work and how it came to be. I was quite disappointed that the 50 or so amendments proposed by the official opposition were all rejected. And yet those amendments were based on important testimony from people who appeared in committee and who had something important to say about this.

I would like to share a thought with my colleague in that regard. Would she not agree that the government showed a lack of respect for northern communities and first nations populations when it refused to listen to them and rejected those amendments? What does my colleague think?

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March 4th, 2013 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would not like to attribute a particular view such as that to any party in this House. However, I could answer the reverse question. I would have thought that the most respectful thing to do would have been to seriously consider the additional amendments that the representatives of the northern governments on behalf of their northern people came forward to the parliamentary committee to present.

Given the fact that the Conservatives gave short shrift to the amendments and did not consider or implement them, why is that important? Two of the most important measures that my colleagues tabled were that the legislation should include specific provisions to provide for participant funding. When I was in committee that day, it was very clear to me that the witnesses from Nunavut were very supportive of that and very concerned that it would not be included. The other very clear recommendation that came from the witnesses, including Paul Quassa, chair of the Nunavut Planning Commission, was the very serious concern that they are already overwhelmed in trying to deliver the responsibilities under the planning commission, and that with increasing responsibilities coming to them, if they are not given additional resources and expertise, they could not possibly deliver their functions in the manner that is necessary.

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March 4th, 2013 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think that question would be better directed to the government.

I cannot possibly think of any reasonable reason for a 20-year delay on living up to commitments under a treaty. The current National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations has said very clearly, as have other first nation leaders of late, particularly through the Idle No More movement, that “we are all treaty people”.

It is not just the first nation peoples, but the Inuit and potentially the Métis, who might sign these treaties or first nation final agreements. We, the people of Canada, under the guise of the federal crown, also sign on to these agreements. We all have a responsibility to hold our government responsible to live up to what it signs on to in those agreements. We have a responsibility going forward that the government lives up to the terms of this legislation and provides the adequate resources and expertise, so that the peoples of the north can move forward and in fact benefit from the economic development that the Conservative government is chomping at the bit to make happen in the north.

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March 4th, 2013 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-47.

I took the time to listen to my colleagues' speeches today and to learn more about the details of this bill because I am not a member of the committee that studied it. I was really interested in the arguments made and the process followed by the committee following the appearance of witnesses and experts who came to comment on the bill.

Before I go into the details, I would like to mention that one of my colleagues caught my attention when they said that we must not forget that the realities in the north or in the regions are often very different than those in the south or in major centres. We often forget that. I represent a riding on Laval Island, the riding of Alfred-Pellan, which is often considered as a rather urban area because it is located in a major metropolitan area. Even though 90% of the riding is agricultural and very rural, we are part of the major metropolitan area.

We often forget that the reality in one part of the country is extremely different from that in another. Today, it is important to point that out and not to forget it. I have family in Canada's far north and in Hudson's Bay. Furthermore, one of my very closest collaborators, who I adore, will be moving to the Yukon in the next few weeks. I will be losing her, unfortunately, but I am very proud of her. She loves the Yukon, and I am happy for her and will take the opportunity to go visit her.

Before becoming an MP, I worked for Quebec's ministry of natural resources and wildlife in northern communities. I mainly worked with them on issues related to outfitters, forestry and anything related to the importance of adding value to and preserving these resources, which was extremely important to these communities. We have to make this the focal point of the bill.

We cannot forget that economic development and jobs in northern regions, in the territories—the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, for example—depend on natural resources. Natural resources are often the main economic driver in these communities. We need to take the time to sit down and underscore that. We also need to take the time to put good legislation into place to support northern development. We need to do a good job with our territorial legislation so that we can properly support these people and so that economic development does not happen at the expense of the environment or northern communities. It needs to happen in a way that is respectful of the people who live there.

We need to put the emphasis on respecting the people who live there. When this bill was studied in committee, the members of the official opposition took the time to listen to witnesses and experts who are directly affected by or who know the subject matter of Bill C-47. We based our 50 amendments on their testimony because is it critical that we listen to those people. What is disappointing is that none of the opposition amendments were accepted.

In hindsight, I am not really surprised. Members of the opposition parties, and even the parties that are not recognized in the House, often talk about what happens and how we can react to the government's arrogance in response to opposition amendments or proposals. We are not surprised that these amendments were refused.

But I am a bit surprised that the government does not take the time to listen to the witnesses and experts in committee. They are there in good faith, to share their concerns and to talk about how they view the situation because it affects them directly.

Witnesses and committees are there for a reason. Committees are there to hear from people and to make the best laws possible. That is an important point when it comes to Bill C-47: have we come up with the best law possible?

For example, the hon. member for Western Arctic spoke a lot this morning about the amendments that were proposed. He wondered whether people were satisfied with the current version of Bill C-47. No one seems very happy with the current version of the bill being presented at third reading. That is really sad because, by listening to what witnesses had to say in committee, we could have fine-tuned and improved this bill. As parliamentarians, it is our responsibility to produce the best bills possible, and this bill is, once again, a bit off the mark. We could have produced something better. It is really sad.

Another one of my colleagues raised the fact that most of the first nations who were consulted said that they were not ready and that they needed more time to think about this bill and to see what types of amendments could be proposed. Unfortunately, this point of view was not taken into consideration either. That is also extremely sad. Not enough attention was paid to the witnesses and the first nations needed more time to examine Bill C-47 in order to ensure that the legislation was good for everyone.

Since I am talking about first nations, I cannot help but think of some of the other issues that we have dealt with recently that affect them. I am thinking, for example, of the Idle No More movement, which showed just how important it is to listen to all Canadians. It seems that, at times, the Conservatives are not doing that. We have said it before and we are saying it again, loud and clear. This movement is proof that the government is not listening to the problems of first nations. Bill C-47 could have been a good example of openness, transparency and co-operation with the first nations to help them understand that we are working with them.

When I think about first nations, I am thinking about the Shannen's Dream motion that we unanimously passed several months ago. It had to do with education for all first nations peoples. We all built that together, and we all agreed on it. We also could have used that kind of unity from all parties in the House for Bill C-47, in order to work together here.

These little things make me hesitate a bit. I am a little sad to see that all these amendments were, unfortunately, rejected. But the NDP supports consultations and consensus-based decision-making that respect the independence of the governments of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

We in the official opposition are fans of consultation. I like it a lot, as several of my colleagues probably do, as well. I use that approach a lot in my riding. I use in on budgets, on various bills and on all issues affecting the Alfred-Pellan community. Listening to the public and consulting them as often as possible is an extremely important part of democracy.

To conclude, I would like to reiterate that the NDP will keep defending the rights and interests of northerners and promote the long-term prosperity of Canada's northern communities, from coast to coast to coast.

The communities are all different. I think we need to accept the differences of each and every one.

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March 4th, 2013 / 4:05 p.m.
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London North Centre Ontario

Conservative

Susan Truppe ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, members of the opposition have made a point today of mentioning the government's reluctance to consider amendments to Bill C-47 that had, in most cases, been recommended by witnesses in the committee. For the record, I would like to address those comments from a different perspective.

Generally speaking, most of the recommended changes have been brought forward in our consultation efforts for both parts of the bill, and we have heard them before. Where accommodations could be made, they were, and there were hundreds of them. In other cases, accommodations were not made, for a variety of very good reasons. As an example, it has been suggested that the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board should have the authority to deny access under certain circumstances. The land claim agreements do not provide the authority for the board to deny access. When a mineral right is issued under an act of Parliament, the holder of the right is inherently entitled to exercise that right and cannot be denied access.

The bill would not change the rights of access or mineral 10-year regime that currently exists in the NWT, nor should it.

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

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Parliamentary Secretary for her comments.

If she had listened to my speech, she would have understood the importance of some of the proposed amendments. Among other things, the first nations had asked for more time to review the bill properly. In addition, another good amendment relating to the request for increased transparency for the commissioner could have been studied. It was rejected. I do not understand why the government opposite is rejecting a request for more transparency. I found that strange.

On our side, we like Canadians to be consulted. We most certainly could have taken more time to do that and to do a better job of it.

As my colleague from Western Arctic said, no one is really happy with this bill. No one is jumping for joy at the thought of adopting Bill C-47. We could have fleshed it out more, but the consultations are still a step forward.

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

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Alfred-Pellan for her speech and for clarifying several points.

We know that the north is gaining importance, particularly in terms of the geopolitical perspective of that part of our country. That is why I feel it is important to consider the rights and interests of the first inhabitants of the region seriously.

I know that my colleague has already commented on this, but I would like her to expand on the NDP's perspective on the rights and interests of first peoples, which are critical to this debate.

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

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, our deputy critic for intergovernmental aboriginal affairs.

I would like to point out what a phenomenal job he is doing with first nations. I appreciate his work because it helps and enlightens us tremendously.

He touched on an extremely important point: respect for people in northern communities and first nations. These are the first people to feel the effects of choices made in Ottawa, in southern Canada.

Our choices will affect communities that are now coping with harsh changes with respect to natural resources, land development, jobs, the environment and climate change. This is extremely important.

My colleague raised a very good point. We have some serious work to do in the House together with first nations. They must be included in the process. Consultations must make sense. We have to base our legislation on testimony from experts and the people who will be affected by the legislation.

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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—

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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.

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March 4th, 2013 / 5:05 p.m.
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London North Centre Ontario

Conservative

Susan Truppe ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to hear that the official opposition supports the bill.

We have done our homework, and Bill C-47 is good sound legislation that will implement land claim agreements. It is good for Nunavut, and it is good for the Northwest Territories. It will help increase predictability and efficiency so that northerners can achieve the prosperity they seek. Let us allow Bill C-47 to continue its journey through the legislative process in the Senate and help to ensure that the benefits of this legislation make their way to northern citizens.

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March 4th, 2013 / 5:05 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, we will be voting in favour of this piece of legislation and it will go through. However, that does not mean that there are not some weaknesses that need to be addressed and that there were not some weaknesses in the process that the government needs to be aware of so it does not happen again. The government has stood up and faced opposition from us, and Canadians, to various pieces of legislation it has brought forward, and it has been unwilling to change.

We do not only have the duty to consult with first nations, Inuit and Métis people, but we also have the duty to accommodate and the duty to recognize inherent treaty rights and rights to land. The more the Conservatives want to put their heads in the sand and not recognize those principles, the more trouble they are going to face and the more trouble they are going to create, not only for Canadians, but also for first nations, Inuit and Métis groups in this country.

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March 4th, 2013 / 5:05 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to indicate that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île.

The short title of 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, is the Northern Jobs and Growth Act.

Having observed the government for nearly two long years now, I am skeptical, to say the least, when I see the words “jobs” and “growth” in the same sentence. This is a far cry from what the constituents of my riding and other ridings in Canada have seen since May 2, 2011. What they are seeing is an effective opposition that is always vigilant. We do not have any choice.

But, let us give the government the benefit of the doubt. The bill's intentions are certainly good, since they respond to many of the expectations of the public and stakeholders affected by this legislation. It is important to point that out. We will support the bill introduced by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development on November 6, 2012. The bill brings together two acts, which I named earlier. However, these two acts should have been examined separately.

Ideally, we wanted the bill to be sent to committee so that amendments could be made based on the testimony heard. To our utter amazement, our 50 amendments were all rejected or deemed inadmissible by the Conservatives in committee. It's not a perfect world. This is proof positive that the Conservatives have no idea what a fair and democratic Parliament entails. Let us not talk about fairness. They do not know what that means.

Fifty amendments were proposed. They were all based on the requests of witnesses from the Nunavut Impact Review Board, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Northwest Territories Association of Communities, the Government of the Northwest Territories, the Nunavut Chamber of Mines, and Alternatives North. This is yet more proof that the government does not listen to the public or to the various stakeholders from the communities involved.

Subsequently, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement provides that the Inuit and the Government of Canada establish a joint system, in partnership, to oversee how resources will be managed in the territory of Nunavut. The Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act provides a legal framework for this, as does the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act, which was created in 1994 to fulfill an obligation of the Canadian government at the time resulting from the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement.

The board is a tribunal whose primary role is to resolve access disputes between those owning or having an interest in the surface of the land and others with access rights to the land. These disputes are primarily related to accessing or using Yukon first nation settlement land and, in certain circumstances, disputes involving access to or use of non-settlement land.

As I said, we will be supporting the bill. However, we also wanted to support consultation and decision-making based on a consensus that respects the autonomy of the governments of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. This is a crucial part of any discussion about development, jobs and economic growth. We know that all the research done on minerals and the development of these areas represents the economy of the future. Since it is the economy of the future, we need to take these populations, their rights and their demands into account.

We based our amendments on important testimony we had heard. However, all of our amendments were rejected or deemed out of order in committee. This is unacceptable on the part of a government that claims to be democratic and that has been talking non-stop about jobs and growth since it won a majority on May 2, 2011.

Fortunately, on May 2, 2011, Canadians also elected a strong and effective opposition: the NDP. We will continue to work hard and defend the interests of all communities.

The Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act has six components.

Part 1 confirms the establishment of the Nunavut planning commission and the Nunavut impact review board.

Part 2 defines how planning will be done in the territory.

Part 3 sets out the process by which the commission will examine repercussions. It will also examine specific project proposals and determine whether they conform to the land use plan.

Part 4 provides an opportunity for the board, with the support of government, to review and assess projects outside the Nunavut settlement area that may nevertheless have an adverse impact on the Nunavut settlement area.

Part 5 contains provisions for coordinating the activities of government institutions, the use of information, monitoring, the establishment and maintenance of public registries, grandfathering, and administrative matters.

These are all administrative, technical and sometimes complex measures. The population and the governments of these regions who will be affected by the application of these bills should be consulted.

That is why we wanted those 50 amendments. Even if the Conservatives had accepted only five amendments, that would have represented 10% of the total, which would surely have been a record.

I am shocked every time I see the definitions included in this bill. Every bill provides definitions, but in this bill there is a definition for wildlife area, critical habitat, wildlife sanctuary, migratory bird sanctuary, wetland of international importance, marine protected area, Canadian heritage river and a historic place designated under the Historical Resources Act.

It makes me crazy because the government botched a bill that eliminated protection for 98% of our navigable waters.

When we talk about the environment and such things as wildlife sanctuaries, we have to wonder what the government has in mind. We wonder how the government will define and apply these laws that protect important resources for the first nations living in those areas when the time comes to enforce them.

We wanted the government to consult more and to listen, but most of all we wanted the governments of those regions to be heard.

This will always be a disappointment because we live in a democratic society where we share information and help one another. However, often there is a total lack of any such process.

Fortunately, the NDP is here. We will continue to protect the rights and interests of northern residents and to promote sustainable prosperity for these northern communities. I have already spoken about the reasons for this. It is because the far north holds the key to the future. Wherever there is development and growth, my colleagues and I will be present to defend the interests of the people who live there. This will have an impact on all of Canada.

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March 4th, 2013 / 5:15 p.m.
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NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent speech. As always, he is passionate and a pleasure to listen to.

I have a question for him about the amendments to this bill proposed by the official opposition. These amendments were proposed in response to testimony from several groups, including the Nunavut Impact Review Board, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the NWT Association of Communities, the Nunavut Chamber of Mines and Alternatives North. These groups are directly affected by this bill.

The government often claims to have consulted people in the north and then washes its hands of the supposed consultation. But we know that it has a constitutional obligation to consult and to accommodate. That is an essential condition of this constitutional obligation.

I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about that.

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March 4th, 2013 / 5:15 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, let us talk about this government's obligations and about respect.

So many other majority governments before the current Conservative government have honoured signed treaties, which have always allowed for discussions with first nations members, the people who live on this land. But we are not seeing that in this case.

These consultations were properly held. All we are asking is that the government listen to these people and respect their fundamental values: respect for traditions, cultures and, especially, respect for the land, its complexity, its vastness and its immense beauty. The government says no.

We are laying the foundations that will certainly be necessary for development and growth in the area, but once again the government is showing a lack of respect for people who are asking for nothing but to be part of Canada. But the government forgets that and we start over every time.

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March 4th, 2013 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

Jonathan Tremblay NDP Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, we talked about the 50 or so amendments that were systematically rejected. We talked about the fact that the agreements were reached over 20 years ago and that successive governments could have done something long before now, but they did nothing. We also talked about the companies that represent first nations and that would have liked to have more time to propose other amendments to improve this bill. This work should have been done 20 years ago. Now it is being done quickly, without listening to people.

I wonder what my colleague's thoughts are on this, but I think it is perhaps time to see a new government.

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March 4th, 2013 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, the consequences of not consulting and not respecting these populations can include serious environmental repercussions in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. This could have an extremely harmful impact on the environment. We are already having problems with climate change, melting glaciers and declining fish stocks that can no longer meet the needs of coastal fisheries.

The most important consideration is the repercussions and consequences of this for people, for natural habitats. This government claims to listen to people from coast to coast to coast. There is enormous potential for growth on the northern coast, but we must show respect. Development will bring royalties. We want to enable these nations to evolve, but in keeping with their traditions, their culture, which is hundreds if not thousands of years old, since these populations were here long before us.

Once again, it is unacceptable for this government to completely ignore all the consultations and all the amendments that were proposed.

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March 4th, 2013 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we are talking about Bill C-47, which has to do with a part of Canada I have not yet visited. I hope to have the chance to visit northern Canada one day.

One of the main roles of government is to represent all Canadians, to make decisions in the interest of Canadians and to work to unite all Canadians. Today, we are seeing the difference between the official opposition, which rises to speak and is interested in northern perspectives, and the government, which remains silent and rises from time to time to read out a question written by the Prime Minister's Office, without perhaps knowing what it is really about.

The first thing that I said today was that it is true that the bill as a whole is relatively good. However, it needed improvements that the government refused to make. We proposed about 55 amendments to the bill, having to do with transparency and consultations, but the government rejected them all. What reason did the government give? I really have no idea. Earlier today, a member tried to make a little public service announcement, but I do not really understand how that explained the rejection of those 55 amendments. I do not think it justified anything.

The economy in the northern regions is cyclical, which is why it often depends on mining development. We need to be aware of this reality. We also have to understand that the economic contribution of natural resources is often limited to where the mining companies are located. So the environmental issue is extremely important because people living in the north, in particular, live in much greater harmony with the environment. We have a lot to learn from how they live with the environment, from how they fish in the ocean and hunt.

The fact that the government just waived all the environmental regulations does not inspire confidence in the government's willingness to negotiate with the territories on mining or other projects. We should ask the government to respect the will of the people who live there. In fact, these territories are part of Canada, but the people who live there have to live with the consequences of pollution caused by mining projects.

For example, my colleague from Western Arctic mentioned the Giant Mine catastrophe in his speech. The government had to use taxpayers' money to deal with the environmental disaster caused by the dumping of 270,000 tonnes of arsenic into the ground. Therefore, it is important to point out that the bill could be improved in order to prevent the government from having to accept responsibility for cleaning up such environmental disasters with taxpayers' money.

Thus, we need serious and rigorous environmental assessments. We are saddling the next generation with a huge environmental debt. Canadians are truly ashamed of this government, which is an international embarrassment. I will come back to that later.

There is also the need for a long-term vision. When we develop natural resources, we should always take into consideration the fact that a mine will not operate forever. It is fine to pass bills that talk about development, but that is taking a short-term view. Do we really invest 100% in these communities? Will a bill that deals with negotiations for mining projects solve all the problems of the people living in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut? No.

For example, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development is studying the fact that Canada will take over the chair of the Arctic Council in May 2013, which is only a few weeks away. A number of experts who appeared before the committee talked about the serious lack of port facilities, roads and railways. It is ridiculous.

The government can pat itself on the back and say that it is capable of negotiating with the territories, but that is completely ridiculous because they never do any work. We have very few if any deep-water ports. We do not have any decent roads or trains that go to the north, and people cannot even get food supplies.

In committee, one witness said that, if there were a crisis or a major storm, one of the municipalities would have to be completely evacuated because there would not be any food or medication. That is completely ridiculous. It is all well and good to talk about the government's good faith and its desire to negotiate for the good of the territories, but as long as the government is not making long-term investments or providing infrastructure that will help these communities to develop, nothing will change. These communities have been neglected for decades and now the government is waking up and saying that it might be a good idea to negotiate and do something. In my opinion, that is not how things work, and Canadians do not think so either.

Land claims are extremely important. The communities were abandoned by the Conservative and Liberal federal governments. They have been abandoned for years. The government is not creating any infrastructure and does not have a long-term plan. The Conservatives are relying on band-aid solutions. They are patchworking.

We support what the government is trying to do, but it could do more. A regulatory regime is all well and good, but we know that the government deregulates everything. The government's desire to negotiate to regulate something goes against its habits. The Conservatives are deregulating when it comes to the environment and the financial system, and now they are talking about regulating. In my opinion, that does not make sense. Either the government is acting in bad faith or it does not have any idea what it is doing.

I would also like to talk about the fact that a UN report was published today on poverty in Canada's northern communities, about the fact that these communities do not have access to food, that they live in poverty and that the government has completely forgotten them. I would like to remind hon. members of something: it is all well and good to negotiate with the territories, but this does not change anything. This should have been done about 20 years ago. Whether or not the communities agree to a pipeline or mining project is not the heart of the matter.

The heart of the matter is that the government neglected northern Canada and is now trying to put a small band-aid on a gaping wound. However, this does not hide the fact that the government has been neglecting infrastructure, food security and poverty in northern Canada and that it is still refusing to negotiate with aboriginal communities and the people living in Canada's north in order to resolve these problems.

I understand the purpose of this kind of bill. Regulations can enable northerners to make decisions and negotiate with the government. However, if the government does not negotiate in good faith, what is the point? If the government does not consult people, what is the point? Is this just an empty shell of a bill that the Conservatives hope will appease people? I would really like to know.

Today's UN report states that Canada has neglected the north. The Government of Canada neglected its own country. What do the Conservatives have to say about that? Today, not one of them has stood up and demanded that the government help northern communities. No member from Nunavut or Yukon has said anything in the House of Commons about what the territories need. Neither has the Minister of Health. I am sorry, but when negotiations are not conducted in good faith, there is no point.

We know all about the Conservatives' good faith in negotiations. They take the bosses' side, pass special laws and force workers back to work. They tell aboriginal communities that if they want to solve their problems, just talking amongst themselves should do the trick. But it will not. The government lacks both the leadership and the will to take care of Canada's north. It has no business saying that the opposition is scaring Canadians.

All we want the government to do is consult people and respect the rights of northern residents. I think that is pretty clear. Even the government has to admit that we are right about that.

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March 4th, 2013 / 5:30 p.m.
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NDP

Jonathan Tremblay NDP Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to my colleague. I always enjoy her passionate speeches.

Throughout the day today, we have been talking about this government's poor use of the parliamentary system.

Not one of the 50 proposed amendments was accepted. The government systematically rejected them all. It could have introduced this bill long ago, but it did not. It introduced it now.

The various organizations and companies in the north are being given no time. They want to put forward amendments, convey their message and say what changes they would like to see in this bill.

I personally feel it demonstrates a lack of respect for our democracy. Could my colleague talk a bit more about that?

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March 4th, 2013 / 5:35 p.m.
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NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, obviously this is important.

I did not have time to mention it, but my colleague from Western Arctic said that the bill should have been split into two parts because one is more controversial than the other.

Witnesses wanted more time to speak. Perhaps there were more points to explore. But the government refused all of our amendments. It was impossible to negotiate.

Once again, the government has demonstrated that it does not really want to negotiate in good faith. Keeping expert witnesses from testifying in committee in order to improve a bill clearly shows the Conservatives' contempt for our democratic institutions.

The government does not have time to negotiate because this bill has to be passed. But we are talking about northern Canada; it is important. The north has been neglected for years. If the government really wanted to improve the situation, it should have listened to us, passed our amendments and allowed us to split the bill in two to study the issues in more detail.

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March 4th, 2013 / 5:35 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île.

As always I am very impressed by her passion for the topics we discuss in the House of Commons.

I think she presented some good arguments today in support of dividing this bill in two parts so that we can better examine it.

Does she think there is a chance the government will agree to this proposal?

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March 4th, 2013 / 5:35 p.m.
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NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. I also admire her intelligence and her luminous spirit, which brightens up the House of Commons.

I would like to say that I believe in the Conservatives' goodwill, that I believe the Minister of Health and Minister for the Arctic Council when she says that they will look after Canada's north.

I would like to believe that, but unfortunately, we have been quite disappointed over the past two years. That is why it is important for all MPs to rise today to tell the government that enough is enough and we must work together for Canada's north.

This bill must be split in two. So we must continue to call on the government here in the House to listen to what our democratic institutions want and also what Canadians want.

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March 4th, 2013 / 5:35 p.m.
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NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her passion on this issue.

We are all familiar with the challenges in Canada's north, whether we are talking about climate change, environmental protection, relations with aboriginal people in the north or natural resources development.

I would like my colleague to explain the delays we have seen in the great north, particularly when it comes to building infrastructure.

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March 4th, 2013 / 5:35 p.m.
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NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I believe it is negligence.

It is unfortunate and sad to have to say that a government is neglecting part of the population. The fact remains that debates in the House have repeatedly demonstrated the unwillingness of past governments and, above all, the current government. The Conservative government has been in power since 2006. It has had plenty of time to act if it really wanted to.

The north is complex, but it is part of our country's identity. I feel it is important to respect that identity. Whether the infrastructure is in Montreal, Toronto or Iqaluit makes no difference. A school or a port, it is the same thing. I do not see the problem with investing in the north or in the south of our country. To me, it is negligence, and that is really too bad.

I would like to make this little announcement: this government has not made the most investments. On the contrary, it has made the most cuts.

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March 4th, 2013 / 5:40 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-47, an act to enact the Nunavut planning and project assessment act and the Northwest Territories surface rights board act.

I am going to take a minute to take a personal detour, because someone might ask why the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca is so interested in this act. The story for me begins 40 years ago. I almost hate to say that out loud. I was a young university graduate, and my first job was in Yellowknife where I had the privilege of working for the territorial government as the superintendent of treaty Indian band membership and the director of vital statistics. Suffice it to say I was way over my head for my age. I had worked in summer jobs as a health researcher and ended up in this very wonderful job in the Northwest Territories.

At that time, the Northwest Territories included Nunavut and was ruled by a commissioner appointed by the Prime Minister. It was just beginning the process of devolution and self-government. I have to say that any of us at that time would be surprised that we are still dealing with these issues 40 years later. Part of what is important about the bill is that it helps, despite its flaws, to bring us forward on those devolution questions that have certainly been dealt with the entire time of my working career.

I decided to go back to university for a graduate degree and started teaching. Then I was persuaded by a very persuasive member of Parliament to come to Ottawa for two years. I was a staff person here at the House of Commons for two years from 1981-83. I do not usually confess that. At that time it was my privilege to be attached as an NDP researcher to what was called the Indian self-government committee or the Penner committee. In that position, I was privileged to travel the entire country with the committee, listening to first nations talk about self-government and what would be needed, both in terms of laws and in terms of resources and development to achieve self-government.

Again, 30 years ago, those who participated in that commission would be very surprised that we would still be standing here talking about and dealing with the same issues, the same lack of resources and the same lack of respect for first nations self-government in this country. Yes, progress is a long road not yet finished.

After having spent two years in Ottawa, I returned to British Columbia because it is hard to keep a British Columbian in Ottawa for more than two years, and the weather outside certainly speaks to that again today. However, when I went back to British Columbia I was involved with a small non-government organization until the time I was elected to Parliament, called Pacific Peoples' Partnership. That non-government organization attempts to build relationships between indigenous people around the Pacific and first nations in Canada, because indigenous peoples all around the Pacific Rim face many of the same problems. Whether we are talking about Australia, New Zealand or Pacific islanders, many of the same problems exist in getting the outsiders, the colonists, to recognize rights and responsibilities they have to first nations.

One could say all of my life I have been involved as a supporter in these issues, not so directly as some of my colleagues here, like the member who spoke earlier, but certainly I remain very interested in these issues.

When I look at the bill, the first thing I would say is, having separated the two territories and having quite different issues, it is a surprise to find them jammed together into the same bill. That may be efficient for Conservative legislative purposes, but it is not efficient for consulting the public and for getting meaningful input from the communities and for separating out those important issues that need to be debated both here in Parliament and at the community level. We would have been far better served with two bills and with a separate consultation process at the local level for both of these bills.

I am also disappointed at the failure of the government to respond to the many amendments that were put forward. Members on the other side have referred to them as the opposition amendments. Yes, it is true we moved them in the House of Commons, but those amendments came from all across the north. They came from northern organizations, which pointed out significant flaws in this legislation, groups like the Nunavut Impact Review Board, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., NWT Association of Communities, NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines and Alternatives North. That is where we got the ideas for these amendments, not things to hold up government business, not things we dreamt up by ourselves, but things that came about from listening to northerners about what needs to happen in the north.

It is hard to understand how many of these very practical solutions could be ignored or rejected by the government. There is an example in this bill of what happens when there is not adequate consultation and when opinions of northerners are not taken account. In 1994, the Yukon land claims agreement was implemented. Now we have amendments in this bill, thrown in with the other two territories, to correct the problems that have existed since 1994 in trying to bring about fulfillment of the federal government's obligations under the Yukon umbrella final agreement.

Why do we have those amendments in the bill? I would argue it is because at that time a different government, a Liberal government, also failed to listen to northerners about all the things that were necessary to implement full recognition of first nations land and treaty rights, and also the devolution of self-government into the territories.

The other reason that I remain interested in this as a member of Parliament is the fact that I have five first nations in my riding. I want to take a little detour into what is happening with land claims and with development issues for the first nations in my riding.

At the far western end of my riding is a first nation called Pacheedaht, led very ably by Chief Marvin McClurg. It is a relatively small first nation, with 259 members. They are in the process, under the B.C. Treaty Commission, of negotiating a settlement to their claims. They are at a common table with the Ditidaht First Nation with whom they share the Nuu-chah-nulth language and culture, but they are not part of the larger Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council.

These two small first nations, with very limited resources, are attempting to work their way through this treaty process. They are now in stage four of the six-stage process. They are at the stage of negotiating an agreement in principle. They are focusing on things like parks and protected areas, and recognition of the rights of first nations to hunt and fish in those parks and protected areas. They are also focused on wildlife, migratory birds and fish.

The Pacheedaht, in the meantime, while they are negotiating what we hope will be a final agreement, have become very involved in forestry economic development initiatives. Right now they actually run a wood lot licence, in the San Juan River area, which is very close to their reserve.

The point I am making is that it is the first nations who have created the most jobs in that part of my riding. It is the first nations initiatives in forestry that have put people to work. It is not just first nations people but everybody in that end of my riding who have benefited from the recognition of giving back the woodlot to the Pacheedaht First Nation.

In what I would call the middle of my riding, we have three first nations who are working together in an alliance called the Te'Mexw Treaty Association. These three nations were all signatories to the Douglas Treaties, but they decided there would be a benefit for their nation in negotiating a comprehensive and modern treaty that dealt not just with land issues but with governance issues as well. These are first nations with somewhat larger resources, larger memberships, but, again, they do not really belong to any tribal council. They have come together with two first nations from outside my riding, the Malahat First Nation and the Nanoose First Nation, to form the Te'Mexw Treaty Association.

The largest of these is the T'Sou-ke Nation, located near what we in English call Sooke, led by Chief Gordon Planes. Again, while trying to negotiate a settlement and implement a treaty, they have embarked on a very interesting initiative in the T'Sou-ke First Nation. They had a visioning exercise with their leaders, and their leaders said they wanted to go back to the days when they were self-sufficient, independent and able to stand on their own. They have embarked on what I think is probably the largest solar power initiative in the province of British Columbia. They have proceeded to install solar power on the reserve and will eventually, and in not very much longer, take themselves off the grid and be producing their own power.

What they did in doing that was to train first nations people as solar technicians. They are now supplying services to the surrounding community and helping other people make that transition to renewable and sustainable energy. That is another very good example of what we have to learn in this process of recognizing first nations rights to self-government, and to land and resources, and how much all of our communities could benefit from that.

The third first nation in my riding is the Scia'new First Nation, led by Russell Chipps. They are very much involved in attempting to create employment on reserve by taking advantage of the rural economy around them, where many of the non-first nation people are involved in what we might call hobby farms. They are having trouble finding ways to process the products they are raising. Therefore, there is a very good partnership developing between the Scia'new First Nation and the municipality of Metchosin in an attempt to develop agricultural processing industries that will take things being raised on the hobby farms and make jobs on the reserve for both first nation and non-first nation people.

The fourth first nation in my riding, the Songhees First Nation, is the largest and is located very much in the city. It consists of 547 band members who, unfortunately, lost their long-term and very distinguished chief just less than a year ago.

Again, I want to talk about the vision they had. While trying to get a land claim solved and trying to get the resources they need, they have embarked upon the construction of a very large wellness centre. The wellness centre is going to focus on addiction treatments, recreation and all those things to help people recover, in the first nation, both their sense of selves and their sense of culture.

However, to finish the wellness centre, to finish those jobs in the Scia'new First Nation on the reserve and to finish those initiatives that the T'Sou-Ke has taken, they need to get a comprehensive treaty settlement underway.

We were very happy to see, last week, the announcement of an incremental or an interim treaty agreement that has transferred some land in the interim and some resources in the interim. Again, they are at stage four of the six-stage treaty process, but we have those interim transfers of land and resources.

One of the concerns in my riding has been about a very prominent site in the municipality of Esquimalt, a very prominent corner, where that land has now been transferred to the Songhees First Nation under the interim agreement.

I think it is important for people to realize that in the interim the resources that were transferred have been transferred in fee simple, and so the development that is bound to take place on that corner would be under the same zoning laws, the same regulations and, as any other landowner, they will pay municipal taxes and will receive municipal services.

However, once again it is an important spur to redevelopment of downtown Esquimalt, or the Esquimalt village as it is known, and this is being pursued by first nations under the interim agreement.

The last first nation in my riding is called Esquimalt First Nation, led by a chief I very much respect, Chief Andy Thomas. Esquimalt First Nation has decided not to be part of the treaty commission process. Instead, it has pointed to the Douglas Treaty, saying, “We already have a treaty and that treaty has been ignored”. There has been a failure. There was a failure, at the time, by the colonial government to survey the lands promised, to set aside those lands and to protect those treaty lands. Then, as time went on, those lands were alienated to third parties.

There was a second failure under the Douglas Treaty for the Esquimalt Nation, and that was a failure to pay any compensation when those lands were transferred to third parties.

Therefore, for Chief Thomas, the treaty process is not a new process but very much a question of unfinished business.

That brings me back to the bill we have in front of us today. What it is really dealing with is unfinished business, whether it is the Yukon land claims for which the final settlement needs some amendments, whether it is the Nunavut planning and project assessment act or the Northwest Territories surface rights board act.

Despite our concerns about the failures of the Conservatives to recognize the necessity for amendments to the bill, we will be supporting the bill, as we know that would mean a similar bill will eventually come back to the House of Commons and those 50 amendments will eventually be dealt with in this place. They are necessary to implement the treaty agreements; they are necessary to get on with the business of creating jobs and development for everyone in the north, not just first nations but all residents of the north. We know that when the north prospers, the rest of Canada will also prosper.

I am sad to say I look forward to the day when there is a different government that will bring in the bill and bring back the amendments, which will be a chance to listen to the voices of northerners and first nations people and actually accomplish their goals in the House of Commons.

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March 4th, 2013 / 5:55 p.m.
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Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I take issue with what the member said in his closing remarks. I am from northern Canada. I grew up in Fort McMurray. The national resource industry is hugely successful because of the involvement of aboriginal Canadians as well as others. This government is investing in ensuring there is opportunity there, unlike the NDP that seems to have a different approach to this, especially when dealing with our American colleagues.

The one issue I would like to take up with the member opposite is with respect to consultation. The member was outlining how we had not been consulting. We have gone through a number of steps in this bill, whether that be providing adequate notice, meeting with aboriginal groups and governments, considering their feedback and incorporating it into the bill or accommodating various interests. In fact, there has been a 10-year process on part one and there will be another 2-year process with respect to part two.

Why do the New Democrats not support our natural resources industry and the growth of it? Why do they continue to tell the Americans that they are not supporting our natural resources industry? Also, why do they not seem to comprehend that 10 years of consultation is enough and we need to take action now?

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March 4th, 2013 / 5:55 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member asked several questions. Obviously the NDP supports the development of resource industries when it is done in a sustainable fashion. That is the question we are always raising in the House of Commons, whether it is something that will benefit us down the road and if the development is bearing its full costs in terms of its impacts on the environment.

With regard to the resource developments in northern Alberta that she pointed to, she may also like to listen to some of the people who live downstream from them in the Northwest Territories. They are very concerned about the environmental impacts of dumping into the streams and rivers that flow to the north, which were previously pristine. Yes, the New Democrats support development, but it has to bear its costs. The polluters have to pay and it has to be sustainable.

In terms of consultation, I think inadvertently the member betrays something about the government. For the government, consultation is the process, not the outcome. It says, “We talked to you for 10 years, but, of course, we didn't listen, so now we'll proceed”. Consultation means considering the 50 amendments the New Democrats brought forward and actually acting on them, not just going through a process where people do not get to say what they think—

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March 4th, 2013 / 5:55 p.m.
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NDP

Jonathan Tremblay NDP Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, how interesting that the debate has come around to economic development. My question is about sustainable development.

Government members talk about Canada's prosperity, economic development and so on, but does this document contain a genuine vision for sustainable development?

There are two aspects to sustainable development. First, there is the environment, because permafrost and other factors call for different construction techniques in the north than elsewhere. Second, social factors and the people who live in the north are also very important.

Can my colleague comment on these aspects?

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March 4th, 2013 / 5:55 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, what I learned long ago when I lived in the north, and it almost cited so many times to become trite, was that we could trust first nations to think about sustainable development. One of my favourite chiefs in Port Alberni used to say, “If you sign a settlement with us, we're not looking for money to move to Hawaii. We're looking to build a stronger community here where we live that will last for generations and generations to come”. By devolving powers to Nunavut and recognizing first nations' rights to land and self-government, I have complete confidence that sustainability will be taken into account in the developments that take place in the future, not just economic sustainability but, as the hon. member said, the important aspect of social sustainability.

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March 4th, 2013 / 6 p.m.
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NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that my colleague is talking about the right to self-governance, but what about the right to affordable housing or to food? When it comes to the north, we are not just talking about governance, but the whole issue of neglect that the government refuses to deal with.

I would like my colleague to speak more about the fact that negotiation must be done in good faith, and it is not just by introducing a bill that every problem will magically disappear.

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March 4th, 2013 / 6 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is an important link between the issues the member raises and the questions of self-government for first nations. It was not first nations that developed the system whereby we end up with hungry children in first nations communities; it is the failure of Canada to recognize the right to self-government and that the right to self-government requires resources to go along with it. When we provide the recognition of the right to self-government and we provide resources, first nations communities will prosper and there will not be hungry kids in first nations communities. The member is right: decisions made at a distance, which may look good on a piece of paper drawn up by the bureaucrats here in Ottawa, do not actually work in those rural or northern communities.

Part of the bill goes a way toward recognizing that is what we need to do to solve these problems. We need to get the decision-making closest to those people who have the problems so that we get solutions that are actually effective in those communities.

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March 4th, 2013 / 6 p.m.
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NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my hon. colleague's speech and I wish to congratulate him, because I learned a lot.

I have a question for him regarding consultation. During the committee meetings, we pointed out that the bill would have been improved if it had been divided into two, with one part dealing with Nunavut and the other with the Northwest Territories. The bill before us reminds me of this government's mammoth budget implementation bills.

Could the member speak to us about parliamentary consultation and the fact that the bill would have been better if it were spilt into two?

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March 4th, 2013 / 6 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, we are dealing with two things here. One is the fact that it tries to put Nunavut and the Northwest Territories together. They are completely different situations, so in terms of consultation, we could have identified the issues in Nunavut much more clearly if there were a single bill and we had actually carried out a consultation process just about that.

In the Northwest Territories, the situation is much more difficult because there are people who have land claim settlements in place and people who have not yet concluded those settlements. Therefore, inside that separate bill we almost need two separate consultation processes to deal with those two very different situations.

The link I was making to the first nations in my riding is that we are going to come across these very same issues in British Columbia, where we are busy signing treaties. However, to implement those treaties and to make sure they are effective raises some of the very same questions and concerns that are raised by the bill.

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March 4th, 2013 / 6 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for not only a very cogent speech but very cogent answers to very complex questions.

The question I would like to put to him is this: when is consultation actually consultation? Of course, that is the question of the day for first nation peoples. There has been lots of discussion and the government has been saying that it has thoroughly consulted. The people of Nunavut and some of the first nations in the Northwest Territories said they were consulted. However, the constitutional duty goes much further. I wonder if the member would like to elaborate on the idea that the duty goes far beyond consultation to also seriously consider and then to accommodate those asks.

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March 4th, 2013 / 6:05 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona for her question. She knows far more about these issues than I do.

In terms of the duty to consult, we run across this issue with both the federal and the provincial governments all the time in British Columbia, where duty to consult means the duty to ask questions only and not to listen to the answers. If they do listen to the answers, the duty stops there; it is not a duty to consider the impacts of those answers and to actually make accommodations that will guarantee that first nations' rights are recognized and respected in a meaningful manner and not just in a kind of drive-by consultation whereby someone shouts out the window, “What do you think?” and then continues on their merry way down the same highway.

What it really requires is talking together and working together with people to find a new path that will accommodate the best interests of all those involved in the process.

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March 4th, 2013 / 6:05 p.m.
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NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member who spoke before me. I particularly liked his expression near the end of his last question about drive-by consultation. If the definition of Conservative consultation is lowering the window and asking what people think, then he is pretty well dead on the money.

I rise today to speak in support of 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. The short title is the northern jobs and growth act.

Why is the member of Parliament for Newfoundland and Labrador, from the great riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl, speaking to a bill for the Northwest Territories? I feel that the Labrador part of my province has a lot in common with the Northwest Territories. Labrador is a relatively untamed land. Labrador is a vast land. Labrador is known as the big land. Labrador is rich in minerals, ore and precious metals. Labrador is under constant exploration and development. Labrador's environment is under constant pressure, be it from renewable hydro development or from new mines. We must be vigilant to ensure that there is balance between development and the impact on the environment. We must ensure that there is balance in everything. The north must also be vigilant.

This legislation is far from perfect. We wanted to amend the bill at committee with changes based on witness testimony, but all 50 opposition amendments were voted down. The Conservatives ruled the amendments out of order. There were 50 NDP amendments and three Liberal amendments. I will come back to that in just a moment.

The bill packages together two bills that should be considered separately. The first bill, the Nunavut planning and project assessment act, is pretty well a straightforward implementation of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. Simply put, it would improve regulatory regimes in the north. It would create a more efficient, more predictable regulatory regime. The roles, powers, functions and authorities of all parties, including how the members are appointed, would be clearly defined. These parties include the Nunavut Planning Commission, the Nunavut Impact Review Board, Inuit groups and governments.

The act requires that Inuit and the Government of Canada establish a joint system to oversee the way resources are managed in the territory. I like the sound of a joint system or joint management. There have been calls in recent years for joint management of the east coast fisheries, for example, but I will not get into that right now. Give me time.

The second part of the bill is the Northwest Territories surface rights board act, and it is more complicated. It would implement sections of three aboriginal land claims agreements, but the board would apply to all parts of the Northwest Territories. The board would receive applications from one or both parties to a dispute when a negotiated access agreement could not be reached. A panel of the board would then conduct a hearing and would determine the compensation, if there was to be compensation, and terms and conditions related to access. The board would then make an order containing the terms and conditions by which access could be exercised and any compensation payable for that access. When making its decision, the board would take into account market value, loss of use, effect on wildlife, damage, nuisance or inconvenience and cultural attachment.

The Mining Association of Canada welcomes this legislation, particularly the inclusion of the Nunavut planning and project assessment act. The association says that it would help spur more responsible mining projects in the territory, which currently has one operating mine. This legislation would result in a framework to determine how environmental assessment and permanent processes in Nunavut will proceed as new land use plans for the territory come forward, and they will most definitely come forward.

I have a quote from Pierre Gratton, president and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada:

The legislation comes at a critical time for Nunavut, with its promising mineral potential and opportunities for economic development never before seen in the territory's history.

Here is another quote from Mr. Gratton:

By providing clarity and certainty around the regulatory framework, this new legislation will help give industry the confidence it needs to move forward with development decisions.

The key word there is “confidence”. Over the next decade, the Mining Association of Canada estimates that new mine development across the north could bring more than $8 billion of investment to Nunavut. That could translate into some 4,500 new jobs and a significant increase in local business development.

Mining is the largest private sector contributor in the north, making up 29% of the gross domestic product of the Northwest Territories. However, mining is also a boom and bust industry. The people of Labrador would tell us that.

There are 45,000 northerners in the Northwest Territories. In Labrador, there are just over 26,000 people. They are both vast lands with few people, but we must ensure that the people benefit. We must ensure that the industries thrive. We must also ensure that the impact on the environment is minimal.

Mining has incredible ups and incredible downs, depending on the price of ore or on world markets. I mentioned earlier in my speech about the amendments we proposed to the bill, the 50 NDP amendments, the 50 suggestions from northerners, which were all voted down, each and every one, by the Conservatives.

The proposed amendments included having the bill reviewed after five years. The amendments included creating a participant funding process and having hearings of the various boards and commissions held in public. One amendment in particular tried to change the language around appointments to the boards, which held that representatives must have knowledge of the land, knowledge of the environment and traditional knowledge.

The great MP for Western Arctic, whom we heard earlier today, said that all representatives should meet all three requirements: knowledge of the land, knowledge of the environment and traditional knowledge. That did not happen. Those amendments were not adopted, despite the best efforts of the New Democrats, the opposition. However, we still support this legislation.

There are three points with which I want to wrap up.

Do I have one minute left, two minutes, Mr. Speaker?

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March 4th, 2013 / 6:15 p.m.
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NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

There are three points with which I want to wrap up, Mr. Speaker. First, the New Democrats support consultation and consensus-based decision-making that respects the autonomy of the Government of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

Second, more consultation should have been allowed under Northwest Territories surface rights board act.

Third, New Democrats, led by the member of Parliament for Western Arctic, will continue to fight for the rights of northerners and the long-term prosperity of northern communities.

Let me be clear. The New Democrats support the bill. We will vote for the bill because the intent is there and the intention is good. The bottom line is that New Democrats do not want to get in the middle of this agreement that the Government of Nunavut has negotiated. However, my party is concerned about the Northwest Territories surface rights board act and the fact that the act may have been rushed. That is why the series of the more than 50 amendments that we put forward were so important.

The Conservatives used their majority on the committee to block all those amendments: again, that the bill would be reviewed in five years, that a participant funding process would be created and that hearings would be held on the various boards and commissions in public.

How often does that happen, that the Conservatives—

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March 4th, 2013 / 6:15 p.m.
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NDP

Jonathan Tremblay NDP Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague will have an opportunity to finish his remarks.

We proposed 50 amendments, and they were all rejected by the government. This bill is years in the making, and it is urgent that we pass it today. There are people in the north who know what the reality is, who are worried, who want their message to be heard and who want amendments to the bill.

Is my colleague also concerned about the lack of time? Will the government respect our parliamentary system?

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March 4th, 2013 / 6:15 p.m.
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NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, the most important of those 50 amendments that our party brought forward are as follows.

The first was that the bill would be reviewed after five years. That was very important. From my perspective, that was common sense and absolutely reasonable.

The second was that the hearings of the various boards and commissions would be held in public. I also look at that as common sense.

In terms of what will happen with respect to these amendments, as the hon. member who spoke just before me mentioned, when our party is in government in 2015, that will be the opportunity to take a second look at some of these amendments to see what we can do then.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 12:05 p.m.
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Vancouver Island North B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan ConservativeMinister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

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.

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

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

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the chamber and thank the government for the beautiful ceremony this morning for unveiling of the stained glass window for residential school survivors. It was most appropriate. It was a moving ceremony. There is clearly a lot that we must do together, as the window says, in looking forward.

The Liberal Party understands and supports the goal of bringing further clarity to the regulation of land use in the north and, in particular, the dispute resolution process for surface and subsurface rights. However, we also want to ensure that this legislation accurately reflects the wishes of the residents of all three territories and respects the concerns of the first nations, Inuit and Métis that will be impacted.

I see my job, in French it always sounds better, as porte-parole. My job is not to read a 200-page bill and then decide whether it is good or bad. My job is to ensure that the people affected by the bill have had time to read it and have had time to explore the consequences or the unintended consequences, or to show us gaps or areas that need further tightening. It, therefore, will be hugely important, as we go forward, that we hear not only from the governments of the territories but also from the people who live there.

In 2008, the McCrank report stated that one of the regulatory problems in the north was a lack of surface rights legislation to resolve disputes between land owners who did not want to grant access to their lands for development projects. It is clear that this is a legislative gap that must be filled.

Over the next decade, the Mining Association of Canada estimates that the new mine development across Canada's north could bring in more than $8 billion in investment. There is no question that resource development in the north, if designed with northerners, for northerners and in close consultation with aboriginal peoples in the north, could represent a tremendous opportunity.

This legislation is more than 200 pages long and deals with fundamental changes to how development will occur in the north. It would create frameworks to regulate how environmental assessment and permitting processes in Nunavut and Northwest Territories will proceed. It would also amend the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act to create a dispute resolution mechanism for surface and subsurface right holders and land owners or occupants in the Yukon; grant legal immunity to individual board members and employees of the Yukon Surface Rights Board from prosecution; and remove the requirement for the Auditor General to audit the Yukon Surface Rights Board and allow independent auditors.

Any decisions made by the boards contemplated by this legislation would be final and could override first nations, Inuit and Métis decisions on development. Given that, we must be absolutely sure that consultations on the structure of these boards and the appointment process were comprehensive in each of the three territories.

Even though, of course, there was extensive consultation regarding the parts of the legislation that have to do with Nunavut, the Liberal Party wants to ensure that the process related to the Northwest Territories and Yukon also reflects the opinions expressed by the residents of those territories, especially aboriginal populations.

We are concerned that already the Liidli Kue First Nation in Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories, seems to be caught off guard when Bill C-47 was first tabled and hope that the way the legislation was tabled does not reflect the consultation process for the proposed legislative changes for the whole of the Northwest Territories. Provisions in this legislation would cover aboriginal land settled under land claims agreements: unsettled land, commissioners' land, crown land and municipal land.

The Liberals also have some concerns regarding how these changes would impact lands that have yet to be dealt with by the land claims agreement and, as always, we have concerns in the way that land claims processes are being carried out at the moment with this very top down, take it or leave it approach and the so-called negotiators not really having the power to negotiate.

Given the scope of the changes contemplated in this legislation and the technical nature of many of the provisions, this bill will require close study and review in the broader context of the government's approach to northern development.

As for the broader question of northern development, the Liberals believe that a lot more needs to be done besides simply streamlining regulations related to surface rights and dispute resolution mechanisms in order to develop the enormous economical potential of the north.

For example, the federal government still has no plan or capacity to clean up a major spill in icefield waters. Canada must develop the capacity to respond to environmental threats, such as an oil or gas spill resulting from resource extraction in the Arctic. These emergency response capacities must be part and parcel of any streamlining of the regulatory process for land use in the north.

Northern economic development would also require investments in basic needs, like education, housing and health, but also the infrastructure that is required to support a growing population and economy. The Prime Minister does not actually seem to understand northern development. It is more than military deployments and extracting natural resources.

Northern development must also deal with the social and economic welfare of the people who live there. For instance, Canada has a serious food insecurity problem in northern communities. Some estimates put it as high as 79%, or 8 out of 10 people, without sufficient food. The recent Food Banks Canada report, “HungerCount 2012”, helps bring that struggle into disturbing focus. The report notes that one of the few long-standing food banks in the territories has seen an alarming 18% increase in use over the past year and that residents in Iqaluit spend 25% of their total expenditures on food compared to the Canadian average of 11%. However, the Conservative government has stubbornly refused to admit that nutrition north Canada, the Conservative government program that was supposed to deal with the situation, has failed to bring down the cost of weekly food budgets.

The stark reality of Inuit education today is that roughly 75% of children are not completing high school and many find that their skills and knowledge do not compare to those of non-aboriginal graduates. Low educational outcomes are associated with adverse social implications, including greater unemployment, greater numbers of youth entering the criminal justice system and greater incidences of illness and poverty.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami released its national education strategy on June 6, 2011, outlining a plan to improve student success in Canada's four Inuit regions by tackling low school attendance and graduation rates, while producing more bilingual Inuit youth. A year later, however, all we see is the government reining down legislation like this. It is only about regulation. It is only about thou shall. It is only about mechanisms as opposed to really understanding the realities and the funding that is required to make so many of these things happen, like fresh drinking water and waste water management.

More than a year later, after the ITK education paper, there has been no commitment from the federal government to support these initiatives, financially or with other concrete measures. Without equal access to education and training, northern Canadians will not benefit from the employment opportunities that resource development would create. We will yet again have jobs without people and people without jobs.

Instead developing appropriate programs to address this need, the Conservative government is cutting existing support. For example, the Conservative government has ended the successful aboriginal skills and employment partnership. Canada's resource sector companies were some of the most active participants in this program and have criticized its cancellation.

Furthermore, regarding transportation, some serious flaws remain, including for instance the fact that plans to establish a deep water port in Nanisivik have been abandoned in favour of creating a refuelling station that will operate only part time in the summer.

Iqaluit remains without a deepwater port and Nunavut Premier Aariak recently made it clear that the lack of ports and roads connecting its communities to each other and the south is constraining economic and social development. She has also pointed out that the thriving fishery industry in Nunavut is forced to offload its catch in Greenland because of the lack of port infrastructure.

In short, unlocking the tremendous potential of the north is much broader than streamlining the regulatory process for land use and development.

This government needs to take a much more comprehensive approach to the whole question of northern development.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 1:10 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 appreciate the member's contribution to this important legislation that represents an opportunity to balance the interests for northerners with respect to economic development and sustainability. I look forward to working with her on committee to that end.

The member mentioned previously that the unsettled groups had the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board imposed on them. I would like to square the record on this.

The ability to negotiate land claim agreements continues to exist. This bill would apply to any future settlement claims consistent with any final negotiated agreement. Section 7 of the agreement was created to address the concerns of groups negotiating claims in the Northwest Territories.

Like the EU marine agreement and now these two, which represent huge swaths of land in our territories, this is an opportunity to continue a very important, heavily consultative process with respect to aboriginal land claims negotiating agreements, putting in place regulatory framework underpinned by a real spirit, as we heard from the member for Western Arctic, and enthusiasm to focus as well on northern economic growth.

I want to clear the record. Does the member have any comments with respect to that point and does she feel like she was probably wrong on that point?

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, the comment was really based on what had been heard from people involved in land claims negotiations with the government. They feel it is a “take it or leave it” approach where the negotiators at the table really do not have the power to negotiation. They come in with the final offer, and that is the best any of the negotiators are allowed to do. Therefore, the progress that ought to be made on these issues is not being made because of an attitude of inflexibility and refusal to listen to the real concerns that are part and parcel of the give and take of a real negotiation of land claims.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 1:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened attentively to the Liberal position on this, as I did with the NDP position.

I am from northern Alberta. I feel I know northerners. I have a trap line. I have trapped for some period of time. I am an avid hunter. I know one thing aboriginals have spoken loudly about in northern Alberta and in the Northwest Territories is the ability to carry guns in an environment that is not like downtown Toronto or Vancouver. Certainly they have dangers that pose real risks to them on a daily basis in their backyards, as much as Fort McMurray was with bears coming into the backyards. It is just a different type of lifestyle.

Indeed, the only people who seem to stand up for aboriginal Canadians across the country in regard to the different lifestyle that they have as a result of where they live, and specifically with the gun registry, is the Conservative government. We saw the NDP vote en masse to keep the gun registry and the promise to bring it back. The Liberals brought the gun registry in the first place, in essence wasting $2 billion of taxpayer money.

Could the member comment on her position, as to where she lives, and why she and her party have for so long ignored the rights of aboriginal Canadians to have the opportunity to carry guns in a different environment and to have that ability to have long guns as needed to protect themselves and for their aboriginal lifestyle to continue?

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, as a family doctor, and it is coming up to December 6, the anniversary of the horrific Montreal massacre, it is not a rural or an urban issue, but a gender issue, the issue of the number of women who are killed by their intimate partners every year. Every year on December 6, we look at the numbers invoked in this. In some estimates, it is 11 times greater if there is a gun in the house. We believe hunters should be able to hunt. We are very clear that the guns must be kept safely and that there has to be rules around it that are enforceable. This is what the gun registry did.

As a family doctor, we needed to know whether someone who was suicidal or homicidal had access to a gun. That is what the police wanted.

It is quite interesting that the member raises this issue when I would rather talk about the fact that when I was at the chamber of commerce in Yukon, not very far away, its issue was no affordable housing, on which the government is completely deaf, and the fact that its hotels were now filled with miners and mining engineers instead of tourists. I hope the member would take the issues of tourism and housing in the north much more seriously.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the last question really did not seem to be on Bill C-47. However, could my colleague very briefly tell us the shortcomings in the bill and even beyond the bill? What are the shortcomings of the government in terms of dealing with the issues that are affecting the aboriginal communities in our country?

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, the concerns we have with all of the bills that have come forward is the lack of consultation. My colleague should know that on Friday we received a notice that at 10:15 this morning there would be the technical briefing on the bill. This is not new to the way the government does business, but it is completely insulting to parliamentarians who are otherwise committed.

This morning we had a round table on economic opportunity for women and girls, particularly aboriginal women and girls. That is not something I can get out of because all of a sudden we are called to a technical briefing.

The bill was tabled November 6. Debate on the bill started this afternoon, but on Friday we were informed that a technical briefing would be this morning on a 200 page bill.

In some ways it is the lack of respect in all of these bills. It is irritating to members of Parliament not to be treated as adults or for us not to be able to ask our questions and then go out and check them with the people affected by the bill. After we have had the briefing is the time to consult before we are asked to stand in the House of Commons and speak to it.

It is a process issue, my colleague should know, and the process is clear in every way that the government so-calls consults. Every consultation we have heard about across the country is actually an information session. It is a one-way dialogue, it is the government's way or the highway and it ignores everything it hears and tables the bill exactly as it is.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I cannot appreciate the member's frustration. What is exciting about legislation is that there was been extensive consultation, in fact, consultation so extensive that some of the organizations made certain accommodations, as did the Government of Canada, to ensure that we could focus on a sustainable northern environment with economic growth and opportunity.

I am not sure what the member's frustration is around that, but one interesting thing that has gone in the debate is we heard the member for Western Arctic be very clear. Contrary to his leader's statements and publications for a carbon tax, he now says that a carbon tax would be ineffective.

Given the challenges and the increased costs in the north, does the member support a carbon tax in the context of this northern development and the challenges we face and, as we say in the Eeyou marine agreement, is she willing to get on board, get this to committee and move this legislation through so we can see real economic growth in northern Canada?

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 1:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, it seems a bit astounding. On this bill, the parliamentary secretary obviously knows very well that he too is straying into members' statements land on ridiculous conversations about something totally irrelevant and quite inaccurate in terms of the whole principle of a carbon tax as opposed to speaking thoughtfully on a price on carbon. It is completely different. The members' statements are misleading.

I would hope the parliamentary secretary would begin to focus on the quality of life of aboriginal people and the fact that there are 14 people living in one house with no running water. This is where I would put my attention.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 1:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have the opportunity to rise today and voice my support for Bill C-47, the northern jobs and growth act.

I want to do two things in the time that is allotted to me, to outline the key elements of the bill and to describe the benefits it brings to the people of the territories, especially the people of my home riding of the Yukon. In Canadian law, the northern jobs and growth act enshrines institutions and processes that northerners will use to manage a variety of aspects of resource development in each of the three territories of our country.

Let us first turn our attention to my home of the Yukon. The northern jobs and growth act amends the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act. As its name indicates, the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act sanctions the operations of the board itself, which has been serving the people of the Yukon since 1993. It is an independent five-person tribunal, similar to the NWT board, that resolves access disputes between those owning or having an interest in surface and subsurface lands and those who have access rights to these lands. Usually, the latter are members of Yukon first nation communities.

While a negotiated solution is always the best solution, that is not always possible. The board is intended to be a tool of last resort when holders of surface or subsurface rights and the owner or occupant of the surface cannot reach an agreement through negotiation. Indeed, the board has only been used on rare occasions. It has only been used three times since 1993.

Bill C-47 amends the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act in three key ways. First, the bill changes the act to grant employees immunity from prosecution for decisions they have made in good faith. This change results in board employees having the same or similar protection as those on other northern boards. It will also likely encourage qualified men and women to work for the board.

Second, the bill amends the Surface Rights Board Act to enable board members whose terms have expired to be eligible to render final decisions on hearings in which they have participated. Under existing provisions, such members would not be allowed to continue to hear a matter before the board, which requires the hearing to be restarted with a new member present. Obviously, that is a sensible change that is clearly in line with our government's decision to move forward in a number of key areas, such as reducing red tape and barriers to success. That change makes a lot of sense with respect to maintaining consistency and commonality within the hearings. The current situation adds additional costs to hearings and results in unnecessary delays that could be costly to a proponent of resource development with respect to both time and resources.

Third, Bill C-47 replaces a previous requirement for the Auditor General of Canada to audit the board annually with an independently performed annual audit. Allowing the board to hire its own auditor saves time and is cost-effective for both the board and the Office of the Auditor General, which is responsible for auditing the accounts, financial statements and transactions of much larger and more complex organizations than the Yukon Surface Rights Board. If we go back to the fact that the board has only been utilized three times since 1993, this again is a sensible amendment and a strong cost-saving measure to reduce the burden of red tape. It is a great common sense amendment.

While the three amendments may seem administrative in nature, they will also enable the board to consider applications and render decisions more quickly, consistently and reliably. The changes will also align the board's operating framework and rules with similar institutions and processes in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. These improvements could not be more timely for the people of the Yukon. Our natural resource sector is experiencing a revival, and 2011 was a record year in the mining industry in the Yukon. We had the most mining claims staked in a single year. Most of those claims are in good standing. We also set a record high for exploration dollars spent in a single year with 307 million dollars' worth of exploration being conducted.

The importance of the mining industry to the prosperity of the Yukon cannot be overstated. Five per cent of all employed men and women in the territory are employed in the mining industry. Many hundreds, if not thousands more hold jobs in industries that rely on a vibrant mining sector. In terms of overall production, 9% of the territory's gross domestic product is generated by the mining industry.

As the Conference Board of Canada made clear a few months ago, a global boom for the minerals that Yukon produces, copper, gold, silver and tungsten, is helping make the territory a growth leader in our entire country. The workers, companies and partners in the Yukon are helping meet that demand in mines such as: Minto, Wolverine and Keno Hill. These projects are also providing employment and training opportunities for thousands of northerners. The efforts of our mining workers, companies and partners, along with others involved in resource development in Yukon, translate into genuine economic gains for my territory and its people.

According to the Conference Board, real GDP in the Yukon will increase by 3.7% in 2012 and the pace of growth is forecast to accelerate in both 2013 and 2014. Over the next decade several new mines will come into production. Between 2013 and 2020, mining output in the Yukon will grow by an average compound rate of 10.7% per year.

That is just the start. As the Prime Minister pointed out during his visit to Minto Mine in August:

—such is the magnitude of the North’s resource wealth that we are only, quite literally, just scratching the surface.

We must get beneath the surface and dig deep with both hands. We must bring the benefits of resource development to life for the people of the Yukon. We must maintain the positive momentum of job creation and economic growth in the territory and indeed throughout the entire north.

In the Northwest Territories, the northern jobs and growth act would set up a NWT surface rights board. Similar to the Yukon Surface Rights Board, established in 1993, the board would be empowered to resolve disputes between holders of surface and subsurface rights and the owners and occupants of surface lands when agreements on terms, conditions or compensation for access cannot be reached by the parties in question. In resolving any disputes the board would make orders that set out the terms and conditions of access and compensation to be paid with respect to that access. Board jurisdiction would be applied to all lands in the territory, both settlement and non-settlement.

With this addition to the regulatory regime for resource development in the Northwest Territories, Bill C-47 fulfills an outstanding obligation found in two land claim agreements. These agreements call on the federal government to enshrine in law a surface rights board in the territory. The Gwich'in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement and the Sahtu Dene and Metis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement both provide for interim arbitration measures to resolve access disputes to land and waters. These measures were intended to be temporary, to be replaced by a law of general application, as provided for in the claims.

The board is also consistent with the letter and spirit of the Inuvialuit final agreement and the Tlicho agreement. These two land claims and self-government agreements are the other two major accords that apply in the Northwest Territories. The Tlicho agreement anticipates, but does not mandate, a new surface rights board. The Inuvialuit final agreement specifies that any interim measures related to access across Inuvialuit lands will be replaced when a law of general application is enacted.

What benefits does the new board bring about? With the Northwest Territories surface rights board, the people of the territories would have a single process to resolve access disputes that is fair, balanced and clear. The process would assist in resolving access issues to surface and subsurface resources and increase predictability and consistency in the territories' resource management regime. It would provide incentives for companies in the resource industry and other rights holders to negotiate terms and conditions of access and compensation for that access with landowners and occupants, to the benefit of all parties. It would ensure that rights holders would carry out resource exploration and extraction according to requirements set down in agreements they have struck with landowners and occupants.

We must have this improved resource development regime in place as soon as possible. In the Northwest Territories the economy is forecast to grow by almost 6% this year and employment is expected to increase by nearly 4% annually for the next two. That is certainly great news for that territory. We need to continue to establish a fair, balanced and clear regulatory process that enables us to maintain this positive economic momentum in the Northwest Territories. We must pass Bill C-47 and bring the benefits of resource development to light for the people of the Northwest Territories.

Finally, in Nunavut, Bill C-47 would formally establish the Nunavut Planning Commission and the Nunavut Impact Review Board. The bill describes in detail the process under which these two bodies will operate. Under the new regime all prospective resource development projects in Nunavut will enter the planning and review process through the Nunavut Planning Commission. All project proposals will then be sent to the Nunavut Impact Review Board for screening, public review or a federal review. The board is also responsible for preparing project certificates after conducting a public review. Federal and territorial regulators are charged with making sure the terms and conditions set out in the project certificates are implemented in permits and licences.

While Bill C-47 would enshrine these two resource co-management boards in its own federal law, the Nunavut Planning Commission and the Nunavut Impact Review Board are not new. The people of Nunavut have used them to carry out land use planning and environmental assessments in the territory since 1996 albeit under the comparatively broad provisions set out primarily in articles 11 and 12 of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. Bill C-47 would improve, clarify and codify that process, enshrining in law a modern process that adds detail, consistency, predictability and certainty to the regulatory regime for resource development in Nunavut.

The bill would also take care of an outstanding commitment to the people of Nunavut that springs from the 1993 Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, the landmark accord that led to Parliament making Nunavut a territory in 1999. The 1993 agreement requires the Inuit of Nunavut and the federal government to establish, under law, a regime to manage the land, water and natural resources in the Nunavut settlement area and in what is known as the outer land fast ice zone. The 2002 Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act addresses a portion of that obligation. Bill C-47 would do the rest. It would fulfill the remaining legislative requirement of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.

In fulfilling these requirements, Bill C-47 would create a land use planning and impact assessment process that gives the people of Nunavut the legal authority and the expanded planning and assessment tools they need to manage the development of their lands and resources. It would also provide them with the authority to take increasing control of their economy, their lives and their future. Most important, the bill would empower them to build strong, healthy, self-reliant communities for themselves and their families. That is what makes Bill C-47 so important and that is why it is a landmark achievement for communities throughout Nunavut.

Not only is Bill C-47 a milestone in the history of Nunavut, but it also comes before us at an important time in Nunavut's development as it looks to the future as Canada's youngest territory. For thousands of years, right up to the latter half of the 20th century, the Inuit have lived off the land. Much has changed in just a single generation. Nunavut is now a stand-alone territory. The discovery of significant mineral deposits is opening up the region to mining development and increasing levels of exploration. The population of Nunavut is young and one of the fastest growing in all of Canada. Eighty-five per cent of its more than 33,000 residents are Inuit and roughly half of the total population is under the age of 25. Almost one-third is under the age of 15.

As a result of these rapid demographic and social changes, Inuit communities in Nunavut today face a variety of unique challenges. Yet one stands head and shoulders above the rest: communities in Nunavut must be able to generate and take advantage of resource development opportunities to provide for a sustainable future. Complicating this challenge is the reality that the Inuit have a deep and respectful relationship with their land and its resources, a land that is beautiful, bountiful and fragile. Resource development must be undertaken in harmony with conservation and protection of the environment and the ecosystems that it supports.

To develop and maintain strong, healthy, safe and self-reliant communities, Nunavut needs planning and assessment tools that will enable it to find the necessary balance between resource development and environmental protection. The members who make up the government understand the challenges that face Inuit communities as they balance a traditional subsistence lifestyle with a wage-employment economy. We also understand their strong desire to advance economically in a way that protects and preserves their cultural heritage and respects their ties to the land.

That is why we in this government have worked and are working with the Inuit people to help them take greater control of their resources, generate enduring economic growth in their territory and build strong, healthy, self-reliant communities for themselves and for their families. The northern jobs and growth act would be a key product of our collaborative work. It would establish a process that would give communities throughout Nunavut the opportunity to participate in resource development decisions that address community needs, goals and aspirations, to make decisions that would spur economic development in communities throughout Nunavut, to make decisions that would increase the number of good jobs and the amount of training and business opportunities available, and to raise the level of family incomes throughout the territory.

There is one fact I know for certain: when resource and other economic opportunities exist, young men and women remain in their communities to raise families of their own and contribute to building a better life for future generations. If those opportunities do not exist, young men and women either leave their hometowns to pursue the brightest futures or remain behind. I am happy to see that the future is bright for the young people of Nunavut. According to a recent report of The Conference Board of Canada, construction of the proposed Mary River and Meliadine mines will cause real GDP in the territory to surge by 17% in 2013 and 14% in 2014; and between 2012 and 2016, the construction industry will grow by an average annual compound rate of just under 23%. We must make sure the people of Nunavut can realize this forecast and the promise of years beyond.

By passing Bill C-47, we would bring the benefits of resource development to life for the people of Nunavut. We must pass Bill C-47 and fully tap the rich potential of Canada's north. I urge all members of the House to support Bill C-47, and I look forward to answering any questions they may have about the three great territories of Canada.

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November 26th, 2012 / 1:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, it is a good question. Canada has an obligation that is set out in the Gwich'in comprehensive land claim agreement and the Sahtu Dene and Métis comprehensive land claim agreement to establish this surface rights board. It is not just the timing to spur on the growth that we know would come with this, but it is actually a legal obligation that has been set out that we need to meet.

Because of the legal obligation, it has also allowed our government to negotiate and work closely with all three territories to ensure that in meeting this obligation we have their best interests at heart. Their correspondence, communication and consultation have been taken into consideration in this bill, which has provided us with a great opportunity, in a three-way partnership across these territories with the federal government, to ensure we would meet the needs of the north every single day.

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November 26th, 2012 / 1:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of questions for the member.

First, obviously the movement of Bill C-47 and the agreement for this legislation to go forward and to be voted on in this place is very important to the north, but important to Canada as well. What is the member's opinion and the reaction of the people in the north to a couple of investments our government has made, in particular $71 million to the Mayo B, which was done in the Yukon? I know there was a tremendous reaction from the premier of the Yukon at the time and others, because it takes five communities off dependence on diesel. It is all about clean infrastructure being built and green infrastructure being built out of the green infrastructure fund. Another thing that has happened in the north is the northwest transmission line in northern British Columbia, $141 million. Again, it is green infrastructure going into place to create more green infrastructure and green energy for the people of the north.

Finally, in relation to the gun registry itself and the destruction of the data, we promised to do that for so long. How important is that to the northern people, getting green infrastructure, ensuring we make these plans so we have the green, clean energy that goes into the north instead of polluting diesel? How important are these things, along with the gun registry data destruction, to the people in the north whom the member represents?

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November 26th, 2012 / 1:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has raised a really good example of the Mayo B hydroelectric project in terms of the needs of the north. It was the largest green infrastructure project completed in Canada at the time, a $71 million investment, which directly dealt with the issues concerning the north in terms of providing green, clean energy to the Yukon. In that region in particular, there is lots of exploration and mining growth, and Yukoners wanted to know, particularly the first nations in those communities, that those projects were undertaken with clean, green energy. It is an investment in the long-term growth of the community.

The long gun registry is another example of our government listening to the first nations and aboriginal cultural heritage and traditions of the north. It is not just our government, though. I want to acknowledge the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River, who heard that himself, stood up for his constituents and voted against the long gun registry.

We know exactly what is meaningful to the history, heritage and culture of the fine people of the north, and our government will continue to protect those needs and interests. I am quite certain that the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River will continue to follow our lead on those things because he is such an excellent member of the House.

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November 26th, 2012 / 1:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to get the comments of the member for Yukon. Previously the member for Western Arctic complained and indicated that he did not see the reason for this bill and he did not know why the status quo was not the preferred option. I am wondering if the member can tell me what are the elements of the Northwest Territories' surface rights board bill that make it better than the status quo and why we should take the lead of the great member for Yukon over the member for Western Arctic, who seems to prefer the status quo.

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November 26th, 2012 / 1:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, certainly status quo is really not an option for us and it is not an option for the great people of the Northwest Territories.

Let me read a couple of the elements of that bill that would help make some changes. It would provide jurisdiction to the board to make orders setting out terms and conditions for access and the appropriate compensation to be paid in respect of that access. That is obviously great for the stakeholders and people impacted by surface and subsurface claims. It would provide the board the ability to make rules and bylaws, including rules about procedures to be followed. It would allow the board to set compensation for unseen damages resulting from access. It would require the board to provide periodic reviews and the ability to terminate orders when access is no longer being used.

All of these things do not exist in the status quo. They also fall under obligations that our government has to meet in specific land claims agreements. To ignore those land claim agreements and our obligations would not be a responsible step for the government. We certainly recognize that. We do not just want to do this in isolation. We want to do it in partnership with all three territories. That is exactly what we are doing, and I am not sure why the member for Western Arctic would want to only maintain the status quo, because that is not good enough for the people of the Northwest Territories.

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November 26th, 2012 / 1:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, this question has absolutely nothing to do with this bill. We are hearing this time and time again from members on the government side as they try to propagandize. It is not against my party; it is against the one next to me on this side. It is wrong for them to go on with that propaganda and misinformation when they are supposed to be debating a bill.

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November 26th, 2012 / 1:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Just to finish, Mr. Speaker, it is important that there is context to these kinds of agreements because they are balancing sustainable development with real economic opportunity and growth. Therefore, we do not want anything, as a matter of policy, to get in the way and increase costs. We know those challenges exist in the north.

I have a two-part question for the member for Yukon. First, does he agree with the member for Western Arctic, contrary to the NDP carbon tax plan, that this would not help this terrific agreement advance forward, and second, does he think that combining the Nunavut and the Northwest Territories pieces is a better, more comprehensive way to advance regulatory framework land claim agreements and the like in an effort to unleash or unlock this tremendous economic opportunity for northern Canadians?

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November 26th, 2012 / 1:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I would agree with the member for Western Arctic that a carbon tax is not the direction to go. I clearly campaigned on the fact that we would not support or introduce that. I clearly campaigned on a low-tax plan for jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.

I am proud to stand behind a government that is going to move our country forward and move the economy forward without raising taxes on Canadian families, without the government telling Canadians how they are going to spend their hard-earned dollars, creating an environment for opportunity for Canadians to grow. That is the role of government.

The role of government is to produce and create opportunities and an environment in Canada for Canadians to succeed and have a choice to pick where they want to go and what they want to do. A carbon tax does not do that. A carbon tax would take money directly out of the pockets of Canadians and would start to direct them on where they have to go and what they have to do to find opportunities, controlled by a government.

We do not believe in that kind of plan. We will never support that kind of plan. I certainly will not stand behind that sort of plan. I do find it interesting that everything we are doing is paring off, trying to make sure Canadians have an environment where they can choose and where they can realize success. On most occasions, the opposition is voting against that.

I would encourage the member for Western Arctic to stand behind these things and realize that the opportunities and environment being created by the government is what government is supposed to do.

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November 26th, 2012 / 1:50 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I stand to speak to 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.

Article 19 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states:

States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.

The reason I am reading that into the record today is that, with the legislation, it is very important since the Government of Canada did sign on to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we would hope that it would expect that free, prior and informed consent. I raise it in the context of the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board Act. I raise that become it seems that some groups and organizations from the Northwest Territories feel that they have not been adequately consulted on this legislation.

The New Democrats will support sending this legislation at second reading to committee so we can fully review it. This is lengthy legislation and it would make some amendments to other acts.

Part of this legislation was originally introduced in 2010. It was Bill C-25, Nunavut planning and project assessment act. I will read from the legislative summary because it is still applicable to the legislation that we have before us. It is an important part of where we are going with this bill. I will focus mostly on Nunavut. My friend from Western Arctic covered some of the issues around the Northwest Territories.

In the legislative summary of Bill C-25, which is applicable to Bill C-47, it reads:

In a landmark ruling in 1973 the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed that Aboriginal peoples’ historic occupation of the land gave rise to legal rights in the land that had survived European settlement. In 1982, the Constitution was amended to “recognize and affirm” the “existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada.” “Treaty rights” include rights under land claims agreements.

The Nunavut land claims agreement of 1993 took numerous years in order to be negotiated but there are some key objectives to the agreement that are related to the legislation before us.

The objectives of the agreement are:

to provide for certainty and clarity of rights to ownership and use of lands and resources and of rights for Inuit to participate in decision-making concerning the use, management and conservation of land, water and resources, including the offshore,

to provide Inuit with wildlife harvesting rights and rights to participate in decision-making concerning wildlife harvesting,

to provide Inuit with financial compensation and means of participating in economic opportunities, [and]

to encourage self-reliance and the cultural and social well-being of Inuit.

Under the provisions of the Nunavut land claims agreement, there are a couple of things:

Among many other things, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement provides for the federal government and the Inuit to establish a joint regime for land and resource management (articles 10 to 12). Article 10 sets out the criteria for the land and resource institutions to be created, while article 11 sets out the parameters for land use planning within the Nunavut Settlement Area, and article 12 details how development impact is to be evaluated.

Under article 10, the federal government undertakes to establish the following government institutions to administer the regime:

Surface Rights Tribunal;

Nunavut Planning Commission (NPC);

Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB); and

Nunavut Water Board.

Canada partially fulfilled its obligations by establishing the first and fourth of these institutions when Parliament enacted the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act 11 in 2002. Bill C-25 [which is now Bill C-47] fulfills the government’s obligations with regards to the other two institutions, the NPC and the NIRB. Note, however, that both of these institutions already exist. They came into being in 1997 under the Nunavut Settlement Agreement. Bill C-25 formalizes their establishment in legislation and sets out how they will continue to operate.

Again, the legislative summary indicates that:

Work on the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act began in 2002. To fulfill its obligation for close consultation with Inuit, the Government of Canada established the Nunavut Legislative Working Group, consisting of the Government of Canada (represented by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada), Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, and the Government of Nunavut, and supported by the participation of the NPC and the NIRB.

The Working Group met regularly through to 2007 to discuss and resolve policy issues, gaps the bill should address, and resolve questions and legal interpretation of the agreement and how these solutions should be reflected in the bill. When these issues were satisfactorily advanced in 2007, drafting of the bill began with oversight and direction from the Working Group.

I will use the government's backgrounder to quickly summarize the key elements in the bill that are relevant around the Nunavut planning and project assessment.

The proposed legislation will:

Continue the functioning of the Commission and the Board and clearly define and describe their powers, duties and functions, including how their members are appointed. It will also clearly define the roles and authorities of Inuit, federal and territorial governments;

Establish timelines for decision-making in the land use planning and environmental assessment processes to create a more efficient and predictable regulatory regime;

Define how, and by whom, Land Use Plans will be prepared, amended, reviewed and implemented in Nunavut;

Describe the process by which the Commission and the Board will examine development proposals; and

Harmonize the assessment process for transboundary projects by providing for review by joint panels and providing an opportunity for the Board to review and assess projects outside the Area that may have an adverse impact on the Nunavut Settlement Area;

Provide for the development of general and specific monitoring plans that will enable both governments to track the environmental, social and economic impacts of projects;

Establish effective enforcement tools to ensure terms and conditions from the plans and impact assessment process are followed; and

Streamline the impact assessment process, especially for smaller projects, and provide industry with clear, consistent and transparent guidelines, making investments in Nunavut more attractive and profitable.

Generally speaking, there is fairly wide support for the Nunavut part of the bill. Again, this goes back to 2010 when, before the aboriginal affairs committee of the day, the Nunavut Water Board appeared and indicated some support. Other organizations, as well as some of the mining companies, had indicated some support. However, some concerns are still being raised.

In a letter that we received from legal counsel from NTI, it anticipated that a number of amendments would be required to ensure the bill's compliance with the Nunavut land claims agreement. NTI intends to make submissions to the parliamentary committees on these aspects of the bill. It stated that it would be important that adequate time and space be available for NTI to make oral and written submissions to the committee, as well as NTI's regional Inuit associations, the NPC, NIRB and the Government of Nunavut if it so desired.

It is important to note that, although there is support, people still feel there are some amendments that are required to this particular section of the bill.

A number of concerns had been raised about funding and I will turn to the testimony that came before the committee back on May 13, 2010. The members of the NIRB indicated at that time that funding was always a concern. Once again, we have legislation where funding has not been built into it, and, of course, it is often not. However, there has not been a commitment around funding.

In response to questions posed at the committee to the deputy minister in 2010 about the commitment the government and the department had toward funding, the deputy minister provided assurances--

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November 26th, 2012 / 4:35 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am continuing on with my comments on Bill C-47.

As I indicated at the outset of my speech, New Democrats support the bill going to committee at second reading for further review.

When I was interrupted, I was referring to the legislative summary that talked about the deputy minister of what was then Indian and Northern Affairs providing reassurances to aboriginal and northern affairs members that although implementation would add to the workload of certain agencies in Nunavut, including the Nunavut Impact Review Board, they would get the resources they needed. However, it was not made clear what funding would be dedicated for this purpose.

I want to go back and refer to testimony that was before the aboriginal affairs committee in May 2010. The Nunavut Impact Review Board, among others, came before the committee to outline some of its concerns generally about the operation of its organization in the north as well as specific reference to what was then Bill C-25.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the other side for the support in continuing to speak.

The review board indicated that the draft legislation would create the one-window approach that is currently lacking. However, this does not eliminate the need for the Nunavut institutions to continue to work together. Rather, it is increasingly important in preparation for the law coming into force.

Additional resources will be required for the boards to participate in this implementation planning and in equipping the organizations to meet new requirements and timelines.

It would be essential for the Nunavut Planning Commission, as a single window into the Nunavut regulatory regime, to access the expertise held within these organizations in order to fully understand the impact assessment and regulatory processes that occur.

I also want to discuss one of the most significant ongoing challenges facing the board, which are the delays in the appointment of board members. This delay can result in a loss of quorum. The boards rely on board members to make the decisions required to fulfill their respective mandates.

Further on, the executive director of the Nunavut Water Board was speaking and indicated that he wanted to speak about the board's funding constraints:

Given the vast territory, the obligation to hold hearings in communities most directly affected, working in three languages, and the limited capacity of people and communities to engage in the regulatory process, the cost of fulfilling the mandate of the boards is high.

Again, he was referencing the challenges with the amount of resources that were provided. He went on to say:

If economic development potential in the north is a key objective of the federal government, it is the board's view that equal measures to promote and support the regulatory regimes are required to effectively and efficiently fulfill the commitments made in the Nunavut land claims agreement.

He went on to talk about how important it is to make increased resources available to the Water Review Board, but also to other organizations as well:

Accordingly, the boards recommend a review of federal and territorial resources available and required to fulfill the NLCA functions and reduce barriers to development in the north.

As I mentioned earlier, there are not any assurances in this piece of legislation that there will be the resources available for Nunavut to actually undertake the implementation of this very important piece, and that is another reason why it is important to get the bill to committee quickly, because of course it was first introduced in 2010, and here we are two years later, and because of an election, the bill was not dealt with. Of course, we have been back here for well over a year and the bill could have been introduced months ago.

One of the reasons the Water Review Board is raising concerns around funding is that it has been the experience, when other pieces of legislation have been passed, when there has not been that commitment to funding, that those pieces of legislation actually languish.

I want to refer to Bill C-34 that was passed by the Parliament of Canada back in December 2006. Bill C-34 was the First Nations Jurisdiction over Education in British Columbia Act. FNESC, which has been an advocate, actively involved in implementing that piece of legislation, has recently written a letter to the former minister Jim Prentice, indicating to Mr. Prentice:

However, unilateral action by the Canadian government is now jeopardizing the education jurisdiction initiative in BC, including the legally binding agreements and supporting legislation. Specifically, we have been unable to reach resolution with the Government of Canada regarding reasonable funding for this initiative.

Here we have a piece of legislation that was passed in 2006. Here we are in 2012, and the initiative still is not being appropriately funded.

The Nunavut Impact Review Board is quite correct in raising concerns about the fact that adequate funding has not so far been talked about.

In the last couple of minutes I have left I want to raise some concerns, overall, with the speed of implementation of land claims agreements and some of the subsequent agreements that are so important for their effective functioning.

In the second universal periodic review that was submitted on October 9, 2012, to the United Nations Human Rights Council by the Land Claims Agreements Coalition, they have raised a number of concerns about Canada's foot-dragging on these matters. In this they outline first of all the importance of modern treaties and the fact that these modern treaties represent nation to nation and government to government relationships between aboriginal signatory and the Crown in right of Canada.

They go on to talk about the importance of this in terms of:

...[improving] social, cultural, political and economic well-being. At the same time, these agreements are intended to provide all signatories with a mutual foundation for the beneficial and sustainable development and use of Aboriginal peoples' traditional lands and resources.

They talk about the fact that:

The treaty rights arising from modern land claims...express the mutual desire of the Crown and Aboriginal peoples to reconcile through sharing the lands, resources and natural wealth of this subcontinent in a manner that is equitable and just, in contrast to the discriminatory and assimilationist approaches that have characterized their historical relations.

They talk about the honour of the Crown, and I will touch on a couple of the recommendations they made. First, they raised the issue of the fact that “...Nunavut, one of the Coalition's founding members...” had to file a claim “against the Government of Canada, concerning a litany of federal implementation failures in respect of the Nunavut Agreement...”.

They then state:

In June 2012, Mr. Justice Johnson of the Nunavut Court of Justice ruled in favour of the Inuit, in relation to one aspect of the suit, concerning the failure to develop an ecosystemic and socio-economic monitoring plan.

It goes on to say:

Mr....Johnson ordered the Government of Canada to disgorge the $14 million it had saved by not implementing the treaty obligation in a timely manner.

Later on in the submission to the Human Rights Council, as I had mentioned, they raised the issue about funding and the fact that funding has not been discussed, at least that we can tell, in Bill C-47.

The Land Claims Coalition has put forward a “Four-Ten Declaration and Model Implementation Policy”. In this four-ten declaration, it has indicated:

A federal commitment to achieve the broad objectives of modern treaties, as opposed to mere technical compliance with narrowly defined obligations. This must include, but not be limited to, ensuring adequate funding to achieve these objectives and obligations.

It also indicates:

There must be an independent implementation and review body.

That has often been a sticking point when we come to land claims and treaties.

The document further states:

On March 3, 2009, the Land Claims Agreements Coalition released a model national policy on land claims agreement implementation: “Honour, Spirit and Intent: A Model Canadian Policy on the Full Implementation of Modern Treaties Between Aboriginal Peoples and the Crown”....

And in this, under the model, one point specifically related to Bill C-47 is that the model Canadian policy calls for:

Implement[ing] dynamic self-government arrangements and negotiat[ing] stable, predictable and adequate funding arrangements;

Negotiate in good faith with Aboriginal signatories to conclude multi-year implementation plans and fiscal agreements and arrangements;

Provide sufficient and timely funding to fully implement the objectives of modern treaties;

So the issue of funding is very important when we are talking about Bill C-47. It has been raised over a number of years, and we have not seen that firm commitment. The deputy minister said that although they were considering it, he did not make any kind of commitment when he came before the committee a couple of years ago.

In conclusion, New Democrats are supporting this bill getting to committee. We are looking forward to a thorough review of a very technical, complex piece of legislation. It impacts on Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. I look forward to having that very thorough discussion and getting this piece of legislation moved forward.

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November 26th, 2012 / 4:45 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is an incredible advocate for first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in this country, and I always appreciate her well-informed and well-researched speeches.

The member raised an important matter, that it is very important to move forward with legislation so that Nunavut can move forward on implementing its self-government and self-administration of its lands. However, as the predecessor to the hon. member as this party's critic for aboriginal affairs and northern development, I received many briefings from first nations and from the Nunavut people, expressing their concerns that the government has failed to deliver on its constitutional obligations to provide the financing necessary to implement the self-government provisions of its land claim and self-government agreements.

Could the member elaborate on that a bit?

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November 26th, 2012 / 4:45 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, part of the ongoing challenge with land claims agreements and self-government agreements has been the continued lack of long-term funding, or when the windows come up when these agreements need to be reviewed, there is continual foot-dragging. That is one of the reasons that the Land Claims Coalition put forward the model policy that talks on a number of points about the importance of consistent funding.

I talked about the First Nations Education Steering Committee and the B.C. First Nations Education Act, and it is a really good example of something that has now been in place for six years and has not been adequately funded. The Nunavut land claims agreement has been in place for decades and it has taken this long to get this next phase of the agreement implemented through Bill C-47. Even with this, there still has not been that long-term commitment to funding. We simply cannot have the improvement in socio-economic status if we do not have those long-term commitments to funding.

Hopefully we will hear at committee, once we hear from the minister, that the government is committing to that kind of funding to move this next piece of legislation forward.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 4:45 p.m.
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Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's comments across the floor and concerns about the Nunavut Impact Review Board and the Nunavut Planning Commission and the difficulty at times maintaining quorum, but as I understand in the bill there are at least three provisions that would look after that.

If a member's term expires while a project proposal is under review, that could be extended in relation to the project until a review is complete. Second, if a vacancy occurs during the term, a new member could be appointed for a three-year term. Finally, the board has the authority to establish panels of three, five and seven members. I am wondering if the member opposite would agree that these would enhance the ability for the planning commission and the review board to carry out their duties.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, of course I indicated a number of times in my speech that the New Democrats are supporting getting the bill to committee. We are hoping that will happen fairly quickly.

With regard to the issues around quorum and board members, the testimony I was reading was from 2010, and here we are two years later when we finally have a piece of legislation that hopefully would help deal with it, but I must point out that part of the challenge rested with the government in terms of the appointment of those board members.

I would agree it is a good move forward. It is just unfortunate it has taken so long to do it.