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.