Mr. Speaker, I rise today mindful that we are on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin people.
I am honoured to begin the debate at second reading of Bill C-88, an act to amend the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts. This bill clarifies the legislative and regulatory framework for the development of key regions of Canada's north, the Mackenzie Valley and the offshore areas of the Arctic Ocean and the Beaufort Sea. These regions have vast economic potential but they are also environmentally sensitive. Moreover, these regions have sustained indigenous people and communities who have lived in the north since time immemorial. Those communities, their organizations and governments have a right to a say in how the region is developed.
The bill before us addresses two different acts of Parliament that affect resource development in the north: the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act.
Let me begin with the amendments to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. I remind the House that in March 2014, the Northwest Territories Devolution Act transferred control of public lands and waters in the Northwest Territories to the territorial government. It is that government that now makes decisions on resource development. It receives 50% of resource revenue within the specific annual limit.
We know the abysmal track record of the Conservatives when it came to respecting and honouring indigenous rights and supporting the people of the north. That act was the perfect example. In 2014, through Bill C-15, the Northwest Territories Devolution Act, the Harper government completely changed the land and water board structure without adequate consultation and in complete ignorance of indigenous rights. Those changes became very controversial within the region as the current member for Northwest Territories knows well. Through many conversations, consultations and meetings, there were many good points brought forward by people in that area.
The Harper government removed three regulatory authorities: the Gwich’in Land and Water Board, the Sahtu Land and Water Board and the Wek'èezhìi Land and Water Board. The Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board was to remain as a single consolidated land and water board for the Mackenzie Valley. That was what the Conservative government wanted but it is not what the indigenous governments wanted. The indigenous governments and organizations correctly argued that their authorities in land and water management are guaranteed by their land claims and by their self-government agreements and they should be honoured. The Conservative government could not unilaterally abolish their land and water boards. This was just another sad example of the Harper government's tendency to trample on the rights of indigenous people.
In February 2015, the Northwest Territories Supreme Court issued an injunction that halted the provisions that included the restructuring of the land and water boards. The injunction preserved the existing regulatory processes until the court could provide further instruction. At the same time, other measures included in section 253(2) were affected, including a regulation-making authority for cost recovery and consultation, administrative monetary penalties, development certificates, regional studies and the terms of board members. The Conservatives appealed the injunction in March 2015. We heard from stakeholders that that situation not only created mistrust on the part of indigenous governments and organizations toward the Canadian government, but it also created uncertainty that discouraged the responsible development of the region's resources.
In the fall of 2015, in order to better put us on a path to reconciliation and economic development, the then minister of indigenous and northern affairs met with indigenous governments and organizations in the Northwest Territories to find a way forward. The minister announced that she had directed the department to pause its appeal and start the exploratory discussions.
Rather than taking this fight and continuing it in the courts, our goal has been to work with indigenous governments and organizations to identify potential solutions. In the summer of 2016, the minister met with indigenous governments and organizations, and in September 2016, she wrote to the relevant parties to officially begin a formal consultation process. The consultations have been thorough and effective. They have included indigenous governments, organizations, the Government of the Northwest Territories and industry. This is the way to move forward on matters affecting resource development in Canada's north.
The Conservatives' attempt to unilaterally change the regulatory regime set the relationship with the Northwest Territories and indigenous people back by many years. However, with this bill, we are getting back on track and we are working with them to move forward.
The bill removes the board amalgamation provisions and confirms the continuation of the Sahtu, Gwich'in and Wek'èezhìi land and water boards with the jurisdiction to regulate land and water use in their management regions. These regional boards will also continue to be panels of the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board. The Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board will continue to have jurisdiction for the regulation of land and water, including the insurance of land use permits and water licences in the area of the Mackenzie Valley where land claims have not been settled and for transboundary projects.
In effect, this bill repeals the provisions of the Conservatives that challenged the rights of indigenous governing bodies under their comprehensive land claim agreements. Other provisions of the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act that were included in the Northwest Territories Devolution Act but were halted by the court injunction will also be reintroduced in this bill.
Specifically, the bill provides for the Governor in Council to make regulations pertaining to cost recovery to indigenous consultation. Development certificates will set out the conditions under which a project can proceed. Administrative monetary penalties can now be established through regulations for violations relating to these certificates. Provisions will allow the establishment of committees for the conduct of regional studies. The bill also provides for the extension of the terms of board members to allow them to complete a proceeding that is under way. This will ensure there is continuity in the process and in the decision-making.
We are setting out a positive way forward for the development of the Mackenzie Valley. It is a way forward that acknowledges the rights of indigenous governments and organizations and will provide certainty to industry. When we listen to northerners when developing policies that affect them, great things are possible and it leads the way to better prosperity for all people in the north.
The second part of this bill involves the Canada Petroleum Resources Act which governs the drilling of oil and gas that takes place offshore in the Arctic. Those offshore drilling operations face a number of technical and logical challenges, including a short operating season and sea ice. We do not yet have the technology to resolve these challenges, but I have confidence that there will be technological solutions that will enable offshore drilling to be undertaken safely in the future.
To get to these solutions, we must be guided by the knowledge of the nature of the challenges. That knowledge will be shaped by science, including both marine science and climate science. We need evidence for effective decision-making that will help us reach the goal of responsible resource development. This science is still in its early stages. The technology will eventually follow. In the meantime, we must take steps to protect a sensitive and vulnerable environment in the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Ocean.
In December 2016, the Prime Minister announced a moratorium on new offshore drilling in our Arctic waters. The moratorium will be tested every five years through a science-based review. This review, undertaken in collaboration with our northern partners, will provide evidence that will guide future oil and gas activity.
The bill before us would complement the 2016 moratorium and protect the interests of licence holders by freezing the terms of their licences for the duration of the prohibition on oil and gas activity. The licences will not expire during the moratorium. This will allow us to preserve the existing rights until the five-year science-based review is completed. At that point, we will have a better understanding of strategic plans and potential decisions in collaboration with our northern partners, indigenous governments and the governments of the north.
I am pleased to inform the House that the companies that currently hold the existing oil and gas rights and our northern partners have been supportive of responsible development of the Arctic offshore and the strategic path forward. They understand the importance of protecting the unique Arctic environment while pursuing safe, responsible oil and gas activities, activities that create jobs and economic growth in northern indigenous communities. They appreciate the importance of the science-based review in establishing future decisions on Arctic offshore development.
These amendments are fair to existing rights holders and allow us to go forward with a serious review of the science in order to better understand the potential impacts and benefits of oil and gas extraction in the Beaufort Sea. This is sound, sustainable management and is consistent with what our government is already doing regarding science in the north.
The bill before us ensures that indigenous governments and organizations will have a strong voice in the development of resources in their territories. Our goal is to put in place a robust regime that will protect Canada's rich natural environment. It will support a resilient resource sector and at the same time respect the rights and interests of indigenous people.
This bill is part of an ongoing journey toward meaningful reconciliation with indigenous peoples and the protection of our lands and waters. In this way, we are able to foster economic opportunities and growth and protect the environment for future generations.
I urge all hon. members to join me in supporting this bill and supporting the wishes, hopes and aspirations of those who live in Canada's north.