I'm at your pleasure, Mr. Chair. Thank you.
As a preliminary matter, I have several binders of material. I apologize that they are not in both official languages. They are tabbed materials with a fair bit of content that I had wanted to discuss during my presentation today, so I would invite members, if they wish, to pick up a copy of the material if they'd like to review that with me as I proceed.
As a bit of background, I would say that I've been working on lands and natural resources management for about 24 years as an employee of MKO, so I've been a personal witness of many of the different waves of activities and policies of the previous Conservative government, the Liberal government, and the current government, in terms of trying to mobilize lands and natural resources planning on reserve, engage first nations in economic development, reduce costs, and provide improved services.
A lot of the comments and suggestions we'll be making come from that real experience of seeing these various waves of different approaches, policies, and activities.
One of the things I'd like to go back to while describing this is a meeting we had recently with Minister Oliver. He raised the question with us of how we could get $500 billion worth of resource development moving in Canada. That was sort of the challenge we had in what I thought was a most excellent discussion.
The second question Minister Oliver asked was how we could address the significant underemployment of aboriginal peoples. That was the way it was described.
Mr. Chair, members of the committee, MKO has some very clear ideas about how to do both of those.
By way of a bit of background, as an organization we began our work on these types of ideas in 1984 with an intervention before the National Energy Board of Canada regarding an export licence for the Limestone generating station. Really, it was the first time Manitoba Hydro went toe to toe with a first nation organization before a regulatory tribunal. It was quite an eye-opener for Manitoba Hydro.
I had expertise from dealing with the NEB in previous proceedings, and MKO was represented by legal counsel, but the end result of it was the same sorts of ideas about capturing meaningful engagement of first nations, having meaningful involvement in procurement and contracting, having meaningful training and employment.
What was described by the minsters of the day—the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and the Minister of Energy for Manitoba—was a northern preference clause.
So the promises were made, and what we relied upon in our evidence to the National Energy Board was in fact its decision in the Norman Wells-Zama pipeline. We quite literally whited out Norman Wells-Zama and put Limestone, and we presented the National Energy Board its very same recommendations and suggested that they be made applicable south of 60. Of course north of 60, as well as offshore, the federal government and the NEB have absolute authority to set terms and conditions that are enforceable for energy projects. But when you cross the 60th parallel heading south, there's some reluctance on the part of the federal government to utilize the carrot or the stick to impose policies on provinces.
In its February 1985 decision, the National Energy Board said the magic words, which made us very excited, that MKO's recommendations were “in the public interest”. In those days that usually meant the board was going to order it. However, as for NEB's interest in realizing our very detailed recommendations for training, employment, and northern preference, and their concerns about the effect of the Burntwood/Nelson collective agreement and how you would have to address those barriers, and so on, even though they were all essentially in the public interest and adaptable north of 60, given that long history with Justice Berger on the pipeline, the NEB said they would watch with interest how it would all unfold in Manitoba.
In the end, respectfully, the Limestone aboriginal partnership directorate board, which was established to engage in training and employment initiatives, produced what former Chief Robert Wavey of Fox Lake First Nation described as the most highly trained unemployed people in Manitoba.
If we look at the various stages of projects, these waves of multi-billion dollar investments, we see that they've all rolled over the first nations of northern Manitoba and passed us by.
The Limestone project passed us by. Essentially, for Limestone there was a hydro station in Quebec that had recently been finished, and the Revelstoke Dam was just finished in British Columbia—it came online in 1983—so we had two groups of very highly trained and mobilized dam builders who came to Manitoba to build Limestone. First nations persons were essentially doing labour jobs, cleanup, and so forth. Our largest contracting entity, Nelson House Forest Industries, finally got work at the very end of the project in clearing roadsides.
These are the kinds of experiences we've had that have made us dig in and figure out how to answer those questions. How do we achieve employment equity? How do we achieve benefit-sharing? How do we achieve not being rolled over by the wave of development, but actually become a participant in it?
So the comments I have to make to the committee regarding land management and sustainable economic development are with those real-life experiences well in hand, as well as the examples that we have today.
The MKO region covers 487,462 square kilometres in Manitoba, or about three-quarters of the province. At tab 6 of our book, on the third page, there's a map that we included in our recent submission to the special rapporteur on the right to food. This means that all of the large-scale resource developments, such as hydroelectric development, large-scale transmission, mining development, and all the major smelters, including Hudbay Minerals and Vale—formerly Inco—are all within the MKO territory.
Again, similar to our experience with Limestone, none of these large-scale developments have left a long-lasting legacy and have neither employed aboriginal peoples in these resource sectors nor highly trained them. For example, Hudbay Minerals has been operating since the Mandy Mine in 1914—almost 100 years—and Hudbay Minerals and its predecessors have never engaged in underground mining training. There is no legacy left in the local first nations or communities, like the Hudbay computer lab at the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation. So even with 100 years of extracting billions of dollars in mineral wealth from that territory, there is no long-term legacy, either in employment or in other areas.
That comment highlights the need, for example, for engagement in what we call “employment equity”, to ensure that employees of large-scale resource developments are roughly proportional to the population of aboriginal people surrounding them. That's what we mean by employment equity.
In terms of procurement, which is another element that we discussed with Minister Oliver, that is a meaningful set-aside of projects and contracts for these large-scale projects within the region. For example, the Manitoba government, when it looks at the $80 million in mines remediation in Lynn Lake, where the mines are all closed down, considers it positive to achieve a 15% set-aside to aboriginals living in the area instead of establishing its policy to try to encourage first nations to achieve 100% of the contract by going to partnerships with the Dene Tlicho, for example, who have developed a considerable expertise in mines development and so forth.
So in looking to answer Minister Oliver's two questions, how do we get $500 billion in development moving—