Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'm grateful for the opportunity to provide an overview of part 1 of the Northern Jobs and Growth Act today, the proposed Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act. This part sets out in federal statutes the Nunavut Planning Commission and the Nunavut Impact Review Board and formally defines the powers, duties, and functions of these two boards. As Mr. Traynor pointed out, this bill meets a legislative obligation of the Government of Canada under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.
You'll recall that this historic agreement, signed nearly 20 years ago between the federal government and the Inuit of the Nunavut settlement area, enabled Parliament to create Nunavut as an official territory in 1999. The Nunavut Planning Commission and the Nunavut Impact Review Board have operated under the provisions of the agreement since 1996. What Bill C-47 does is provide greater detail and therefore increased certainty about the functions of these two bodies. Most notably, the bill provides for a one-window entry point for development projects in Nunavut.
Here's how the two boards under Bill C-47 work.
The Nunavut Planning Commission prepares land use plans that are to guide and direct resource use and development and provide for both the conservation and use of lands in the Nunavut settlement area. The commission consults on the development of the draft plan, reviews it with the public, and then submits it for approval to the governments of Canada and Nunavut and the Inuit. The plan is in effect once it has the approval of all three parties.
With respect to individual project proposals, all prospective resource development projects in Nunavut will enter the planning and review process through the Nunavut Planning Commission. Project proponents are responsible for determining whether their project's activity meets the definition of a project under the act. If proponents deem their projects to be subject to the act, the proponents submit their project proposals to the Nunavut Planning Commission. The commission then determines if a land use plan applies to the area in which the project is located. If so, the commission judges whether the project conforms to the plan. All project proposals prepared by proponents such as mining companies must conform to their respective land use plans before they can go any further in the review and approval process.
As long as the project conforms to any applicable land use plan, the commission verifies whether it is on a schedule of projects exempt from screening by the Nunavut Impact Review Board. If the project is exempt, the commission judges whether it has concerns about the project's cumulative effects in the region. The commission sends the project to the Nunavut Impact Review Board for screening if the commission has concerns about cumulative impacts or if the project is not exempt from screening. The commission can grant minor variances to projects that do not conform to land use plans, or proponents can seek a ministerial exemption from conforming to a land use plan.
The commission must complete its work on each project within 45 days. The 45-day clock begins, once again, once the Nunavut Impact Review Board begins its work to screen a project proposal. The Nunavut Impact Review Board screens project proposals to determine if a project requires a review due to potential adverse impacts caused by the proposed development or because of public concern. If the board deems that a public review is required, the relevant ministers must decide within 90 days if the review should be conducted by the board or by a federal panel chosen by the Minister of Environment. All federal panels include members nominated by Inuit and the Government of Nunavut.
After the Nunavut Impact Review Board conducts a public review and prepares the review report for a project, the relevant ministers must decide within 150 days whether a project should proceed and whether to accept, reject, or vary any terms and conditions recommended in the report. The relevant ministers, however, must decide within 90 days if a report is deficient and must go back to the board for further consideration.
If a federal panel conducts a review, the relevant ministers must decide within 240 days whether a project should proceed and whether to accept, reject, or vary any terms and conditions recommended in the report. Within this time period, the ministers must seek the approval of their decision from the Governor in Council if the project was sent to the federal panel because it involved a matter of national interest.
If the responsible minister's decision is positive, the boards must prepare, within 30 days, a project certificate that sets out the terms and conditions of the project. Federal and territorial regulators must then make sure the terms and conditions described in the certificate are implemented in permits and licences. Enforcement provisions help ensure these terms and conditions are respected, especially as they apply to protecting the environment.
As I pointed out, Mr. Chairman, several timelines exist at key decision points in the process. These timelines help speed the consideration of projects and improve predictability and certainty for investors without jeopardizing environmental protection. In addition, federal panels and institutions of neighbouring jurisdictions may jointly review projects that cross territorial boundaries.
The Nunavut Impact Review Board can also review projects situated outside the territory if these projects might have adverse effects within the Nunavut settlement area.
With respect to resource developments that are now under way, Bill C-47 ensures that these projects can transition seamlessly to this new process by empowering the Nunavut Planning Commission to use existing land use plans and take into consideration existing rights, and by the Nunavut Impact Review Board continuing its assessment of projects that are in the process when the act comes into force under the rules that were in place when the project proposal was submitted.
In walking the committee through the process, I hope I've shed some light on how Bill C-47 enshrines in law a transparent process that is easily understood by all participants, sets out fair rules for developers, and establishes timelines for our environmental assessment decisions that will result in the process not exceeding 24 months for the board and the relevant ministers to make their decisions.
To recap, the bill establishes a single-entry, one-project—one-assessment method that simplifies the regulatory process, improves the likelihood that reviews will be carried out expeditiously and transparently, and, we believe, makes it possible for Inuit, the territorial government, and the federal government to cooperate to manage resources and lands in Nunavut in a clear and predictable manner.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.