Evidence of meeting #123 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was infrastructure.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Michael Spence  Mayor, Town of Churchill
Merven Gruben  Mayor, Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk
Jackie Jacobson  Councillor, Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk
Don Rusnak  Thunder Bay—Rainy River, Lib.
Yves Robillard  Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, Lib.
Madeleine Redfern  Mayor, City of Iqaluit
George Kemp  Elder, Berens River First Nation, As an Individual

October 22nd, 2018 / 3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Okay.

I have some more questions, but I'd better give Churchill a chance here, too.

First of all, you said that you were part of the NWT at one time. The Yukon was part of that NWT empire, too, until the gold rush, when we became the Yukon.

I just want to know what your experience is with climate change and infrastructure in the area. Looking a long way into the future, I've always predicted, actually, that the Arctic Ocean is going to melt faster than even the scientists are saying. When that's melted, could you tell us a bit about what the opportunities would be? I'm sure you've had studies on the economic opportunities of shipping from Churchill.

3:50 p.m.

Mayor, Town of Churchill

Michael Spence

That's an interesting question, actually. We have Dr. Barber, who heads the climate change aspect at the University of Manitoba, and he's the ice expert. He has indicated, in his presentations to us and others, that the Hudson Bay and the Hudson Strait are going to be ice-free within 30 years. So, potentially you're going to have a port that will be able to operate year-round. It's quite significant.

When we look at this, yes, there are challenges with climate change, but the fact is there are also benefits. For our location, we're looking at this as strictly benefits, and that's the way we'll look at it.

Are we excited about the future? We're always excited about the future, because you have to have the vision to drive that. We're pretty excited about the latest investment by the federal government. We believe it's not only our community that this is going to benefit; it's going to benefit the region.

As I said, what's really important here is the fact that we're talking about not only a community, but a region. The benefits will be there.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

What would you ship, and where?

3:55 p.m.

Mayor, Town of Churchill

Michael Spence

We would ship, for instance, resupply to communities further north of us, or have products going in. It could be fertilizer, or it could be grain going to China. You can look at what's happening with Russia and China in terms of what they're doing with their northern coasts. There are some huge benefits and investments that are going into those northern countries, and we have to start doing it.

But I think it's a start. We're very happy with what we have.

Thank you.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

I have one last quick question for Mayor Gruben.

I understand that in the Gulf of Mexico spill there were 5,000 boats involved. Do you think the federal government should be investing more money in how to clean up an oil spill under ice, which would be quite a challenge? I think we should be investing, but do you think we should be investing in that research?

3:55 p.m.

Mayor, Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk

Merven Gruben

Definitely. We need to get ahead of the game.

When you look at the big reserve that BP and Imperial have, they're still on that. They're still interested in developing that. That's a $1.2-billion bid that they put on that one, and with the moratorium out there they shut everything down.

In the last four years or whatever, we should have been getting ready to research this kind of stuff. What I suggest is building up an oil spill response community and all the facilities that you need in our community, especially now that we have a year-round road that can get stuff out summer or winter.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Thank you, Madame Chair.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Questioning now moves to MP Cathy McLeod.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Thank you to both the witnesses for coming today.

I'm going to start by saying that my husband was one of those 5,000 who went up the road to your community.

3:55 p.m.

Mayor, Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk

Merven Gruben

Oh, cool.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

He only dipped his toe in the Beaufort, so I can't imagine people taking the full plunge.

3:55 p.m.

Mayor, Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk

Merven Gruben

Some of them are naked. I don't think he was one of them.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

I saw the picture of the toe.

I think it leads to a good point. Tourism is important, but for him it was a day in and maybe they had lunch and a cup of coffee and there wasn't much opportunity.

You talked about the Beaufort Sea and a very arbitrary.... As I understand it, there was a 20-minute call before there was a drilling moratorium announced, with no consultation with the premiers or with the communities. This government likes to talk about nation-to-nation consultation and transparency.

Can you talk about what that moratorium did to your dreams and opportunities?

3:55 p.m.

Mayor, Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk

Merven Gruben

Like I said, our region has been in the oil and gas industry since the late 1800s. Our first people were impacted by the whale hunters. That was our first taste of the oil boom. It's happened four or five times since then. We work very well and we're really proactive. We're pro-development. We want things to happen.

Since that happened, I've noticed in our community that a lot of people have been just.... We were lucky enough in that time frame that we were developing the Tuk highway and people were happy. They were buying stuff. They were buying houses, skidoos, trucks and all this stuff, and now there are so many people on social assistance.

The young people are even calling it payday now. The mentality of the young ones is just so different from a generation ago, when everybody was ashamed to be.... You'd go on welfare only when you needed it. Now it's payday.

Like I said, our people like to work. They want to work, and this moratorium just slammed everyone back down. There's absolutely no development in oil and gas up there right now, besides what we're working on, the preliminary stuff with the natural gasification of M-18. That's something we're working on at this moment, but we just need a little more push here.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

This might not impact the territories as much, but certainly we have Bill C-69, which is working its way through Parliament.

4 p.m.

Mayor, Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk

Merven Gruben

That's another bad one.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

People are suggesting that it's basically a “no more pipeline, no more development” bill. It sounds like you're familiar with it.

4 p.m.

Mayor, Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk

Merven Gruben

Yes, definitely.

That's just going to be another nail in the coffin for a lot of infrastructure and oil and gas projects that we're working on in the north. There are already so many hurdles. You can't do anything up there. You almost need a permit to go to the washroom outside before...on the highway.

There are enough hurdles in place already, and it's just slowing things down. I think there are already enough environmental or land administration people, the ILA. They're there to look after it already. We don't need any more complications to slow things down.

Everybody's turning green here on us. We're going to turn green from starvation pretty soon.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

We have Bill C-69, and we have an arbitrary moratorium. I understand that all the major Inuit organizations have now walked away from nutrition north, because that conversation has not been going so well, I guess, not actually seeing action from a government that made some significant promises.

In the last government, I think we had a reasonable Arctic policy framework. Maybe a new government wants to rejig it, but it sounds like we've spent three years now on that from the very start, again.

4 p.m.

Mayor, Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk

Merven Gruben

I haven't seen anything from this new government. They haven't helped us at all.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Have you been consulted on this new—

4 p.m.

Mayor, Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk

Merven Gruben

No. I have no idea what you're talking about.

Jackie?

4 p.m.

Councillor, Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk

Jackie Jacobson

There has been no consultation.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

We could have something that will be presented sometime soon, which will be an Arctic policy framework, but you haven't had any—

4 p.m.

Mayor, Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk

Merven Gruben

I'm not familiar with it, no.