Evidence of meeting #151 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 c-88.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

David V. Wright  Legal Counsel, Gwich'in Tribal Council
Chief Gladys Norwegian  Dehcho First Nations
Merven Gruben  Mayor, Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk
Jackie Jacobson  Councillor, Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk
Neil McCrank  Senior Counsel, Commercial Litigation, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, As an Individual
Joseph Campbell  Vice-President, Northwest Territories, Northwest Territories and Nunavut Chamber of Mines
Mark Brooks  Senior Specialist, Artic Oil and Gas, World Wildlife Fund-Canada
Bob McLeod  Premier of the Northwest Territories
Chief George Mackenzie  Tlicho Government
Alfonz Nitsiza  Tlicho Government
Bertha Rabesca Zoe  Legal Counsel, Tlicho Government
Paul Bachand  Legal Counsel, Tlicho Government

12:35 p.m.

Premier of the Northwest Territories

Bob McLeod

As I said earlier, this bill provides certainty to industry. As well, once we conclude the co-management negotiations on the offshore.... We're also working very closely with other provincial jurisdictions so that the oil and gas industry survives in Canada. Going forward, we're looking at the United States and how successful they've been. They've become fully self-sufficient in oil and gas, and I don't see why we can't have the same success.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Around the certainty of it, one of the big reasons oil and gas hasn't been developed in the Northwest Territories is due to the lack of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline and the lack of certainty around getting that particular pipeline built.

Will this bill help to get that pipeline built?

May 16th, 2019 / 12:35 p.m.

Premier of the Northwest Territories

Bob McLeod

In my mind, it will. Along with co-management of offshore negotiations, we have already done a study showing that it is both possible and feasible to go north. The Beaufort Sea used to be ice-free six weeks a year. Now it is ice-free 20 weeks or more a year. Bill C-48 only applies to the B.C. coast. We're concerned about Bill C-55. We understand that the Senate has passed an amendment so that the government has to consult before it imposes marine protected areas.

We think we're in a good position for that, going forward. We've had some discussions with other jurisdictions. We have a railway that goes to Hay River. We own a barging company now. We would have to look at some offshore off-loading and on-loading facility. We have a road to Tuk, so we have access to tidewater.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

With regard to getting the oil patch rolling in your area, do you see Bill C-69 impacting that at all?

12:40 p.m.

Premier of the Northwest Territories

Bob McLeod

We were very concerned three years ago. The Northwest Territories has been an exporter of oil since the 1920s, and we didn't produce a molecule of oil and gas for three years. It was largely the result of the moratorium and the drop in the price of oil and gas. Every oil and gas company packed up and left. The Norman Wells pipeline was shut down, but recently the Norman Wells pipeline has been operating again.

I think we are reviewing our regulatory processes to find a way to develop our oil and gas resources. We've come up with a new oil and gas strategy where we try to use it more in-house. I mean, the biggest irony is that we have billions and billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas, yet we export all of our fuel from the south.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Around the super-board, what's interesting to me is the fact that when Bill C-15 went through, the Liberals supported it through the process. The current Prime Minister voted for it. Obviously, they felt at that point that the benefits of Bill C-15 outweighed some of the negatives. I wasn't there, but if you had brought that forward at that time that you were concerned about the super-board thing....

What do you have to say about the fact that the Liberals supported it at that point?

12:40 p.m.

Premier of the Northwest Territories

Bob McLeod

I guess it was similar to our government. We had to tiptoe around the issue, because obviously devolution was a big priority for our government. The government of the day saw fit that it had to be dovetailed with this super-board, which we didn't support.

Sometimes we have to deal with the realities of the day. The aboriginal government supported devolution, but they didn't like the super-board. Now we're here today. Bill C-88 will keep the board structure intact. We have concerns about the moratorium, but we're going to deal with that through co-management negotiations.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative Cathy McLeod

Mr. Cannings.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

I'd like to thank you all for being here. It's wonderful to have you here, face to face in front of us.

I want to pick up on this whole discussion of the Bill C-15 and Bill C-88 continuum. I hear the message loud and clear that you all want Bill C-88 passed without delay, yet there has been delay. That's why we're getting a bit anxious.

Going back to Bill C-15, as you were just saying, we had a bill there that was largely about devolution. There were a lot of good things and everybody was in favour of that, yet there was almost this kind of poison pill part of it with the elimination of the regional boards. That's why the NDP didn't support Bill C-15. We felt that devolution needed to be done properly. Of course, it went to the courts because of the Tlicho, so here we are today with Bill C-88, which is a response to that court injunction.

Now they've added this other part, so again we have a bill that has two disparate parts. One part everybody seems to love, but I'm having a hard time finding anybody who supports the second part of this bill, whether it's because of the lack of consultation with indigenous people.... Industry doesn't seem to be too happy, and now we hear that environmentalists aren't that happy either. I am afraid that this is what has caused this delay.

Grand Chief and Premier, perhaps you could both respond to this question. This government came into power in 2015. The consultations around this bill went for a couple of years, or a year and a half, and were finished by the spring of 2017. We had a draft bill created in 2017, yet it was another 16 months before we saw it in the House. Do you have any insights as to why this process dragged on for so long that now we're faced with literally weeks left to make sure this happens?

12:45 p.m.

Tlicho Government

Grand Chief George Mackenzie

Thank you for that very important question. I will have our legal guardian Bertha answer that.

12:45 p.m.

Legal Counsel, Tlicho Government

Bertha Rabesca Zoe

Masi for your question.

As I said, just prior to the federal election there was a court of appeal process happening where the federal government had appealed the injunction. After the election, we lobbied and worked to try to get the injunction stayed until we dealt with amendments. We were not opposed to the technical amendments to the act in Bill C-15 at that time. My colleague Paul and I were very involved for the Tlicho Government, along with other indigenous governments in the Northwest Territories, in working on the amendments that were being proposed.

All through that whole time, the government didn't indicate to us that they were going to also include in Bill C-15 at that time the single board structure. They didn't tell us that it would be an omnibus bill as well. You go into those black periods during legislative drafting and introduction. Only after that did we find out there was going to be the super-board. We always opposed that.

That's why it took so long. We were trying to get the court of appeal injunction stayed and then finally getting the mandate from the ministers to have their officials talk to us about working on the amendments to the MVRMA that you see today. That work took a little while. We were very involved in the current amendments to the MVRMA with another legal colleague and one of our technical people within the Tlicho Government. That's what you see before you today.

12:45 p.m.

Premier of the Northwest Territories

Bob McLeod

When the government changed, our government approached the federal government and said that we had negotiated a five-year review of the MVRMA that would have kicked in during 2019. We approached the new government to say, “Why don't we just start the review right now?” The answer that we got was that we couldn't do it because of the injunction. Then the other answer was that we had to get the aboriginal governments onside before they would take that into consideration.

They also talked about the moratorium. The moratorium came into play. In my mind, it's the result of eco-colonialism—that's the term I use—and United States-style environmental interventions.

Now we're in a situation where we have Bill C-88. We think that the improvements that were negotiated in devolution still haven't come into force yet or that a lot of them still haven't come into force yet. I think that with Bill C-88 we'll make that happen. We can deal with the moratorium through the negotiation of co-management. I think we're getting there.

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Okay, I'd like just a quick comment, perhaps from the grand chief, about intervenor funding.

I know there's the northern participation program or whatever that provides funding for intervenors, but in Bill C-69, that was included in the actual language of the bill. I'm just wondering if you have any comments on whether you would have liked to see a clause within Bill C-88 about intervenor funding for participation in the land and water board proceedings.

12:50 p.m.

Tlicho Government

Grand Chief George Mackenzie

I'll turn the question over to our lawyer, Paul Bachand.

Paul.

12:50 p.m.

Paul Bachand Legal Counsel, Tlicho Government

Thank you, Grand Chief.

I am wondering if you could clarify the question. Is this about Bill C-69 or Bill C-88?

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

In Bill C-69, there's intervenor funding included, but in Bill C-88, there is not.

12:50 p.m.

Legal Counsel, Tlicho Government

Paul Bachand

What we can say to that is this: The fact that there's no intervenor funding does not currently affect the Tlicho Government's financial ability to deal with the legislation. That's as far as I can go today with the answer.

Thank you.

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Thank you.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative Cathy McLeod

We have time for a final round, and that's, I believe, going to go to MP Yvonne Jones, parliamentary secretary.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Yvonne Jones Liberal Labrador, NL

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you all for your presentations today and for being here. I really appreciate it.

I just want to ensure that a couple of things are clear on the record.

First of all, in response to some of the questions that were asked by my colleagues, yes, the Liberals voted in support of the bill because the bill was about devolution. It was overall support for devolution that we endorsed at the time. Also at that time, we made a commitment that we would revert the changes that were arbitrarily being imposed upon the Government of Northwest Territories, its citizens and indigenous governments. That's what we're doing today. I want to clarify that as well.

What I find ironic about Bill C-88 is that the only dissenting voices we've really heard around this bill have come from the south and not from the north. It leads me to believe that we might actually have gotten this right, which is a good thing.

I read a letter that was submitted by Premier McLeod and Grand Chief Mackenzie that outlined the need to have the changes in Bill C-88 passed and implemented in this session of the House. I'd like to ask both of them if they could speak to that today and to the urgency to have those changes legislated in Canada.

Thank you.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative Cathy McLeod

Premier McLeod, do you want to start?

12:50 p.m.

Premier of the Northwest Territories

Bob McLeod

Yes. Thank you, Madam Chair.

What we see is that Bill C-88 certainly will improve and rebuild certainty for our investors in the north. I think it will also address court injunctions from indigenous governments and will bring into force modernization amendments to the MVRMA that were first passed five years ago.

Industries have indicated to us that they're prepared to work within the modernized MVRMA. We all want to move past court injunctions and have clear rules again.

Thank you.

12:50 p.m.

Tlicho Government

Grand Chief George Mackenzie

Thank you for the question.

When we listen to the question that you just asked, you have to think back that our advisers are our elders. They are the ones who give us a lot of advice on how we do things on the land. The elders always said that one of the worst things to do is to bring people to court: “Everybody gets hurt when you go to court. Try to avoid court if you can. One of the best things you can do when you talk to the other side of the table—industry, government—is to show kindness and respect and try to understand each other to go forward.”

That's the way we want to approach things. We want the injunction to be lifted. We want Bill C-88 to be supported today in our Tlicho world, as well as other indigenous worlds in NWT—wherever else. We need to support development. We need to support development for the sake of our young generation to get out of poverty and have opportunities for their young families. That is so much needed.

This Bill C-88 allows that to happen. There are more certainties for industry to work on our backyard and to develop the country where it would give opportunities for young people. We live in the north. It's a harsh, cold country. The cost of living is high, and opportunities are hard to come by.

That's why we so much want to see Bill C-88 being passed as quickly as possible, and with a kind heart, this I'm sure can be done.

Masi cho.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Yvonne Jones Liberal Labrador, NL

Thank you.

There was a question around intervenor funding. To clarify, in the north, in particular for the three territories, there is a separate program. It's a $10-million program over five years that allows for indigenous governments to have intervenor status in all environmental nature projects.

Because this bill was primarily in the north, whereas Bill C-69 is all across Canada, it allows for a different clause. I wanted to point that out. There's no reason to think that funding is not going to be there for the long term. That's the intention of it.

My next question, if there is time, is with regard to the changes to the resource development act. I live in a province where co-management of oil and gas has allowed our province to grow. While the moratorium might be seen by some as an impediment to development, what we've been able to accomplish because of taking the time to do it right, I see as being a true asset.

I would ask Premier McLeod if he could speak to the process that they're engaged in with the federal government to ensure that the Northwest Territories gets the appropriate royalties on resource development through oil and gas.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative Cathy McLeod

A short answer, please.