Merci, monsieur le président.
I will deliver a slightly shorter version of my notes to stay within the time.
Mr. Chairman, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada believes this is a very helpful report and appreciates the constructive nature of the review. The department is given credit for a lot of good work and that is very appreciated.
The chapter and the recommendations have been beneficial as we continue to pursue our mandate of supporting and promoting the political and economic development of the north.
Canada's Economic Action Plan included a number of investments in economic development, skills training and infrastructure in support of the Government's Northern Strategy. Budget 2010 builds on these investments by focusing on measures that will improve environmental protection and the business climate, provide opportunities for Northerners and ultimately help unlock the region's vast potential.
On May 3, 2010, Minister Strahl announced his action plan to improve northern regulatory regimes. The action plan will allow us to respond directly to a number of the recommendations in the Auditor General's report. It will complete and strengthen current regulatory regimes in the north and will focus on three elements.
First, it will provide more efficient and effective processes through the creation and amendment of legislation. Second, it will enhance environmental stewardship by making investments in community-based impact monitoring programs. Third, it will reflect a strong aboriginal voice by building on partnerships that are already established in the north.
The action plan builds on the government's efforts to create a strong and prosperous north that realizes its resource potential while safeguarding environmental health and heritage. It is a key step towards the implementation of the northern strategy.
Budget 2010 announced funding to improve the North's regulatory processes and invest in environmental monitoring both in the Northwest Territories and in Nunavut. Through this year's Jobs and Growth Budget, the Government has committed $11 million over two years to streamline the regulatory regimes in the North and $8 million over two years to support community-based environmental monitoring, reporting and baseline data collection.
Recognition of the importance of these issues in the budget represents a strong signal from Canada on the importance of resource development and environmental protection in Canada's north.
Proposed legislative changes include the creation and amendment of various pieces of legislation. A restructuring strategy for the Northwest Territories is included in the amendments to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.
Canada's long-term goal is an amalgamated single board with jurisdiction over the entire territory. The immediate goal, however, is to have one land and water board for the Mackenzie Valley, similar to the situation that exists in the Yukon and in Nunavut. The minister has appointed Mr. John Pollard as chief federal negotiator to pursue this restructuring.
Land and water board restructuring will not undermine the co-management regime approach to resource management decision-making that is rooted in the land claim agreements in the north. There will be no loss of representation.
As set out in the land claim agreements and current legislation, any changes to the resource management structure will respect representation for aboriginal organizations and the territorial and federal governments. We intend to continue to work with our partners in the north to collectively improve the investment climate for the future of northern communities.
The environmental management component of the Action Plan includes the $8 million commitment I mentioned earlier in the Cumulative Impact Monitoring Program in the Northwest Territories and the Nunavut General Monitoring Plan. These investments will provide critical information to support an land-use planning, environmental assessment and regulatory decision-making.
By investing in the current regulatory regimes, and working together to implement this Action Plan, we will ensure strong and capable northern regimes that will reassure Northerners, Canadians and international partners that development can take place in a responsible fashion.
Mr. Chair, I would also like to take an opportunity to speak briefly about some of the other measures being taken to address the observations and recommendations in the Auditor General's report.
INAC will continue to work with willing partners to settle land claims. As the report indicates, we have made important progress with respect to comprehensive land claim and self-government agreements in the north.
While work remains to be done, the four completed agreements in the NWT represent a significant achievement and an important step towards sustainable and balanced development, because they introduce greater clarity and certainty.
Meeting the needs of all parties is extremely complicated and challenging, and this is why conclusion of land claims is such a lengthy process. As a rule, Canada has not worked with Aboriginal groups to develop land-use plans until claims are settled. It is far easier to negotiate land-use plans when key questions over rights and ownership have been confirmed by a land claim agreement.
In the meantime, Canada provides effective representation on bodies that make resource management decisions, and members of unsettled land claims regions may participate on resource management boards. Mackenzie Valley boards are in place to deal with environmental assessments and regulatory issues throughout the valley. Resource management boards apply the same inclusive approaches and processes in unsettled claims areas as they do in settled claims areas. Projects in these regions are being assessed and regulated.
I would like to clarify some of the work Canada has already done with respect to cumulative impact monitoring. Although the program is clearly not completely implemented, an NWT cumulative impact monitoring program has been developed. Further work and investment, such as the development of a comprehensive database, are required, but INAC and other federal departments have taken action and have made investments in cumulative impact monitoring in the NWT.
For example, INAC has been investing almost $1 million in yearly incremental funding dedicated to this programming, starting in 2008-09. Over the last 10 years, CIMP has funded over 175 community-based programs and related capacity-building initiatives. The program has a secretariat and an established governance structure that includes representatives of land claimant groups, the territorial government, and several observers.
As I mentioned earlier, commitments in budget 2010 will allow us to continue to address the concerns regarding the NWT cumulative impact monitoring program. The government, with its partners, will determine needs and priorities for environmental monitoring so as to meet obligations of the program.
With respect to the recommendations regarding inspections, the department has developed a database tool called the integrated risk assessment, a rating assessment that determines the level of inspections required for specific types of land- or water-use activities. This database will allow us to carry out inspections based on the specific risks the activity represents to the environment.
INAC is addressing issues related to benefit plans and will intensify its efforts, working with parties to meet guidelines. We have initiated the development of a benefits plan reporting database. Once complete, the database will store and track the training, hiring and contracting for Aboriginal, Northern and other Canadian participants.
We believe that the creation of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, or CanNor, represents a significant commitment by Canada to promoting economic development in the north. The creation of a separate agency to support sustainable development in the territories will help Canada respond to the concerns raised by the Auditor General's report.
Mr. Chairperson, INAC accepts the Auditor General's findings and will continue to work together with its partners to address all the recommendations in her report.
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada is committed to helping the Northwest Territories realize its true potential as an economically healthy, prosperous, and secure region.