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Evidence of meeting #2 for Subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Finance on Bill C-38 in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was environmental.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jayson Myers  President and CEO, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters - Ontario Division
Christopher Smillie  Senior Advisor, Government Relations and Public Affairs, Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO, Canadian Office
David Collyer  President, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
Denise Carpenter  President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Nuclear Association
Terry Rees  Executive Director, Federation of Ontario Cottagers' Associations
Peter Meisenheimer  Executive Director, Ontario Commercial Fisheries' Association
Ward Prystay  Principal, Environmental Services, Stantec Consulting Ltd., Canadian Construction Association
Pierre Gratton  President and Chief Executive Officer, Mining Association of Canada
Ray Orb  Vice-President, Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities

9:55 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Mining Association of Canada

Pierre Gratton

I would agree with what my colleague has said.

9:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Okay.

Mr. Gratton and Mr. Prystay, do you think you'll see any difference in the quality of the environmental submission you will be putting forth for each of your individual projects under Bill C-38 than you did before?

9:55 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Mining Association of Canada

Pierre Gratton

I don't think it should make any difference. First of all, for mining projects we fully expect to have mines on the list that will follow in regulations, so we expect the same number of projects to be assessed in the future as have been up to now. In fact, we've even speculated that we might end up having more projects, as some brownfield sites, which are mines that are being developed on already disturbed mining areas, may fall under the new definitions. So we actually may see more projects assessed, but they will be assessed in a more timely manner.

There is the possibility, whether they're substituted to the province or whether there's an equivalency arrangement that develops or not, that we will, through these amendments, be able to see greater harmonization between the two levels of government.

If you look at where substitution will exist or equivalency will exist, it will be in jurisdictions where the provinces have been able to demonstrate that their systems of environmental assessment are comparable and equivalent to that of the federal government. In practice, at the working group level currently, when the Province of British Columbia, for example, undertakes an environmental assessment, the federal government officials are at the working group level participating, and then it's almost like they cross the hall and go into the federal office, and the same people from the province go over to the federal office and they participate in the working group assessment of the federal review.

So there is clearly duplication, and I would fully expect to see the same level of review carried out regardless of whether it's undertaken by the province on behalf of the federal government or whether it continues to be undertaken by the federal government.

9:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Prystay.

9:55 p.m.

Principal, Environmental Services, Stantec Consulting Ltd., Canadian Construction Association

Ward Prystay

I don't anticipate any less scientific rigour in any of the reviews. The process is going to include both federal and provincial or territorial environmental assessment processes regardless, so we don't anticipate any reduction in the quality of the work or the level of rigour that goes into an environmental assessment.

9:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

In the study that we're doing in the natural resources committee on resource development in the north, there has been some significant concern expressed in terms of the time it takes, and the difference in the time it takes, to get approvals. Sometimes you get approval, but then it might take you years to get permits for particular projects. One of the concerns out of that, obviously, is that investment capital will just flow somewhere else.

Mr. Gratton, could you comment on that in terms of what the potential loss is to Canada by not having an efficient and comprehensive system?

9:55 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Mining Association of Canada

Pierre Gratton

Of course, it's a major issue. There are many different ways of looking at this. If you're a junior company trying to bring a mine into production, time is everything, and delays in projects, or the uncertainties built into projects that can lead to delays, can literally kill a project.

Larger companies that may have cashflow may be able to withstand the delays. In the past decade our industry has undergone significant consolidation, so we're often dealing with large, major multinational companies that have projects around the world, and they get to choose where they put their resources.

There's a project right now, for example, in Nunavut that has been put on hold for five years, a project owned by Newmont Mining. It is in large part because of the uncertainty and the time constraints that were involved in bringing that project forward that the company has put that on hold and decided to put its cash dollars into other projects they may have elsewhere in the world.

So this is very real today, and I would suggest that it's more real now than it used to be, because the industry is much more consolidated than it used to be.

10 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

You commented briefly about the interaction with the aboriginal folks on the assessment of your projects, but also about the employment. I understand that mining can be the largest private sector...for aboriginal people in Canada, 7.5% of the workforce. How do you see that expanding and creating opportunities for our aboriginal people?

10 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Mining Association of Canada

Pierre Gratton

It's very rare to see a new mine brought in today without an agreement of some kind, a socio-economic agreement, an impact benefit agreement, that includes as well employment guarantees, business procurement, etc. That is the way at present. It's certainly going to be the way of the future, and I think all of the new mining projects we're talking about over the next decade or so will include those types of agreements.

I think you will continue to see an acceleration of the level of participation of aboriginal people in our sector.

10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Thank you very much, Mr. Allen.

Mr. Julian, you have seven minutes, please.

10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thanks to our witnesses for coming out tonight, particularly at such a late hour.

You know we're studying a very controversial bill. I've participated, and many of my colleagues have, in standing-room-only public meetings across the country on this. You've all seen the poll that came out this morning that showed that in part due to the reaction to Bill C-38, the Conservatives would lose 50 seats and would be returned to opposition if an election were held today. A Conservative member of Parliament, David Wilks from Kootenay—Columbia, said he'd be voting against the bill because of everything being thrown together and exactly because of that lack of clarity and that lack of predictability.

10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Mr. Julian, I have a point of order from Mr. Storseth.

10 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Conservative Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I don't mean to interrupt my honourable colleague's—my esteemed colleague's—diatribe, but he knows what he's saying is not 100% correct, and I'd ask him to correct the record.

10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Mr. Julian, it is typical in most of the committees I've been at—while I think this is a matter specifically for debate—that impugning the motives or suggesting the motives that motivate another member of Parliament are usually considered out of order.

I don't want to tie the hands of members with their free time, but if you're going to continue down this path, I'm going to continue to get points of order. I guess at some point we'll have to decide whether or not this is going to be able to continue.

May 28th, 2012 / 10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

I'm certainly not impugning, Mr. Chair. I'm praising the individual concerned.

But I'm getting to my question, which is exactly the point that both Mr. Prystay and Mr. Gratton mentioned, and that is clarity and predictability around a process. We had the ministers before us a week and a half ago. When we asked them about this very controversial measure around excluding people who are not directly affected by a proposed development, when we asked the minister to clarify how people would be excluded—is it on the basis of living one kilometre from a development or five kilometres?—the minister wasn't able to say.

He did say that the scope would include issues that in his mind were not directly impacted. He was talking about Northern Gateway hearings, saying the issue of global warming and greenhouse gas emissions would be something that he would feel he should exclude somebody from presenting. So the public reaction I've just mentioned, and that is all factually based, is something that I think your associations need to be concerned about: the fact that there is not that clarity or predictability around the process at all. Ministers can override the process, regardless of what recommendations are brought forward.

I want to put to you both—particularly you, Mr. Gratton, because I know in the mining association you're concerned about social licence. Do you not feel that this upheaval within our environmental assessment process and in the approval of energy projects as well undermines that social licence when the public very clearly sees the process is profoundly unfair?

10:05 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Mining Association of Canada

Pierre Gratton

I think there are many measures in this proposed legislation with respect to CEAA that will improve the environmental assessment process. For example, it's going to be much clearer than it used to be. They're eliminating dead time and confusion at the front end of projects and throughout the process. Rather than having projects consulted on repeatedly, they'll be more streamlined. For example, I'll take the Mount Milligan project in north central B.C.—

10:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

I'm sorry. I do have more questions for you.

I'll move on to the next question, which is—

10:05 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Mining Association of Canada

Pierre Gratton

But I haven't finished answering.

10:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Yes, I realize that. I'm limited in my time, and unfortunately I keep being interrupted by the other side.

I'd like to go on to the concern you raised around—

10:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

A point of order, Mr. Anderson.

10:05 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Chair, if you won't step in here, I think we need to. Just because Mr. Julian doesn't like the direction the answer is going in...I think he should give the witness the opportunity and the courtesy and allow him to respond.

10:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

I—

10:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

I'll rule, Mr. Julian, thank you very much.

Mr. Julian, you may not like the answer you're getting, but we should be affording the witnesses, wherever possible.... However, I do like to respect the member's time, and this is your time.

10:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Yes.

10:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

I'll let this one slide, but if you could be more succinct in your questions, you might get the answers you want. It's not my job to reprimand you, but in the future, if a witness is going to be making a point to a bona fide question that you've asked, I think it's only fair that all members of the committee hear the answer to that question. In this particular case, if you want to change the channel, you've got about four minutes left.