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Evidence of meeting #39 for Natural Resources in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was alberta.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Gil McGowan  President, Alberta Federation of Labour
Mimi Fortier  Director General, Northern Oil and Gas, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Michel Chenier  Director, Policy and Research, Northern Oil and Gas Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Conservative Don Valley East, ON

That's great.

Can you tell us if the gap is narrowing or getting wider? Where do we stand, in the number of people being trained?

10:10 a.m.

President, Alberta Federation of Labour

Gil McGowan

I'd say the gap is getting wider because more projects are coming online. As I mentioned in response to some earlier questions, a lot of our big employers in construction are saying that they've tapped out in finding trades people in Alberta and in the more traditional places they've gone for workers, like the Maritimes, partly because the pool of skilled trades in Canada is relatively small and also because Alberta is now competing with other jurisdictions. In the Maritimes, for example, people who used to come to Alberta to work are choosing to work on things like the Halifax shipyard, some of the offshore oil projects. So there's a problem.

One of the important issues the oil industry and governments need to grapple with is the pace of development. Right now, decisions about pace of development are being left exclusively in the hands of industry. Government is basically saying that it has no role to play in the pace. We would argue that they do, especially the Alberta government, when it comes to approval of the sale of leases and the approval of projects. We should use those policy levers to set a more reasonable pace so that the number of projects more effectively corresponds with the existing Canadian labour force to do the work.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Conservative Don Valley East, ON

Thank you very much.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Leon Benoit

Thank you, Mr. McGowan.

Thank you, Mr. Daniel.

We go now to Mr. Toone, for up to five minutes.

May 10th, 2012 / 10:10 a.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank the witnesses for joining us today. This has really been very beneficial.

My question is for the department representatives.

The Fisheries Act stipulates that the fish habitat in coastal regions like the Great North must be protected. Section 35 of the Fisheries Act may be amended, so that, from now on, only commercial and aboriginal fishing would be protected. If an agreement was really reached on hydrocarbon development in the Great North, how would the department take aboriginal interests into consideration?

We saw in the Marshall decision that it was not only a matter of consulting aboriginals, but also of taking their needs into account. I would like to know whether technology that helps protect aboriginal fishing exists and whether the department has taken steps not only to consult aboriginals, but also to take their interests into consideration.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Leon Benoit

Mr. Chenier, go ahead, please.

10:10 a.m.

Director, Policy and Research, Northern Oil and Gas Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michel Chenier

Thank you.

I will try to answer your question by linking it to our mandate.

As we mentioned in the opening statement, we consult communities before we issue rights. During those consultations, specific regions are often identified as being especially valuable or important to the local communities' way of life.

As far as fishing goes, locations that are important for fishing are often identified. In such cases, we take that information into account. We regularly leave those parts out of areas that could be subject to rights issuance. That's how we keep aboriginal interests in mind.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Could you give us a detailed list of regions that were left out and will not be developed?

10:15 a.m.

Director, Policy and Research, Northern Oil and Gas Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michel Chenier

Yes. I can provide the clerk with a copy of our maps. We make extensive use of a geomatics system, which helps us in areas such as consultation. It's a very visual technique that facilitates the work. The system is available at our offices, but Canadians can access it through our website.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Okay. Thank you. I will eagerly await that list.

I yield the floor to my colleague.

10:15 a.m.

Director, Policy and Research, Northern Oil and Gas Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michel Chenier

Thank you.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

As far as I understand—

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Leon Benoit

Go ahead, Mr. Nicholls.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

As far as I understand, your department creates partnerships between first nations and energy companies. Could you give me an example of a specific agreement and describe the obstacles your department faced during the negotiation of that agreement?

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Leon Benoit

Go ahead, Mr. Chenier.

10:15 a.m.

Director, Policy and Research, Northern Oil and Gas Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michel Chenier

Yes. Thank you.

In the presentation, we talked about the Beaufort Regional Environmental Assessment. That assessment involved the industry, the Inuvialuits, regulatory agencies, as well as various federal and territorial departments. We call that a partnership, but it was not subject to an official agreement. The partners did not sign a contract, but this working group was originally created to discuss the interests of various stakeholders.

You may think there is a natural conflict between communities and industry, or between industry and governments, but if you look at the issues more closely, you will see that there are many common interests. That's why this initiative is considered to be an innovative project in terms of public policy. We have actually succeeded in identifying common interests. In the case of the ArcticNet group, which you may have heard about, universities, industry and government were involved.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Could you talk about—

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Leon Benoit

Thank you, Mr. Nicholls. Your time is up.

Thank you, Mr. Toone.

We go now to Mr. Allen, up to five minutes. Go ahead, please.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to our witnesses for being here today.

I guess I want to focus on three areas, if I have time. One is on shale gas, one is on devolution, and one is on infrastructure. I guess I share Ms. Liu's.... There's a lot of debate going on in New Brunswick about shale gas right now as well.

I'd like to ask you a little bit about the process of the information sessions that are going on with respect to shale gas. What has been the level of company participation in that effort to define that? Based on these new shale gas plays up there, how have the regulations evolved over time, based on previous plays in that area to recognize the quality of water and other types of things?

10:15 a.m.

Director General, Northern Oil and Gas, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mimi Fortier

There are many facets to that. We expect the industry, long before there are activities, to engage at the community level, to tell them about their plans and what's involved. So there are many aspects of that conversation. And as I mentioned earlier, the population is small, but they have a voice in the regulatory matters. Aboriginal claimant groups nominate members to these land and water boards, so they have a great say in how their resources are managed.

To go back to the information sessions I talked about, we try to separate that from the industry conversations. We try to bring very neutral third-party information to the communities. For instance, in the shale aspect we engaged someone who has a great deal of experience, a great deal of knowledge, very neutral in terms of the information, very informative in terms of what he puts forward. It's not just regulations that inform how these applications for these activities are going to go forward. There are also broader policies. In the case of shale, the Northwest Territories government itself has a water strategy that they have framed. So as resource managers, we have to work together to help plan forward.

For instance, Michel mentioned the environmental studies research fund. There, the industry has to focus on what they need to do in terms of regional planning to start planning for that type of activity that's emerging. So it's new. We're all trying to be informed, and obviously the regulator has to look at their forums in terms of cross-pollination with other regulators who have experience in the matter.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

You said the Northwest Territories is sort of working backwards from a water strategy and backing into that. Is that fair to say?

10:20 a.m.

Director General, Northern Oil and Gas, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mimi Fortier

Yes. I guess what I'm saying is on top of regulation, there are broader policies, and yes, we have to engage as resource managers in the policies that we create. We have to engage with the territorial government, because they do have a water strategy.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Thank you.

I just want to talk about devolution for a minute. We talked about the Yukon, since 2003, in the devolution. We've heard testimony in this committee before about the extent of infrastructure development and road development in the Yukon being much better progressed than it is in the other two areas. Have you seen as part of that devolution the timing of that devolution and the expansion of that infrastructure being tied together with respect to the wealth that's being generated based on that devolution?

10:20 a.m.

Director General, Northern Oil and Gas, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mimi Fortier

We're in the non-renewable resource industry, and largely what drives that is obviously commodity prices and the interest globally for those commodities, so I can't comment in particular. I haven't done the analysis in Yukon, but the surge they've seen lately is because of the hard mineral prices, that commodity. So I'm not sure how much you can dissect that in terms of benefits from devolution versus the normal resource private sector interest.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Did I hear you say, Ms. Fortier, about the all-weather roads, there's a shortage of all-weather roads for shale gas development? Did I hear you say that?