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Evidence of meeting #41 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 community.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Francis Bradley  Vice-President, Policy Development, Canadian Electricity Association
Peter Mackey  President and Chief Executive Officer, Qulliq Energy Corporation
Melissa Blake  Mayor, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

10:30 a.m.

Mayor, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

Melissa Blake

It would. The security of the project, because of the expense, is something that's concerning.

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

I'll just move on to another subject.

You mentioned that you'd love to have 10 more doctors today. Is that your estimate of the shortfall right now in physicians in the Wood Buffalo municipality?

10:35 a.m.

Mayor, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

Melissa Blake

It isn't. I don't speak for health, but I predicted that because of the population growth that we've been experiencing, there's been a better representation of doctors. Many of them, again, are probably coming through immigration programs. So we have a lot of doctors who have come to the community. I'm not sure what their longevity will be here. If they're looking for opportunities in other parts of Canada, we may lose some over time. Attrition is just a usual part of the process.

In terms of the needs for and the access to specialists, it's another area. So when I say 10 doctors, it's a bit of a flippant response because I don't represent the health region. But it just seems from the commoner's perspective that it would make sense.

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Further on health care, I've spoken to people in the health care sector in Fort McMurray. They told me that one of the problems the health care system is experiencing is that subcontractors are not providing health care for the workers they're bringing in from outside Canada. Of course, Canadian workers have access to our universal medicare plan. But the foreign workers, if they're not covered by health insurance, can in many cases rack up huge bills when they go to the hospital. So they're unable to pay those bills, and because the subcontractors have not provided health care insurance, the health care plan does not pay. In other words, taxpayers pick up the tab. Is that a problem and pressure that you're familiar with?

10:35 a.m.

Mayor, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

Melissa Blake

It's not anything I'm familiar with at all. I know that many companies have doctors on site. If they're large enough, they typically have a physician, but they are not for your regular maintenance. They are for back-to-work type of analysis.

I would hope foreign workers are able to purchase programming on their own. I have a live-in caregiver that I don't provide health care for, but I know that she's accessed Blue Cross and is taking care of her own needs that way.

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

I'd like to move on to the twinning of Highway 63.

How much of the area to Fort McMurray has actually been twinned? I think it's 500 kilometres in all, is it not? What percentage of it has been twinned at this point?

10:35 a.m.

Mayor, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

Melissa Blake

The full length between here and Edmonton, south of Fort McMurray, is about 450 kilometres. Highway 63 goes to junction 55 at Grassland and Lac la biche. That is about a 250-kilometre stretch. About 18 kilometres, if I remember right, are paved and functional right now. About another 30 kilometres should be paved and operational for next year. The other stretch in that area just hasn't come to any semblance of being usable in the near term. The time it takes to get a drivable road is one of the things we're combating right now. We have a huge community outcry to see that road twinned as expeditiously as possible.

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Thank you for that.

I'd also like to talk about schools and other infrastructure, because you've raised that in previous testimony before this committee.

When you look at the education sector and some of the social services as well, back in 2006 you raised real concerns about the funding in those sectors not keeping up with the growth of the municipality.

How would you evaluate that today? Start with the school system and teachers and the funding needed to make sure that schools in Fort McMurray and Wood Buffalo are adequate for the population.

10:35 a.m.

Mayor, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

Melissa Blake

I'd like to think that change occurred because of the case that we pleaded before the Energy and Utilities Board in 2006. The first funding announcement in 2007 from the government of Alberta included a cost-of-living adjustment available to those workers. Whether in child care, teaching, or health care, they receive an additional $1,040 a month to offset the additional cost of living in the region.

We have developed the Housing Development Corporation, and a portfolio exists to accommodate some of those similar workers in more affordable housing spaces. If you have a single income as a teacher, nurse, paramedic, emergency services person, or policing staff, you'll have access to some of these housing units. We don't have enough of them, but certainly have some that helped keep teachers in the community.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Leon Benoit

Thank you, Mr. Julian.

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

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Your Worship, I have a quick question on health care.

Are there private international health care companies operating in your municipality now providing health care services for folks working in the oil sands sector?

10:40 a.m.

Mayor, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

Melissa Blake

Not that I'm aware of. We do have independent medical laboratory testing facilities, so if you're going for pre-employment tests, some of these facilities are obviously private.

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Is that outside your jurisdiction or municipality?

10:40 a.m.

Mayor, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

Melissa Blake

Yes. These are just businesses. They'll do pre-employment testing for things like hearing, lung functionality, and drugs and alcohol before people get on-site for their jobs.

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

International SOS out of Philadelphia and Singapore is running and building clinics and staffing doctors in Kearl Lake. Aren't they providing clinics and health care services for residents and workers there?

10:40 a.m.

Mayor, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

Melissa Blake

Again, if it's on the site, I don't necessarily know anything about it, and if it's in the health spectrum, it's not something I have responsibility for.

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Thank you.

Mr. Bradley, can I go back to some of the remarks you made, prompted by Mr. Anderson, about regulatory reform and duplication and triplication? There has been an awful lot of talk about this.

Last week, media reports based on access to information requests indicated that the federal cabinet was briefed by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. The officials there at the time told the Minister of Natural Resources and his colleagues that there was no serious problem with duplication across Canada when it came to environmental assessment.

Let me ask, has the CEA done an analysis of these duplication challenges? Do you have a text or research document you can provide for us on behalf of your members?

10:40 a.m.

Vice-President, Policy Development, Canadian Electricity Association

Francis Bradley

We have done some work but it was prior to the creation of the major projects management office. It would be dated, but we can certainly get that information to the committee if it would be helpful.

I think that a number of my members would respectfully disagree with the view that there isn't duplication. Clearly, there is, for example, between federal and provincial processes. We don't see why there needs to be direct and straight duplication of a federal process when the provincial process has already taken place or is taking place.

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

In this budget bill document that we're dealing with now in the House, the government has put in a huge swath of change under the rubric of regulatory reform and improvement.

Were you invited to participate in any kind of consultation process to provide your members' good experience and front-line learning to help inform that policy?

10:40 a.m.

Vice-President, Policy Development, Canadian Electricity Association

Francis Bradley

For years we've been discussing with officials in the department and with members of Parliament—

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

In the last year, was there a meeting that involved, for example, a multi-stakeholder deliberative process or an outreach? Was CEA asked to provide a brief, say a 10-page brief, on the practical changes that ought to be contemplated by legislators?

10:40 a.m.

Vice-President, Policy Development, Canadian Electricity Association

Francis Bradley

I'm not certain if we formally provided a brief specifically in that context within the past year. It has been included, for example, in some of our pre-budget consultation documents over the last number of years. We've addressed issues of regulatory duplication, and at every opportunity and meeting that we've had with government officials it's something that we've discussed.

As I say, it's not an insignificant issue. Again, regarding the suggestion that a provincial process is somehow inferior to a federal process, I would suggest maybe talking to some of the proponents who have appeared before—at least in my home province—the

Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement

in Quebec. They would suggest that the process they've gone through, the BAPE, has been fulsome and complete.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Leon Benoit

Thank you, Mr. McGuinty.

Our time is up for the meeting today.

Thank you very much to all of the witnesses today for providing us with some very useful information for our study.

We will return to this study on Thursday.

A point of order, Mr. McGuinty.

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

On a point of order, Mr. Chair, could we have the clerk follow up on Mr. Bradley's commitment to bring the research documentation he has on the northern Canadian energy demands going forward? We talked about hiving off some work that was done, and I'm not sure if Mr. Bradley would be able to pull that together for us.

Can we make sure that we follow up on that?

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Leon Benoit

That will be followed up on.

Thank you again, Mr. Bradley, Mr. Mackey, and Mayor Blake.

The meeting is adjourned.