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Evidence of meeting #43 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 yukon.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Hughie Graham  President, Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce
Sandy Babcock  President, Yukon Chamber of Commerce

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Leon Benoit

So this was staged, was it?

Go ahead, Mr. Anderson.

June 12th, 2012 / 10:05 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

I come from a rural riding where we had the northern exemption at one point although we were along the Montana border, so I understand some of the pressures you're facing.

I wish we had sound from both of you. I'd like to talk to you a little about the difference in the agreements. I understand Yukon has the YESAA and the Northwest Territories has a resource sharing agreement. Can you tell me—and I hope we can get some conversation from Ms. Babcock—if you had a resource sharing agreement similar to that of the Northwest Territories what difference would that make in Yukon?

Maybe, Mr. Graham, you can talk about those benefits until we get the sound corrected here. You don't have the same YESAA, but you have the economic impact benefits and the resource revenue sharing. Talk to me about that a little, please.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Leon Benoit

Go ahead, Mr. Graham.

10:05 a.m.

President, Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce

Hughie Graham

We certainly do. In the Northwest Territories, as you may be aware, we're striving for devolution, and certainly we're trying to negotiate a better deal. You're always trying to negotiate a better deal.

We're hopeful that once devolution comes, we'll have more control over our territory as provincial-like powers come to fruition.

The impact of resource sharing agreements is good. It allows us to put money into our coffers. It allows us to put money into Canada's coffers. We'd like to try to get more of a commitment from Canada to be able to provide funding to societies like the Mine Training Society. In the north that's largely funded by the territory through these resource sharing agreements, but it's not backstopped by the Government of Canada. So when we don't have funding there's no other place to go to get more funding for that.

I've run off course there.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Are you working towards an agreement, such as YESAA, in terms of your approval structure? Is that something you would like to see?

10:05 a.m.

President, Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce

Hughie Graham

Absolutely. We would certainly like to take control over our own destiny in devolution.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Ms. Babcock, could you talk to us to see whether this is working now?

10:10 a.m.

President, Yukon Chamber of Commerce

Sandy Babcock

I'll give it a whirl. Can you hear me now?

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Leon Benoit

It's working fine.

Would you like to answer, Ms. Babcock?

10:10 a.m.

President, Yukon Chamber of Commerce

Sandy Babcock

Regarding the resource revenue sharing agreement, Yukon currently has a cap of $3 million. After that, all monies go to Canada.

I do believe the agreement in the NWT has a cap of $50 million, so there's a difference of $47 million.

Hugh, am I correct?

10:10 a.m.

President, Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce

Hughie Graham

I'm sorry. I don't have the exact numbers.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

I presume if you had that kind of agreement you'd appreciate that. It would allow you to do a few more of the things you're talking about here today.

10:10 a.m.

President, Yukon Chamber of Commerce

Sandy Babcock

Absolutely. It would make more monies available to maintain the infrastructure that has increased pressure on it, regarding resource development activities and the influx of people in the territory. It would alleviate some of the pressures on our health care system and social safety network. It would be very welcomed.

I do understand that negotiations are under way between Yukon and Canada. We would certainly like to urge Canada to step up that process.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Quickly, because I do have another area I want to go into, what do you see the role of the chamber being in encouraging those discussions? The Prime Minister made that commitment to your premier, and I think they're having preliminary discussions. How do you see your role?

10:10 a.m.

President, Yukon Chamber of Commerce

Sandy Babcock

Certainly our role will be supporting those discussions, as well as supporting the need, because it is a need for Yukon to receive more of its resource royalties.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Can I switch direction a bit? We had some hearings, particularly around the Ring of Fire in northern Ontario and aboriginal communities, on the possibility of getting them involved in the economy. For some of those communities, it was a very new idea that they would be involved in resource development.

I'm wondering if you can tell us about some of the success stories in your aboriginal communities. I know you don't have the same breakdown as you mentioned there is in the south, but can you talk about some of the places where things have really worked, some examples that folks who may not be experienced in these matters could look at to find some good direction for the future?

10:10 a.m.

President, Yukon Chamber of Commerce

Sandy Babcock

I certainly think the example of the Minto mine operated by Capstone is a great success story. They negotiated an economic impact and benefit agreement with the Selkirk First Nation. There were several components to it.

I'm not intimate with that agreement itself, but I do know there was job training criteria involved in the agreement. They received royalties to the tune of millions of dollars, which has been very instrumental in addressing clean water issues within their community, as well as employment standards that they have to meet. They train and employ people who reside within the Selkirk First Nation traditional territory.

That really is a success story. They're using the royalty money to improve the community for their people. The mine is receiving trained staff who stay there, because—

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

We're losing you again.

Mr. Graham, do you have any examples we could add to our testimony as well?

10:10 a.m.

President, Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce

Hughie Graham

In the Northwest Territories, I'll go back to the diamond mines. With their impact and benefit agreements, there's been lots of opportunity for aboriginal businesses. Like I said, there's been 75 to 100 aboriginal businesses created due to that.

Something I haven't mentioned is the ability for partnerships with aboriginal groups. There are a lot of businesses in the Yellowknife area that exist because of aboriginal partnerships. Business or industry will come into an area, partner with an aboriginal group, and transfer skills, so that when the time comes the aboriginal group is perhaps ready to go into business on their own and do their own development.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Leon Benoit

Mr. Nicholls, you have up to five minutes.

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Ms. Babcock and Mr. Graham, you discussed a bit about infrastructure needs, and, Mr. Graham, you discussed taxes briefly with Mr. Galipeau, which brings up an interesting subject.

Am I to understand it's industry that benefits from publicly funded infrastructure when tax money goes towards infrastructure projects, but it is the individual taxpayer who should shoulder the burden rather than a corporation? Is that what I was to understand?

10:15 a.m.

President, Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce

Hughie Graham

Let's talk about mining, for example. Mining has been a big innovator in the north, and it has created large infrastructure itself, but it's also because of the two gold mines that are here in town that hydroelectricity was brought into Yellowknife. Asking industry to create that infrastructure again would be extremely difficult. Infrastructure has ballooned, and industry can't shoulder that burden all the time.

Does the taxpayer benefit from that—

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

That was public investment.

What about when pollution occurs, such as just happened with the pipeline spill in the Red Deer River in mid-south Alberta? Do you believe industry should pay for that, or should taxpayers foot the bill to clean up spills?

I have a citation here. It says in terms of economic viability that there are businesses and towns that rely on the lake that was affected by the spill for business all summer. So should taxpayers pay this bill, or should it be the industry that caused the spill?

10:15 a.m.

President, Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce

Hughie Graham

I'm not very familiar with the spill that's just occurred. There was a spill that occurred in the Northwest Territories—