This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

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

9:15 a.m.

President, Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce

Hughie Graham

I think at that time, if the proponent were.... Let's say the markets didn't enable the project to be profitable, that would allow the proponent to stop or put the project on hold.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Let's say that a major project proponent runs into difficulties right now with aboriginal relationships and consultation and that sort of gums up the whole works. That has nothing to do with capitalization or commodity pricing.

I guess I'm trying to find out what, in your estimation, is the single largest stumbling block to making sure we have a good and effective regulatory system. Is it aboriginal consultation? You've focused quite a bit of your comments on that.

9:15 a.m.

President, Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce

Hughie Graham

Certainly aboriginal consultation is a major part of that. We're trying to say that industry is certainly ready and prepared to consult with the aboriginal people and that perhaps it's more of a Government of Canada issue.

In any of the projects I've seen go through, any of the regulatory process, aboriginal consultation has not been the stumbling block. Where we've seen it falter is with definitive timelines and appointments to boards.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Federal appointments to boards.

9:20 a.m.

President, Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce

June 12th, 2012 / 9:20 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

In terms of the projects that are ongoing in the NWT—and I know it's a very different context from Yukon, with 11 of 14 settled land claims, and effectively self-government, if I understood Ms. Babcock's testimony—in your estimation what is the general approach now to dealing with aboriginal peoples? Are businesses understanding that the next steps in agreements with aboriginal peoples are equity positions in the projects and not simply socio-economic agreements or impact and benefit agreements?

9:20 a.m.

President, Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce

Hughie Graham

Certainly one might only look at the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, which has the aboriginal pipeline group as a major stakeholder. Land claims groups throughout the Mackenzie Valley were all offered equity positions in that pipeline and still are today, if they want to get on board.

Industry certainly understands that there is a role for aboriginal groups to play as equity shareholders.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Is it making it easier for project proponents to work through their relationships and get their projects under way?

9:20 a.m.

President, Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce

Hughie Graham

With the stalling in a lot of these projects because of the regulatory process, aboriginal shareholders...does it help to get these projects going? Certainly for any of these groups that are offered an equity position, it does add value to the project but there are no projects going today, so it's tough to say where we are.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Leon Benoit

Thank you very much, Mr. McGuinty.

Now we're starting the five-minute round. Mr. Trost, go ahead, please.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

One of the key things we've been working on here in the federal budget has to do with regulatory certainty, regulatory processes. Mr. Graham, you mentioned in your remarks—I think it was you—about the boom-bust cycle in the NWT and how regulatory certainty would be helpful. Would you care to elaborate on what you think the benefits of regulatory certainty would be for the NWT?

9:20 a.m.

President, Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce

Hughie Graham

As we go forward and the Government of the Northwest Territories strives to put in an economic development strategy, it would certainly level the playing field. Many of us have been in the north for a number of years and have experienced the bust cycle in the 1990s, and certainly nobody wants to get there ever again. The Northwest Territories are on a peak. They can either fall forward or they can fall backwards and with regulatory certainty, we're hoping we're going to fall forward and we're going to continue to get some certainty in mining development.

As I said, the NWT is resource-rich and with projects like Husky Energy in Norman Wells or the Prairie Creek Mine or Nechalacho. If we can start to predict not only where the markets are going to be, but with regulatory certainty, where we're going to be able to put projects and go forward with them, that certainly takes out those bust cycles in the boom-bust cycle.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

I know no one can be an expert on every regulation in the budget, but the general direction the government is going with deadlines and attempts to eliminate overlapping processes, without knowing the detail, would you say that would be helpful for your territory?

9:20 a.m.

President, Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce

Hughie Graham

Absolutely, it has been one of the five priorities that the chamber of the Northwest Territories has been lobbying for. We've taken it to the Canadian chamber to have regulatory change championed. It's certainly important to the Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Ms. Babcock, it would be similar in the Yukon, I assume.

9:20 a.m.

President, Yukon Chamber of Commerce

Sandy Babcock

With the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, we feel we have that regulatory certainty. There are timelines entrenched in the regulations whereby not only the review committee has to respond to project applications but the proponents as well. That really has been instrumental in the Yukon moving forward with its resource development in the area of mining, but it also encompasses all other land-based activities. They also go through the process. It really has been instrumental in our success here. I can't stress strongly enough that the timelines being entrenched in the regulations were critical.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

One thing we always ask almost all our witnesses is about labour market training, conditions, and supply. The story I tend to tell at committee is that when I worked at Paulatuk as a geophysicist, there was a day when we didn't have anyone available in the town to mark pickets. So we had a senior geophysicist whose bill rate was probably around $500 a day—mine was probably $250 to $300 a day—and we were marking “N50”, “N25”, “S75” on pickets. There was a shortage of labour for people to do grade 6 work in Paulatuk, a place which at the time had a level of unemployment.

With that experience in looking at some of the jobs that will be needed in that resource sector, what is the most effective way that we can support job training in your two territories. I'll start with Ms. Babcock and then go to Mr. Graham. What can we do to help you meet the labour market requirements in the Yukon and the NWT?

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Leon Benoit

Ms. Babcock.

9:25 a.m.

President, Yukon Chamber of Commerce

Sandy Babcock

Certainly, investment in the mine training fund.... Canada has invested heavily in it, but more investment is required. That has been very successful in getting Yukoners working in the resource development area. Other activities that I'm involved in include developing skills model tables.

In the Yukon right now the situation is a little odd, because the April statistics indicate an unemployment rate of 7.9%, which is actually the highest we've seen in a couple of years. We have been down as low as a 4.5% to 5% unemployment rate, which was very difficult for us.

In terms of training, there has also been discussion on creating a university in the north. That would be extremely helpful in keeping our children here in the territory. I'm sure it's no different in the NWT. When our children go south for a university education, we often lose them; they stay south. Being able to provide that training and educational opportunity in the north would be extremely valuable.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Leon Benoit

Thank you, Mr. Trost.

Mr. Allen, for up to five minutes, please.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you to our witnesses for being here.

My first question I would like to ask of both Ms. Babcock and Mr. Graham.

Mr. Graham, in your comments, you talked a little bit about community and business capacity-building. Under questioning by Mr. Leaf, we talked a little bit about the temporary foreign worker program and access to people.

What other kinds of capacity-building do you see as critical to your business community? I'm assuming that infrastructure is critical for your community, but for the business community, what do you see as the other major capacity-building exercises?

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Leon Benoit

Mr. Graham, go ahead first, please.

9:25 a.m.

President, Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce

Hughie Graham

There certainly needs to be the ability to bring more aboriginal business to the forefront. With the creation of the three diamond mines, there have been approximately 75 to 100 aboriginal businesses created and benefiting from those mines over the last 15 years. We need to be able to identify where there's opportunity for secondary industry to take advantage of these resource development projects. The help provided by developing an economic development strategy for the NWT would certainly be crucial.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Leon Benoit

Ms. Babcock.

9:25 a.m.

President, Yukon Chamber of Commerce

Sandy Babcock

Training for business is actually something that we've been working on. For about five to eight years before 2002, the Yukon was experiencing a severe reduction in its economic activity, and we found that a lot of our small businesses became very small. They moved back towards an owner-operator type of situation. We don't have many medium-sized businesses. The majority are small, with almost half of our business community home-based in the territory. That gives you some sense of how small our businesses are.

I think that as we move on, businesses will require a higher level of expertise in administering their enterprises. This comes in the area of safety training and human resource management, which we find are real gaps in the territory for business owners. They do not have the capacity for that within their organizations.

If Yukoners are to benefit from Yukon opportunities, they really do need that leg up to compete with outside companies or to offer their products and services to the large proponents of their services in the mining community. They really do need that type of training internally in their own organizations. When you're an owner-operator, most of your day is spent doing your business and your night is spent doing red tape.