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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

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Thank you.

Picking up on that, Ms. Babcock, you talked about the different industries and the innovation and technology. Is that innovation and technology based primarily on the resource sector or on other drivers?

9:30 a.m.

President, Yukon Chamber of Commerce

Sandy Babcock

I'd say it's primarily based on cold climate innovation. Being in a relatively isolated jurisdiction in Canada, our business community has had to become very innovative because businesses here often work in isolation and don't have access to the specialized personnel or materials they require. So they're innovative in their practices. The cold climate also requires them to be more innovative in terms of road construction, heating, and those sorts of things.

A number of years ago Canada was funding innovation centres across the country, and the Yukon went through a process to see if there was an opportunity to have a cold climate centre of excellence here. We do have one. However, we did notice that Canada withdrew a lot of its support. This was a nationwide thing.

I think there's a lot of opportunity to bring research to the territory, particularly in relation to the cold climate. It could be for heating, or cooling, as the latter's only the opposite of heating. We've seen road research going on. We do see some tire manufacturers and automobile companies bringing their vehicles up north to test them in a cold climate.

So that's really an area that I think we're underutilizing in the territory. We have the expertise and we should be exporting that knowledge.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Thank you.

Mr. Graham, you talked a lot about roads and infrastructure. Given these would be major projects in terms of building any kind of infrastructure like that, do you see any issues with the approval process and any major stumbling blocks in building these roads to these resources?

9:30 a.m.

President, Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce

Hughie Graham

With the Mackenzie Valley highway, the great thing is all the project development reviews are in the books. It's ready to go. It just needs funding. Are there hurdles to overcome in physically building roads? Absolutely, but I think all your regulatory work is done.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Leon Benoit

Thank you, Mr. Allen.

Mr. Julian, you have up to five minutes. Go ahead, please.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Thanks very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you, Ms. Babcock and Mr. Graham.

I'm a long-time member of the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce, and a proud member of the Burnaby Board of Trade, so we welcome our chambers of commerce to the committee today.

Ms. Babcock, I wanted to follow up on something you said. I may have misunderstood, and I want to be very clear about this. You suggested there were about 2,000 Filipinos in the Yukon, and you were speaking about temporary foreign workers. How many of them would be temporary foreign workers, in your estimation?

9:30 a.m.

President, Yukon Chamber of Commerce

Sandy Babcock

I don't have those exact figures in front of me, but I would estimate probably 70%. Some are families.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

So probably around 1,500 or so?

9:30 a.m.

President, Yukon Chamber of Commerce

Sandy Babcock

Yes, primarily working in the service industry.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

So about 1,500, and that's out of a total population of how many in the Yukon now?

9:30 a.m.

President, Yukon Chamber of Commerce

Sandy Babcock

It's 36,000.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

You also flagged, at the same time, that the Yukon now has an unemployment rate of 7.9%, which is the highest it's been in a number of years.

9:30 a.m.

President, Yukon Chamber of Commerce

June 12th, 2012 / 9:30 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

I flagged that because when we talk about the whole issue around vocational training, apprenticeship training, one thing that folks have flagged is that there seems to be a real push on to bring in temporary foreign workers, and at the same time we've had real concerns expressed across the country about the cutbacks in federal funding and in some cases provincial funding for apprenticeship training. The famous ITACs, the industry training and apprenticeship councils, over the last few years, have simply been eliminated.

Would you suggest there needs to be a real commitment by the federal government, working with the territorial governments, to put apprenticeship training in place, so that we can train folks here in Canada and pay them adequate wages to do those jobs that are in demand?

9:30 a.m.

President, Yukon Chamber of Commerce

Sandy Babcock

Certainly, more support can always be had. Yukon has been very successful in their apprenticeship training program. I believe some of our numbers are skewed because our population is low. When you get outside the capital city of Whitehorse into the communities, it skews the numbers because the unemployment rates are much higher, and I think there are more pressing issues in terms of society in the communities, where a lot of the people are not employable for a variety of reasons.

We need to dig deeper into why these people are not employable, and assist them in getting back to being involved with society and working, meeting their needs and business community needs.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Thank you for that.

I'd like to ask both of you, and I'll start with Mr. Graham, about the issue of social licence. You raised that, Mr. Graham. That is a real concern that's been raised around Bill C-38. The environment commissioner testified a few weeks ago before a subcommittee studying Bill C-38 that the number of environmental assessments nationally will move from 4,000 to 6,000 down to 20 or 30. So a lot of mining projects and energy projects will be excluded from a federal environmental assessment.

Have you any concerns about that? Certainly a lot of Canadians have raised concerns about losing that social licence, when the federal government is basically eliminating the vast majority of environmental assessments in the country.

9:35 a.m.

President, Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce

Hughie Graham

Again, I did mention social licensing. As projects move forward in the Northwest Territories, industry certainly realizes they have to play their part, and industry certainly will play their part in order to advance projects.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Ms. Babcock.

9:35 a.m.

President, Yukon Chamber of Commerce

Sandy Babcock

I don't see that being an issue in the territory. The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act is designed to capture all projects. I can give you an example.

They have an online registry that you can subscribe to, and it gives you notifications of all applications or changes or decisions that are made. In the course of 30 days, I received over 123 project applications through this online registry. There is no capacity to look at all of these projects. They range from small to large.

The YESA Act, it does not supercede.... Sorry, I'm thinking of the other piece of federal legislation. I was going to call it CEEA, I think that's it. We don't go through that process. We have a one-window approach.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Leon Benoit

Thank you.

Mr. Julian, you are out of time.

Mr. Calkins, for up to five minutes.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Julian has raised a point that I would love to follow up on with Ms. Babcock. I was speaking last committee to the Mayor of Dawson, and asked him this very question. I think the Yukon is uniquely poised to speak, with what's already happened in the Yukon, to what we're proposing to do with the environmental process across the rest of Canada with Bill C-38.

You have a one-window process where you have one environmental impact assessment. I'm assuming the process is through the most stringent regulator, and I'm just wondering, has your experience in the Yukon been that environmental integrity is compromised at the expense of development, or has it actually been seen as a positive on the environmental side as well as on the investment and development side?

9:35 a.m.

President, Yukon Chamber of Commerce

Sandy Babcock

I would say the latter. The environmental assessment, the YESAA, was born out of the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement, which provided the framework for the negotiation of Yukon land claims, so this is supported by first nations. Industry was very cynical, I guess you would have to say, about bringing in the YESA Act and implementing it.

However, our experience has been very positive. It's not to say that improvements can't be made. Improvements can always be made, but it has been.... I think for the environmental community, they have their opportunity to put their concerns forward. The YESA Board is an apolitical body that reviews applications. They make recommendations to government on whether to accept, amend, or reject a project. There is plenty of time for public input into the process, and I think that Yukon, as a whole, has benefited from this one-window approach.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Just to be clear, that approach does have legislated or regulatory timelines, where governments have to respond in a timely fashion throughout the entire process. Is that correct?

9:40 a.m.

President, Yukon Chamber of Commerce

Sandy Babcock

That is correct.

Industry negotiated very strongly to have that put in place, and it's provided the certainty that we were looking for.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Of course, the pristine environment that most Canadians, those who are fortunate enough to have visited the north.... In your opinion, it hasn't been compromised in any way through this streamlining of the regulatory and legislative approach?