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Evidence of meeting #7 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 north.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Mitch Bloom  Vice-President, Policy and Planning, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency
Janet King  Assistant Deputy Minister, Northern Affairs Organization, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Sara Filbee  Assistant Deputy Minister, Lands and Economic Development, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Okay.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Leon Benoit

Mr. Bevington, thank you for your questions.

Thanks for the answers.

We go now to the Liberal Party, and Mr. McGuinty, for up to seven minutes, please.

October 17th, 2011 / 4:10 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Thanks, Chair.

Thank you very much for being here, ladies and gentlemen. It's good to see you, and to see some of you again.

I just want to clarify something, Mr. Bloom. You work for a special operating agency. Is that correct?

4:10 p.m.

Vice-President, Policy and Planning, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

Mitch Bloom

No, it's actually a stand-alone department under the Financial Administration Act. I believe it's under schedule I.1.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

It's not a departmental corporation.

4:10 p.m.

Vice-President, Policy and Planning, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

It's a stand-alone department.

4:10 p.m.

Vice-President, Policy and Planning, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Your reporting line is where, exactly. Where does the organization report to exactly?

4:10 p.m.

Vice-President, Policy and Planning, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

Mitch Bloom

It reports to Minister Leona Aglukkaq, who is the minister responsible for the organization.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

If I understood it clearly--I'm not going to put words in your mouth, but if I can, I'll paraphrase--you said that you were perhaps a little less fettered in terms of your ability to overcome red tape and to try to streamline regulatory approvals processes. You mentioned in your testimony, I think, that there were 20 northern projects being contemplated over the next decade. And you said that within the existing legal framework, you weren't fettered the way a regulator was.

We have now a stand-alone department, effectively, reporting to Minister Aglukkaq. How do you interface with the energy sector at NRCan? Who is ultimately in charge of energy policy-making, for example, in northern Canada? Is it your organization, or is it NRCan?

4:10 p.m.

Vice-President, Policy and Planning, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

Mitch Bloom

I can take that.

I don't think any one department is ever in charge, at the end of the day, of trying to achieve the outcomes we have. We're a small organization. Our strength is going to be in aligning all the federal departments, such as NRCan, AANDC here, and Environment Canada. It's not to be the driver; it's to help steer, if I can put it in those terms, in terms of a bus.

I just want to comment. I think that was a fair understanding of what I said. We are less fettered. We're not a regulatory organization, as AANDC is or Fisheries and Oceans is. They are working through a process and are coming to a decision as to whether to provide their regulatory approvals or permits. We aren't. We don't have that responsibility. That allows us--how shall I put it?--to keep an eye on the overall system as a pair of fresh eyes. We are able to make sure that things are moving through, and to at times even challenge or help solve problems when they come up.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

If I understand, then, for example, you have a certain power to convene, and you have a certain responsibility to pull together what might be described as sometimes competing interests.

Let me ask you about some competing interests. The government says it has a national climate change plan. It's been saying that for five and a half years now. The latest iteration of the plan is that it's going to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by 17 points from 2005 levels in the next eight and a half years. Do you have a plan for climate change you are helping to drive, through your relationships with line departments and other actors in the north? Do you have a climate change strategy or some kind of energy strategy you can share with us?

4:10 p.m.

Vice-President, Policy and Planning, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

Mitch Bloom

No, I'm afraid that our organization doesn't. Perhaps we're too new in the game. It's certainly a relevant factor, as are all components of the notion of sustainable development, which Janet made reference to as well. Development is put through that broader lens and that broader context. But no, we don't ourselves have--

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Have you ever seen a national climate change strategy or plan that would have a direct bearing, for example, on the 20 northern projects being contemplated over the next 10 years, and, for example, on the fact that the Arctic region is estimated to contain one-fifth of the world's remaining oil and gas resources?

4:10 p.m.

Vice-President, Policy and Planning, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

Mitch Bloom

No, I personally haven't seen that, but that doesn't mean it does or doesn't exist.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Ms. King, have you seen a plan? Do you have a plan that you work from? Do you have a blueprint you're operating from as you move forward as a regulator in your relationships with aboriginal peoples and so on ?

4:10 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Northern Affairs Organization, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Janet King

We work from the regime of the regulatory frameworks we have now in the three territories in the north, each of which includes environmental assessment processes, and it is through the environmental assessment processes that one would be attempting to assess impacts on the broader subjects such as climate change. That's our framework.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

So that's your framework?

4:10 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Northern Affairs Organization, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Your framework is the existing environmental assessment regime in Canada.

4:10 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Northern Affairs Organization, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Janet King

That's correct.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

So neither of you and neither of your organizations has a blueprint that you're working from. For example, the European Union has a 600-page...basically a collective energy strategy and climate change reduction plan. Do you have a plan? You have no plan that you're working from. You're working on an ad hoc project-by-project environmental assessment process. Is that right?

4:15 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Northern Affairs Organization, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Janet King

I wouldn't say it's project by project. We have publicly established regulatory frameworks, which include due environmental assessment processes. So those represent the framework we work under. I think the question you're posing might belong better in other departments. We do not necessarily establish national plans for climate change.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Bloom said earlier that he's pleased that large corporate interests, many for whom I used to act, are now coming into his offices, and I feel very good about the fact that that there's a streamlining, perhaps an overcoming of red tape.

Mr. Bloom, when you sit down with a major proponent of an oil and gas development for a fossil fuel exploitation project in the Beaufort, surely you're talking about greenhouse gases, no?