Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to begin second reading debate on Bill C-55 on behalf of the Reform Party. It is important to recognize the importance of the mining industry to Yukon. It is a major,
non-government industry in a jurisdiction that is more than 70 per cent dependent on federal government spending.
In some ways one could look on debate of Bill C-55 as the end, the resolution, and the confirmation of the principles contained in Bill C-33 and Bill C-34.
The mining industry has a current campaigned called "Keep Mining in Canada". Governments have tended to take the industry for granted in many jurisdictions where it has made operations very difficult, expensive, time consuming and uncertain. Also we have a Canadian tax regime that can be considered unfriendly in international terms.
Within my riding there are several operating mines. The BHP Utah mine, the Westmin mine, Texada mines and Quinsum Coal. Quinsum Coal has 25 employees who previously worked at the Westray mine in Nova Scotia. We all know Westray is where they had the disaster. These people feel very abused by actions of government.
I understand, accept and realize that there is pent up investment in the Yukon waiting for the uncertainty of Bills C-33, C-34 and C-55 to be over and done with so that investment can take place. This is a situation where the bureaucracy knows best.
In Whitehorse, to my surprise, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development vehicles say Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. There is a tendency within the bureaucracy toward the native affairs side rather than the northern development side. The focus is changing from one of servicing mining industry needs to other priorities. I see this symbolized. The rationale is that it translates better into the French. I do not view that as reason enough. I have viewed this in a previous life in Parks Canada where I always had an understanding that Canadian parks were set up for Canadian taxpayers to enjoy a park like setting.
Within the parks service, the group primarily oriented to servicing the public was the park warden service. What we viewed within the bureaucracy was competition between the park wardens and the naturalists. The naturalists have won those competing agendas. If we want to progress within that bureaucracy our opportunities are much higher if we come from the naturalists side. That has now impacted on the mission statements of Parks Canada in many ways.
This has been foisted on the Canadian public without their full knowledge. One could ask the question: Why does the Minister of Natural Resources have the mandate for the Metis in Canada and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development have the mandate for mining north of 60 degrees, in other words, the territories. The north is already suffering because it is the playground of the federal government and the federal bureaucracy. I recommend that we do not reinforce this by making it one minister's playground.
Yukon has only 28,000 people. I am sure they will make bad rules work. I understand last year the Yukon economy dropped by 19 per cent due to the closure of one major operating mine, the Faro mine. I also understand that the economy of the Northwest Territories shrank.
Bill C-55 is meant to fulfil commitments to implement the constitutionally protected final land claim settlement agreement known as Bill C-33. Bill C-55 may confirm the principles contained in Bills C-33 and C-34 but it in no way ends disputes or in itself resolves conflicts that may arise.
Mechanisms or boards put in place are only as good or as confident or as well intentioned as the people we place on these boards. We have only just begun.
Since Parliament began in January 1994 we have concluded massive land claim settlements for the Sahtu, Dene and Metis to the tune of $197 million. We have concluded the Yukon settlement for which we are here today to the tune of $163 million.
This is not the total dollar amount. The implementation costs will run another $263 million for these claims for a total of $596 million, according to the public accounts released this week. According to these same public accounts, there are contingent liabilities of $8.3 billion in claims in pending and threatened litigation.
Despite the finance minister's declaration that we are in hawk up to our eyeballs, the government continues to ignore the perilous fiscal situation we have created and continue to sustain in land claim settlements.
In addition to the $8.3 billion I just mentioned, there are another 460 specific native claims and lawsuits that currently have no dollar figure and currently do not form part of the known liabilities.
Frankly no one knows what the total amount may be. That is the frightening part. If the Minister of Finance is that concerned with the fiscal situation he might want to start a review of the policy and settlement mandate the minister of-