Mr. Speaker, I will resume from where I was interrupted.
In addition to the $8.3 billion that I was speaking about there are another 460 specific native claims and lawsuits that currently have no dollar figure and 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 Indian Affairs and Northern Development currently employs. It is an untenable situation warranting immediate action.
The Reform Party during debate of Bills C-33 and C-34 cautioned the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development about setting these kinds of precedents for claims from a land mass perspective as well as the compensatory side and in terms of ongoing commitments. Our concerns were dismissed and it has come home to roost.
We could sit here and argue about the settlement of outstanding land claims, but there is no argument. The Reform Party supports an early and mutually satisfactory conclusion of outstanding land claim negotiations. Our argument and our opposition is because of a lack of any recognition of the cost of concluding these deals. The federal negotiators are exhibiting a blank cheque mentality. This is not only wrong; it is irresponsible. Here we are being asked to endorse this mentality.
We have heard today how the minister does not think he can order the royal commission to table its report on aboriginal peoples. The government has written additional cheques to keep this royal commission alive. Surely those who write the cheques have as strong a mandate as those on the royal commission who want to keep it alive.
Bill C-55 gives impetus to Bills C-33 and C-34, including the area of financial compensation. As well, Bill C-55 will create a process to resolve disputes between parties guaranteeing rights of access to private lands. It will also create the Yukon surface rights board which will implement the process of dispute resolution and allow orders of the board to be enforceable in court. Bill C-55 will also confirm that the legal rights of minors are unchanged.
I recognize that the bill is the normal progression of what was introduced and debated last spring. While House procedure and standing orders preclude me from raising the contents of Bills C-33 and C-34, it does not disallow me from reinforcing Reform Party opposition and concern over the manner in which we conclude agreements of this magnitude. It is too bad the
government did not choose to consult as extensively on Bills C-33 and C-34 as it appears to have done in this enabling legislation contained in Bill C-55.
Business, particularly the very important mining sector in Yukon, was not given the same opportunity to participate in the deliberations leading up to the introduction of the Yukon final land claim. While drafts of Bill C-55 were circulated to the mining community and groups representing them, at no time was the same courtesy extended on Bills C-33 and C-34.
I have had individuals in Yukon tell me they were caught unaware of the previous provisions of the federal government Council of Yukon Indians agreement that they are paid to know about until it was signed.
In view of some of those preliminary comments it behoves me to turn to some concerns the Reform Party has with Bill C-55. Let me assure the House that my party's contribution to the debate will not be obstructionist. However I would be remiss if I did not offer some constructive criticism of some clauses of Bill C-55 and my colleagues will add other comments.
Part I of the bill establishes a process to resolve disputes between parties concerning surface rights and access to subsurface rights. More specifically clause 8 establishes a board to be called the Yukon surface rights board consisting of a chairperson and not less than two or more than ten other members to be appointed by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Half the members other than the chairperson should be appointed on the nomination of the Council of Yukon Indians.
Part I is really the essence of the bill. Part I and the manner and type of appointments that are made will make or break the credibility of the board and hence the bill. The minister has enormous power in the appointment of members. While five members are to be nominated as potential candidates to the board by the Council of Yukon Indians the minister is omnipotent. With this power can come the tendency to politicize the board.
The greatest fear industry has in Yukon is that the minister will be tempted to place some good old Liberals on the board to ensure things go the right way or his way. I implore the minister to exercise a non-partisan approach in his decision making on board appointments.
I have some concerns that I expressed earlier in the House. I give the example of Michel Robert who was the Liberal appointed this spring with a non-tendered $249,000 contract to negotiate at Oka for the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Mr. Robert is also the appointee to SIRC, the so-called watchdog for CSIS.
The board will decide which dispute can be brought before it only after the parties attempt to resolve the issues themselves. It is contingent on the success of this clause that board members exercise good judgment and possess a real sense of responsibility.
Otherwise we could have obvious favouritism on spurious or vexatious issues brought before the board that will consume not only valuable time but valuable resources in the form of per diems that will be paid board members, in the case of the chairperson $300 per day and $250 per day for members.
This could become costly if we have board members or a chair who is looking for something to do. In short, the board cannot become a hotbed for patronage appointments. Before we know it we could have Joe Clark appointed to another chairmanship.
At our departmental briefing, Reform Party MPs were told that no staff shall be appointed to the board. Clause 19 of Bill C-55 clearly allows the board to employ such officers and employees and engage the services of such agents, advisers, and consultants as are necessary for the proper conduct of its business and may fix the terms and conditions of their employment or engagement and pay their remuneration.
What we were told in our briefing runs contrary to not only clause 19 from which I just quoted but also clauses 20 and 21 which grab further latitude for the board to acquire personal property in the name of the board and enter into contracts in the name of the board. Just what is the budget allotted to the board beyond per diems for members and why were we given misinformation in our briefing?
The board will be empowered to set the amount of compensation for expropriation of settlement lands and the amount of compensation for pockets of government land retained within settlement lands.
The board's orders will be final and binding, enforceable through the Supreme Court of the Yukon territory. This is awesome power beyond reproach and I can only hope we know what we are doing and start right by appointing on merit not politics.
Part II of the bill deals with rights of access on settlement lands. The terms and conditions for the board's operation are clear in this area. The mining industry in Yukon appears confident that part II is drafted in such a way as to avoid interpretive problems. However, part III, mineral rights disputes on non-settlement lands, is ill-defined and therefore troublesome. The jurisdiction and powers are ambiguous in clauses 65 and 66 which constitute part III. What is of major concern with these clauses is that 50 per cent of the board be designated by the Council of Yukon Indians as specified in part I.
Therefore what we have is a 50 per cent aboriginally designated commission having jurisdiction in matters related to non-settlement lands. I can foresee the possibility of nothing but turf wars as a result and a counterproductive exercise based on race and cultural interpretation. Perhaps it is not wise to have the majority Yukon residency requirement on the board and the
50 per cent nominations list from the Council of Yukon Indians. Perhaps we are creating unnecessary racial strife.
At the outset of my remarks I said that Bill C-55 may confirm the principles contained in Bills C-33 and C-34 and put them into effect. However in no way does it end dispute or in itself resolve conflicts that may arise.
Bill C-55 may conclude the land claims process but it opens a new vista with many new problems requiring many new solutions. I realize the veil of uncertainty that has stifled investment in Yukon must be removed. Industry in Yukon has expressed a desire to put this issue and uncertainty behind it. The Reform Party appreciates this need for clarification and stability in land claims. Now at least industry in Yukon knows the rules but that does not say it or the Reform Party has to like those rules.
The Reform Party is on the record as supporting the early and mutually satisfactory conclusion of outstanding land claims. In the Reform Party's opposition to the process of establishing the land claim settlement as contained in Bills C-33 and C-34, we feel we articulated our vision and pointed out the deficiencies in the legislation.
In good conscience we cannot support holus-bolus all facets of Bill C-55, particularly the jurisdiction of the board on non-settlement lands. We will not impede economic development in Yukon and the enunciation of the rules that will dictate this development.