House of Commons Hansard #109 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was taxes.


International Circumpolar CommunityPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Dave Chatters Reform Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, this issue is new to me. I deliberately hesitated to get up early in the rotation to speak to this motion because I was hoping that by listening to the speakers ahead of me I would hear some reasonable argument as to why we would support such a motion. Unfortunately I have not heard anything except a lot of political blathergab in the discussion so far.

I cannot understand why we would consider supporting such a motion. My riding borders on the 60th parallel as does the riding of the member for Churchill River. We are not below the 60th parallel within the boundaries of the northern frigid zone. We are clearly in the northern boreal forest.

The northern provincial boundaries have been in place since 1906. Certainly if we were to consider changing the boundaries, if it were to make any sense in my opinion at least, the boundaries would be moved north so that the boundaries followed the southern limit of the Arctic Barrens. The Inuit people have occupied the Arctic Barrens for thousands of years and live in conditions that are similar to other aboriginal people in other barren regions around the pole.

To suggest that the 60th parallel would be moved south and include that part of the province between the 55th and 60th parallels under some guise of being beneficial to the aboriginal people who might live in that area does not make any sense at all. The aboriginal people who live between the 55th and 60th parallels are under the jurisdiction of the federal government now as are those north of the 60th parallel. I fail to see how moving the boundary down would have any great impact on the aboriginal people living between the two parallels. There can be some argument made for differentiating in either Canadian sovereign policy or international policy how we deal with the Barrens and the high Arctic where the environment is extremely fragile.

I spent most of my working years in that part of Canada. Man's footprint on that part of the globe is not there today and gone tomorrow. Once a footprint is made in the permafrost it is there for eternity. The scars that man leaves on the landscape not only stay there, they are magnified over time.

There is a unique quality to Canada's Arctic that needs special consideration and a special policy. There would be some merit in developing that policy in conjunction with our northern neighbours.

I can see nothing that would be involved in moving that parallel south except a huge fight with the provinces. Immediately, and rightly so, it would be viewed by the provinces as nothing short of a resource grab by the federal government. In my constituency, in my province, there are huge and valuable resources. There is tar sand development, heavy oil development, mineral development, diamond exploration, with future development in the diamond mining industry, as well as forestry and other valuable natural resources, which I believe the provinces would be most hesitant to part with.

When we look at what we have already done with the Canadian initiative in the Arctic council, we have to wonder. There were some serious questions raised about the benefits of the Arctic council and the cost of Canada belonging to it. Instead of giving more territory, more bureaucracy and more dollars to it, let us look at and evaluate the value of the Arctic council, which has existed since 1996. Let us see if we are getting value for our dollar from the investment we have already made in this Arctic initiative.

Personally, I cannot understand what the benefit was for Canada or what was received in terms of value for our dollar. I do not want to single out the Arctic council. There are other international organizations to which Canada pays a substantial amount of money to belong that do not demonstrate great value for the dollars invested.

The whole idea lacks credibility. From what I have heard in discussion and from what I have read in Hansard , it has no merit. The people and the countries between the 60th and 55th parallels have little in common with the true Arctic regions of Canada and, for that matter, the rest of the world. It would not make sense or add up to any benefit either for the people or for the territory. Unless I am misinterpreting the whole issue, I cannot see how we would do that.

Other countries, such as the United States for example, have not been particularly enthusiastic about the issue of the Arctic council, an international group formulating Arctic policy. That may go back to the concern of the United States over national security and national defence and the fact that the Canadian initiative on the Arctic council does not extend to matters dealing with military and national security. Of course Alaska is within the area, so the United States has a fair stake within the Arctic region, but it does not seem to be particularly enthusiastic.

It is certainly important that we maintain friendly and co-operative relationships with our Arctic neighbours, those who share the Arctic with us, but I fail to see why we would enter into these kinds of agreements specifically to deal with an area that is not even identifiable as being separate from other areas of Canada, because, as I say, a good part of the area is part of the northern boreal forest and not the Canadian or international Arctic region.

I am not advocating that we should not meet and maintain relations with our international neighbours, but I fail to see the worth of creating this bureaucracy and having it grow any further than it already has.

I have not heard any significant argument in favour of this motion and, therefore, I would urge my colleagues in my party and my colleagues in the House to vote against it, simply because there are no substantive or valid reasons why we should go down the road the motion is suggesting, and because the bad will, the cost and all of the other things involved would not be worth the benefit which we would achieve.

International Circumpolar CommunityPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me as a New Brunswicker to have an opportunity to speak to Motion No. 237. It gives me an opportunity to speak about a region of Canada about which I know little on a personal basis.

Canada is a very diverse country. One of the things I would like to share with you, Mr. Speaker, and I know that you share the very same sentiment, is that one of the most distinguished privileges a member of parliament has is the opportunity to meet Canadians throughout the country in their own communities, like-minded and otherwise. That is something which I greatly cherish.

I have also cherished my opportunities to speak to the member for Churchill River, who is a very learned member of parliament and one who takes the development of public policy quite seriously. I know this bill is brought forth with good intent.

I know from my role on the environment committee that the great north is a region of this country that quite often gets forgotten in the development of public policy. Quite often decisions that we make in the southern regions of the country have a negative effect on the north. The people of the north do not necessarily have a role in terms of changing those decisions, yet they have to live with the consequences.

The best illustration that I know of is that of persistent organic pollutants and pesticides that, on occasion, because they are airborne, end up in the food chain of our northern peoples.

The circumpolar community is where discussions of this nature take place among members of the international community.

One good reason this motion deserves a high degree of positive scrutiny is that the rest of the international community who are members of the circumpolar community utilize the 55th parallel. Canada, as one of the largest members geographically, I believe is the only country that does not utilize the 55th parallel.

One fundamental principle which defines how the Progressive Conservative Party believes this federation should work is that the rights of the provinces should always be respected in ensuring that they have an appropriate role.

I am going to reserve our opportunity to finalize a position here this evening on how the Progressive Conservative Party will vote on Motion No. 237. I do not think it would be wrong to consider that perhaps the provinces would want to send a representative to the circumpolar conferences where they establish public policy or international agreements that may affect their own regions. I understand the province of Alberta already participates as a member, despite the fact that it is below the 60th parallel, and that it participates on occasion within the circumpolar international community.

From our perspective if we were to write this motion I do not think it is wrong for the federal government to tell the provinces that they have to participate at an international level at circumpolar conferences of this nature. However if this motion were amended to include that if, after being consulted, the provinces thought it was something they wanted to join to add that representation with the federal government, I speak personally as opposed for the party in this respect, but I would be far more comfortable with that.

The issue is twofold. The rest of the international community utilizes the 55th parallel. The hon. member for Churchill River wants to bring Canada in line with that thought. Canada has always thought of the north as above the 60th parallel. If that fits the services of the provinces and it is what the provinces want to maintain, I am comfortable with that.

The provinces may want to have a greater role in the international agreements that are taken on by the federal government. To illustrate, with respect to Kyoto the federal took on a target and time line and really had no idea how it was going to implement it. It had no plan. To have a higher amount of provincial input in taking on these international commitments would be a step in the right direction to getting the job done. Nothing gets done in this federation unless the provinces are on side. It is very difficult to implement things.

As I stated earlier the Progressive Conservative Party would like the opportunity to consult some of its provincial partners. It would like to seek their input in terms of what their thoughts would be in having greater responsibilities in participating in an international venue of this nature. It is fundamental that we consult the first nations as well and seek their input.

We have been given the opportunity tonight to talk about the great north, which actually helps define the magical country that we have.

The intent of the hon. member's motion is to bring Canada in line with the international community versus perhaps putting too much responsibility on the provinces, a responsibility which they may not wish to take on.

I think the motion has been brought forth in a very constructive manner. It is something that Canadians will have to revisit as they continue to participate in international conferences from a circumpolar perspective. It is because Canada is the one country that is out of step with the international community that we should ensure that if it needs to be revisited with our provincial partners, we do so. I applaud the member for bringing the motion forward.

International Circumpolar CommunityPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I should advise the House that if the hon. member for Churchill River speaks now he will close the debate. The hon. member for Churchill River He has five minutes available to him.

International Circumpolar CommunityPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Rick Laliberte NDP Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, Motion No. 237 calls on the government to recognize the 55th parallel as an inclusionary parallel of the circumpolar community. In no way does the motion change provincial boundaries. It does not ask that the 60th parallel be brought further down, dissecting the provinces.

In my experience, from attending circumpolar conferences and circumpolar-related parliamentary business, and in 1996, with the Arctic council being created, we had an international community willing to work on northern issues, on the issue of nordicity, of health, of environment, of economic and resource development and of sustainable development.

Those are major topics of international and domestic consequence. Academics and traditional land users should be aware of the potential risks of environmental impacts from northern Europe or Russia and the environmental impacts of persistent organic pollutants on the economies of the Arctic region.

All I am asking from this House is to agree, since the 55th parallel is recognized internationally as part of a community dealing with polar nordicity issues, to include those people within this country as part of that dialogue. Let us not exclude the people south of 60.

By convenience, Canada has been sending delegates from the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the northern tip of Quebec which also touches on part of north of 60.

While living in northern Saskatchewan I was honoured to have been able to watch CBC North, a special channel featuring northern Canada. However, northern Saskatchewan, northern Alberta, northern B.C., northern Manitoba, northern Ontario and northern Quebec were not part of the dialogue and are not part of that region.

We have also seen the Arctic winter games on television every now and then. One of my highlights was when I saw the games being played in my neighbourhood, right next door to my boundary on the other side of the Clearwater River and paddling down a few miles, in the community of Fort McMurray.

Fort McMurray hosted the Northern Arctic Winter Games one year and that was when my eyes were opened. The northern half of the provinces have a special relationship with each other and with our brothers and sisters in the north. We have a community among ourselves. We are isolated. We are heavily dependent on natural resources and on transfer payments. We have high delivery costs and high cost services.

To bring this common community together the federal government needs to recognize that the circumpolar community needs to be expanded as it is internationally. Stockholm, Sweden, is part of the international community. Its boreal forest zone is in the northern part of that country. It is not only the frost region. The boreal forest is part of the circumpolar community. It is the same with the Taiga forest.

I apologize to my colleagues who are proficient in French. I personally did not choose the translated term for frontier. The translators suggested the terminology limite territoriale as the term to use and we accept that. We understand the French translation is different. We support the amendment wholeheartedly.

Our intention is not to make boundaries. It is to recognize that there is a northern definition within our provinces. We should involve the provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta, B.C., Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. They should be part of circumpolar discussions as well. They should be sending delegates to these dialogues.

Perhaps my hon. colleague who spoke hesitantly will see the benefits of the north, not only for northern development. Many of the northern solutions are southern solutions. The pilot projects or the risk aspects they are taking on with new developments in the north may also reap benefits for urban centres in the southern regions or for agricultural regions. That is all I am asking for.

This is an innocent motion asking that we involve people who reside in the northern half of the provinces in the international dialogue. This would give them self-confidence in what they believe and the knowledge they hold. They would also contribute to the betterment of Canada and the betterment of the international Arctic community. I ask for the support of all members of the House for my motion.

International Circumpolar CommunityPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the motion are deemed put and a recorded division demanded and deferred until Monday, June 12, at the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders.

It being 6.53 p.m., this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.53 p.m.)