House of Commons Hansard #11 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was kimberley.


Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague across the way for his comments on the introduction of the bill. We will not be supporting the bill. The Canadian Alliance has some serious concerns about the bill, despite the fact that as the members said it has been some years, at least six years, in the making. It may well be a case of better never than late.

There are several unfortunate aspects of the bill itself, but one of the more unfortunate aspects of it is something the member alluded to. It has taken years to present this piece of legislation in the House. The member alluded to the incredible degree to which members of the public in Yukon were consulted. Yet that stands in stark contrast to the first nations governance proposals which the minister has brought forward.

Those proposals were ostensibly developed as a result of similar consultative processes, but nonetheless that process did not result in any degree of support at all from the first nations leaders of this country. One can only hope that these proposals will meet with not a similar fate when the dialogue begins and continues in the House, as it will continue among the people in leadership positions in Yukon itself.

One of the realities today, and I do not need to tell the member opposite because he knows this, is that the economy in Yukon is not in a good state at the present time. There are many people who are vitally concerned about their future and about their ability to continue to support themselves and their families.

The reality in Yukon is one that causes a grave degree of concern among many about the economic well-being, the economic sustainability of their area and of themselves. Literally as we speak there are many people who are looking for work or have given up looking for work in Yukon. We want to ensure on this side of the House that any legislation that we come up with has as its first order of concern the economic well-being of the people of this country.

At the same time we recognize as a party that has a long standing support for sustainable development that a balance has to exist between environmental sustainability and economic development. We want our ideas to reflect that and our amendments in committee when the bill proceeds will certainly reflect that balanced position that this party has taken for a long time.

There is a third component that we must consider in developing legislation of any kind. It is a kind of triple E thing. Triple E debates have been held in the House on a number of topics.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

An hon. member

I do not recall that many.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Yes they have. This is a tripe E of a different kind. This is a tripe E that refers to the sustainable development concepts that are widely debated and have many different definitions among many different people. Nonetheless there are three central components: the economic aspects and the environmental ones. However there is a third component that has to be considered when we are dealing with legislation of any kind in the House especially legislation of this nature. The third component, that third E, that is so central to the legitimacy of anything that we do here is ethics.

In the absence of ethics, in the absence of a strong and consistent portrayal of the ethical high ground that we all like to think we inhabit, legislation we design and that we foist on the people of this country will not have the respect that we would like it to have.

It is unfortunately the case that I see the government's initiative being clouded somewhat by the current state of ethics on that side. It is unfortunate because the debate should centrally be about the bill itself. It should be about the intentions and how we achieve those objectives that the member spoke of earlier.

I share his hope in the outcomes he referred to. I share the hope and I am sure the people of Yukon and across Canada share the hope that the mechanisms presented in the bill will work. Unfortunately our hopes are somewhat clouded by pessimism when we see the unfortunate lack of consistent, strong, moral and ethical conduct on the part of the government members. In any process that involves, as this one does in minutia, consultative processes that ostensibly encourage stakeholders to express their views, there has to be an understanding that once those views are expressed they will be respected and listened to.

If people do not believe that a process will be listened to, if they do not believe that the political representatives they have chosen and elected will portray accurately their views once they arrive here, then not only will they disrespect the process but they will not involve themselves in it in the first place. They will not come forward and be part of these consultative, so-called regional grassroots input sessions if they do not believe they will be listened to, or if they believe that having been listened to that they will be ignored subsequent to the meeting.

People will not come forward. They will not participate and that is a concern that all of us should have. The consultation, to be meaningful, has to be real and genuine. It is not enough to hold consultative meetings or set up a framework for input that is done simply as a perceptual scenario whereby one can try to pretend that one is creating legitimate rules. If those rules will not be followed, if those rules will be tarnished by political manipulation, if those rules will be damaged by the subsequent, self-serving behaviour of those who should know better, then the reality is that those rules will not be respected by any thinking Canadian.

Therefore it is unfortunate that at this point in time, as this legislation comes forward with some good ideas within it, those few good ideas will be tainted by the reality of conduct in other venues by other members on the government's side. That is a shame.

Before I get into too much philosophical venting I will deal with some of the specific aspects of the bill as it has been proposed to the House.

I would like to focus on some of the disincentives that are in it. In raising these concerns I assure the member that I have taken the time to consult as well. Since consultation is something we hear the government talking about doing, let me assure the members of the government that we do a lot of it here too. In consulting with the people from Yukon, they have expressed to me a number of concerns they have about the nature of the bill. I would like to share those on the occasion of this introduction today.

First, with the Yukon environmental and socio-economic assessment bill, there may well be within it disincentives to potential developers. One of those disincentives may have as its basis the fact that the bill does away with the free entry system. In the free entry system, mining firms stake claims based upon exploration. They provide evidence of a deposit and they are assured tenure on the land above and below the surface. On that basis they can secure funding for development.

Under this bill, a project could be reopened and subsequently cancelled at any stage, either during development or in fact while in full operation. This does not give the assurance to developers that their investigative work and research ultimately will bear fruit, and naturally, as a consequence, this may well discourage the investment from being made in the first place. This is a legitimate concern in the minds of people in Yukon who would like to be employed as a consequence of such development and such projects.

Second, another disincentive is that there are no measured scientific standards or criteria for the approval or rejection of proposed projects. Officials could stop a development project based upon fuzzy criteria including, but not exclusively, potential impacts of the project in combination with other claims and projects, and even in combination with possible future developments, and “the interests of residents of Yukon and of Canadian residents outside Yukon”.

These are vague considerations that would allow projects to be potentially halted or prevented at any time for political reasons, on pure speculation, or for no reason at all.

The member opposite, in his introductory comments, spoke about the need for a process that results in the culmination of a decision. We agree with that.

We are very concerned that these things should not linger for an inexplicably long period. I think developers naturally are concerned about that too. The problem is that the bill does not stipulate any time line for review of proposed development projects. In my home province of Manitoba the time line is six months. However, under this bill, in Yukon the process could drag on indefinitely and that is not a good idea.

The second category of concern is the area of bureaucratic inefficiency. I am always concerned about this.

Each of the six assessment districts that are proposed by this bill within the territory have the ability to make up their own rules which have the weight and force of regulations without ministerial approval on such matters as integration of scientific information; traditional knowledge; other information; the form and content of proposals; the determination of the scope of a project; participation in evaluations by the public and interested parties and different types of evaluations for different types of projects. That is in clause 31 of the bill.

This means despite the government's use of words in its promotional material such as “single window”, there is no such single window. There will not necessarily be a single window within the Yukon territory for the approval of projects because each of the districts may have different and in fact somewhat contradictory requirements.

In clause 6, some projects will still be subject to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. This too contradicts the government's claim that the bill will create a single window for project review and approval.

Another bureaucratic concern we have is that the minister will determine the location of board offices in each assessment district. That is in clause 22. Offices, we believe, should be located according to certain set criteria. One of those could be cost effectiveness. One of them should not be political considerations.

In terms of accountability, something which we are certainly concerned about here, there is no requirement for the budgets, consolidated financial statements or audits of the board to be made publicly available. That is in clauses 26 to 28. Only an annual report of the activities of the board must be made public. That need not include necessarily consolidated financial statements or audits.

As well, in terms of accountability, the minister will determine the amount of time the board has after each fiscal year to produce its consolidated financial statements. That is left fuzzy.

In terms also of accountability, the minister will unilaterally approve the board's budget as submitted or make any changes he sees fit. He has to seek the views of the Council for Yukon Indians, the territorial government and the board, but at the end of the day it is the minister himself who sets the budget.

Naturally, given the recent concerns expressed by our members about the behaviour of certain government frontbenchers in terms of ethical conduct, patronage issues naturally would be something we would have to raise in the context of this bill. Patronage as opposed to representation is always a concern.

The minister, in consultation with the environment minister, will appoint all members of the board and determine their remuneration. Most appointments require the minister to consult with the Council for Yukon Indians and the territorial government. Some will be appointed unilaterally by the minister and others must be appointed on the nomination of the council or the territorial government.

We note there is no representation whatsoever for business interests on the board. Only first nations and the territorial governments will have input into the board's composition. A government fact sheet that we obtained states that the act will create an “arm's length assessment board”. We would question whether a board appointed by the minister is necessarily an arm's length board, especially lately.

Also in the bill only a bare majority of the board members plus the chairman must reside in Yukon. That is in clause 9. A member spoke about that a little while ago. We would prefer to see local representatives with a demonstrable interest and an expertise in sustainable development as the predominant presence on any board.

As the member referenced earlier, the bill has been a long time in coming.

In closing my specific comments relating to the bill, the bill is a requirement of the umbrella final agreement that was given force by the Yukon First Nations Land Claims Settlement Act. That bill became effective on Valentine's Day in 1995. People have seen a lot of Valentine's Days waiting for this legislation to come into being.

The umbrella final agreement called for environmental assessment legislation to be passed no later than two years after the settlement legislation. That would mean the bill is six years late. One can only hope the promise of the bill is closer to being achieved than the promise that was made to produce the bill some years ago.

We have seen and heard a lot about the Solicitor General lately. This is very relevant because as I said earlier, the nature of this kind of legislation is it has to stand up to a triple e test. It has to achieve a balance between economic and environmental interests, but it also has to have an ethical component to it if it is going to be effective.

Yet, we have learned from data provided by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation that, for example, ACOA has cut almost 100 cheques worth over $4 million to various individuals and enterprises in the Solicitor General's riding. I should elaborate that these cheques are for million dollar projects down to thousand dollar projects. Some refer to these things as pork barrel politics and perhaps they are right, unfortunately.

This week the Solicitor General's office has told the media that the minister's role in getting funds for the area as a local MP is something he defends. The minister has defended this behaviour as well. In fact, he has defended it not so much by saying it is right, but by saying that everyone else is doing it too. I kind of agree with a columnist who in his closing comments said that the only thing worse than a crooked politician is an honest one who does not recognize that what he is doing is wrong.

Let us talk about how wrong this is. Let us talk about rent seeking behaviour. This is a phrase I have just come to learn about. If there were pictures in this book on rent seeking behaviour, I think they would have pictures of the government members on the front bench to illustrate the validity of the concept.

I refer to a book about first nations people wherein rent seeking behaviour means the efficiency with which a tribe's resource endowment is used determines economic success. That is a good statement. This in turn depends on the institutional environment. The crucial question is, and this is relevant for the Canadian tribe, what incentives do individuals in both the private and political sectors have to improve the efficiency of resource allocation?

Historically, we know aboriginal cultures survived for centuries without our help with tremendous adaptation and tremendous skills. Indian culture has demonstrated the ability to survive by making the most of resource endowments. However, bureaucratic constraints have left their negative mark on the ability and individuality of individuals and tribes to utilize their resources efficiently.

Regardless of resource endowments and the knowledge of how to use them, what is it that determines whether societies prosper or decline? It is called the rules of the game. In these rules of the game, channel resources toward productive activities, foster investments that have long run returns, encourage gains from trade, and prosperity is more likely. What this country needs is more prosperity so we can support the things we care about and the people who need that support. Prosperity is what we should be after. How do we get prosperity? We encourage people to channel resources toward productive activities.

What happens when we do the opposite? What happens when there are government members who engage in behaviour which causes wealth to be redistributed in a zero sum gain that creates uncertainty about the future ahead? Poverty is what happens. I am not just talking about symbolic poverty. I am talking about real poverty. I am not just talking about moral depravity and ethical despondency here. I am talking about the reality that occurs when resources are squandered, when they are wasted. What happens is poverty. Poverty is more likely in an environment where people abuse the privileges that they have in leadership roles.

The fundamental problem of political economy is how to endow the collectivity known as government with enough power to establish and enforce rules that can expand the size of the economic pie without that power being used to garner returns for those in power because that leaks off the gains. It would be like pumping up a tire with a big hole in it or pouring gas into a tank with a hole in the bottom of it; one just cannot get ahead.

I used to have this old Lincoln. It was about 12 years old. One time I was fuelling it up and I had been at the pump for about 10 minutes when the gas station attendant looked at me and said, “You had better shut this off. I don't think we are gaining”. That is the kind of problem we have when a government squanders the resources of the people.

How can we pump up the economic capability of our country and support the people who need our help and support when the resources are being squandered? That is called rent seeking. To the extent that political power can be used to redistribute wealth as opposed to create it, individuals will compete to capture that power through what economists call rent seeking.

Campaign contributions will be made and expended, lobbying will dominate the decision making process and political favours will be returned for support. As resources are consumed in the rent seeking competition, the size of the economic pie shrinks. Short term decisions that enhance the wealth and power of those in control are substituted for long term, true economic development.

That is why there is concern in the Yukon about the legitimacy of this bill. There is concern that the bill, despite its good intentions and good words on paper, will not be used for anything but more rent seeking behaviour by government and by government's friends. That creates poverty. Poverty is a concern in the Yukon and a major concern to all thinking people in this country.

In private contracts we rely on a third party, impartial enforcer, usually a government provided court, to arbitrate disputes and guarantee performance. However when government itself is the enforcer of rules, there is not an impartial third party enforcer to which citizens can turn for recourse, the government itself being the arbitrator. What we have with the bill is a situation where the government is granting itself more authoritative power under the guise of distributing it widely among groups which ultimately do not have the final say.

What we have opposite is a government which, through the Prime Minister's Office, although less so lately I think because of the nature of the Prime Minister's tenuous hold on power, concentrates power in the hands of a few and which unfortunately and all too frequently seems to be willing to use that power to benefit itself and its friends. That is called rent seeking.

We know who pays the rent. It is the taxpayers of this country. We know who ultimately will pay the rent. It will be the people who are counting on the government and the state to provide services to them in various areas of importance, such as health care or law enforcement, where those services are not offered effectively because of the diminution of resources available to provide those services.

We know ultimately somebody will pay for the money that is going to the friends of the government. It will not be the friends of the government; it will be everybody else. That dispersed cost versus the concentrated benefits in the hands of a few people is what the government is counting on. The government is counting on all of us being willing to have its hands in our pocket for a few dollars so it can take the big dollars and give it to its friends. The government is counting on us caring less because it is a small amount for the rest of us, the other 25 million or so who are paying the bills. It does not think we will care enough. It thinks it is a small enough amount that we will just contribute it.

At the same time that money is being thrown away on Challenger jets and needless projects that do not really develop any sustainable jobs or real economic benefits to anybody, the government talks about raising taxes for health care. Why can we not just take the pork barrel money and put it toward health care and forget about raising taxes?

For too many years before I entered the world of politics, I was guilty of sitting back and occupying myself with the endeavours most Canadians occupy themselves with. I was involved in my own life, my own family, my own private sector and volunteer activities. At times I suppose, although I was never indifferent, perhaps with so many other priorities in my life I was somewhat oblivious to the affairs of government, trusting that this institution here would protect my best interests.

I am telling you, though, Mr. Speaker, my trust has been shaken. As I watch the behaviour and see the repeated behaviour of members opposite and I listen to them defend that behaviour, I wonder if this particular columnist is not right on when he says that the only thing worse than a crooked politician is an honest one who does not recognize that what he is doing is wrong.

I honestly believe that all members of the House came here with the best of intentions, but I do sense an institutional malaise on the part of the governing party that is most disquieting. That malaise is not only a willingness to engage in this rent seeking behaviour I talked about, to try to profit themselves and their friends and their supporters from the operation of this government paid for by working people across this country. The government not only engages in that behaviour, but worse than that it defends that behaviour, and in defending it, it promotes it. In promoting it, it encourages Canadians to believe, as my belief is growing, that this place is sick and in need of help.

There are a lot of people across the country who do not have the benefits of elected office. Many of them unfortunately do not have the respect for elected people that perhaps we believe we deserve. I see the conduct of members opposite and I see a willingness to award grants, handouts of innumerable dollars, not on the basis of meeting a competitive challenge, not on the basis of providing a service at lowest cost and highest quality, but rather simply on the basis that people supported or were a friend of a member of the House. I have to say that those working people across this country must have a very sick feeling in their stomachs knowing that every month their paycheques are being eroded by that kind of conduct and that kind of behaviour.

I have been on a lot of teams, and I admire people who are good team players. I think it is important to support one's teammates, but when those teammates are wrong, as members on the front bench are in the way they are conducting themselves and the way in which they are abusing the trust of the taxpayer, it is important that members on the other side, in those positions of influence that they were elected to by their constituents, speak up about it and demonstrate that they are not condoning it.

I listened to the former finance minister campaigning on the basis of Preston Manning's promises in the 1997 federal election. When Preston was leading the Reform Party and the 1997 campaign was underway, he made a compelling point that drew a lot of support to him. He said that it was time for a fresh start, that there was going to be a basis for that fresh start. I remember one particular advertisement during that federal election. Mr. Manning stood beside a chair and said “See this chair? This chair comes from the House of Commons. A lot of people elected to the House of Commons think it's their chair, but I say it's your chair”. That remark struck me. Those were good words, a fresh start.

The former finance minister is running on a fresh start platform now. He is running for the leadership of an old jalopy. He thinks a new coat of paint will give it a new engine too, but the paint will not affect the engine. The reality is that what he is running on, what he is saying, is to give a greater voice to strong backbenchers in his caucus, but nobody gives someone a voice. They have their own voices and they had better start using them, because on the backbenches of the government they are as much a part of the decisions made by the frontbench as the frontbench is in doing it. It is not enough that they are taking orders. It does not work anymore. It did not work in Nuremberg and it does not work here. People make decisions on their own, of their own free will. Nobody ordered them to be quiet about the wrongdoing of their colleague, so it is time to speak up and say it is wrong.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I was just out for a moment and I am not sure which bill it is the member is speaking to. Are we debating something to do with Parliament in general, something to do with the rules of the House? What is it? I thought from the order paper it was something to do with Yukon and the follow-up of the important legislation which the House passed in support of Yukon first nations.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

If I can interpret, and I can only hope to interpret the intentions of the hon. member for Peterborough accurately if he is speaking to the question of relevance, we know from time to time that members take little side roads but always come back to the main thrust of the debate that preoccupies the House. I am sure there is no exception here and that the hon. member for Portage--Lisgar is going to return very quickly to the substance of the issue before the House.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Peterborough is quite right. He actually helps reinforce the point that I am making, a direct and very relevant point related to this piece of legislation, which is his absence. His absence makes his ability to comprehend the legislation, although I am not referring to his absence--

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I just want to remind the hon. member, who has become a well-experienced member of Parliament, that at no time do we speak of the absence of any other member from the Chamber.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I did not and will not refer to the absence of the member from the Chamber. Of course what I was referring to was his reference to his own absence, which is quite different. I certainly believe, and let me point out--

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I do not know that I can follow quite as well the intentions of the hon. member. I think it is best to keep it not grey but black or white. For someone to speak about himself or herself, notwithstanding, I would be hard pressed to intervene, but as an additional party I think we have to resist that temptation, as great as it may be from time to time, as the case might have been in the last few moments.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will not refer to his absence. I will just say that if he were here he would have heard the full context of my comments and would know exactly what I had said and what point I was making directly and I think very relevantly focusing on this bill.

The point I was making, of course, is that the conduct of all members in the House as individuals reflects on the conduct of all of us as perceived by the public generally, and that this reflection of our own ethical conduct is very relevant to how legislation such as this bill will be perceived by the people in Yukon.

It is not enough to have good intentions. I am sure, as I said earlier, that the member opposite has great intentions. I believe that sincerely and I believe that of most members in the House, but certainly good intentions are not enough at these times. Perhaps there are good intentions in the awarding of untendered contracts, too, but the byproduct of that kind of behaviour is that it casts all of us in a negative light. I believe that. I think it is sad and unfortunate that this conduct, so reprehensible to so many of us here, is defended by some of the members opposite. Clearly one should not try to defend the indefensible. The violation of Treasury Board rules, clear and apparent as it has been done, and the continued defence of an ethics counsellor and the presence of an ethics counsellor in this country that is not accountable to Parliament, I think is also another issue that we should--

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order to raise the issue of the pertinence of my hon. colleague's comments to the YESEAA bill.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The issue with regard to relevance has been raised by another one of our colleagues on the government side. It is difficult from time to time to know just how much longer or how much further a member may want to reach in his comparisons or whatever information he wants to use to make the substantive argument to the issue before the House.

From my experience, in the end members always come back to the substantive issue. From time to time they do sort of go off on a little tangent here and there but it is very elastic, this relevance issue. I am sure that the member for Portage--Lisgar will get back to the more specific issue before the House.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Again, I think the inability of the members to understand the direct relevance of what I am saying makes my very point. It strengthens my point. The reality is that ethics is something that matters in all the legislation we discuss in the House. It matters deeply, so a discussion of ethics is not only relevant but central to the nature of legislation such as this Yukon assessment act.

I also notice that there is a direct correlation between the number of times that members opposite rise and declare their protestations about the relevance of members' speeches on this side and the great sensitivity they feel about the points being raised. They should recognize that the more they raise themselves from their seats and object to the relevance of my comments, the more they encourage me in them. I suggest that this is something they should consider.

Certainly I am speaking on behalf of many Canadians when I say that I believe the conduct of the government is reprehensible. I believe its ethical conduct and misconduct is directly a factor to consider as we weigh this and many other pieces of legislation in the House. There must be an ethical basis for legislation that we pass here. When the government's conduct is not such as to strengthen that, then the government weakens its own legislation. That is precisely what it has done with this. That is why we cannot support it without significant amendments.

In closing, I suggest that the government consider not only the larger and most important issue of cleaning up its act in terms of its ethical conduct, which of course is central to legitimizing any piece of legislation it comes forward with, but also that it consider to what degree the legislation will provide disincentives to potential developers to locate and risk capital in the Yukon area. The degree to which that will happen is something we should be discussing and we certainly will discuss. The Canadian Alliance will continue to advance amendments on this piece of legislation which would make it more effective in delivering on the promise of sustainable economic development to the people of Yukon.

The second consideration I would like to make sure that we drive is the issue of bureaucratic inefficiency. We want to make sure that the promise of an efficient assessment process that fully considers the socio-economic and environmental aspects of proposals is bureaucratically efficient, that it have a timeline, and that it be clear that the process cannot drag out indefinitely, as this is not in the best interests of the people of Yukon and the people of Canada.

Finally, I would like to make very sure, as we always do on this side of the House, that there is accountability present in the bill, that we are sure that the accountability mechanisms contained in the bill are strengthened through amendment and are capable of ensuring that the people of Yukon have a strong opportunity and a strong voice in every project that is advanced, but also that they have a strong presence in all the bodies that deal with the projects and a strong opportunity to be employed as a consequence of the ultimate approval of the projects as determined by these boards.

We do not want to see this act create an additional opportunity for the minister, as too many of his colleagues seem to be willing to do, to use patronage rather than representation in the mechanisms proposed by the bill. We know that the bill is six years late and is probably too little for many people and too much for others, but we recognize the difficulties in balancing those economic and environmental interests. We also want to point out that with a triple E piece of legislation, such as we have been promoting in another category for a long time on this side of the House, there are economic and environmental concerns but there is also an ethical concern, which is the one that is foremost in the minds of many Canadians today and foremost in the minds of the Canadian Alliance as we continue to advocate ideas that will make the country stronger and better.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased on behalf of the NDP to join the debate on Bill C-2 and, unlike the previous speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to the bill because the NDP caucus is very much in support of Bill C-2.

We have watched with great interest and great care as we have gone through the various aspects of Yukon governance for aboriginal people, the first nations communities in Yukon. We see this as a logical next step as we implement the first nations self-governance in Yukon and give them greater control over their resources, their land base and the issues for which they very much deserve to have a voice.

Bill C-2, otherwise known as the Yukon environmental and socioeconomic assessment act, is a proposed federal statute that has been developed pursuant to chapter 12, the development assessment process, of the Yukon first nations final agreement, the umbrella agreement that was arrived at in the process of negotiating first nations self-governance. This is something we have been looking forward to and welcoming for quite a number of years.

The purpose of the Yukon environmental and socioeconomic assessment act is to ensure that the potential environmental and socioeconomic effects of projects are assessed prior to any level of government, federal, territorial or first nations, deciding whether it should be or should not be allowed to proceed.

For clarity we should know what we are talking about. I am not sure that the previous speaker from the Canadian Alliance actually ploughed through the very lengthy briefing book that we have here. He seemed to be raising issues that had very little to do with this important bill.

The process of assessing the effects of a project will be referred to as the assessment process while the process of deciding whether a project should go ahead will be referred to as the regulatory process. We should have those two avenues clear in our mind as we go into greater depth in our analysis of the bill.

It is actually critical to note that the leadership of the Council of Yukon First Nations wholly supports the bill at this time. This should be all that we need to know as parliamentarians in the federal House of Commons. Once we are satisfied that broad consultation took place among the stakeholders and once we are satisfied that the very people who would be most directly affected by the bill are satisfied with it, who are we to stand in the way of the bill moving through the various steps and being implemented into law? We could view it as arrogance to do otherwise and certainly as cheap politics to score political points for things that are entirely unrelated.

We would do a great disservice to the people of Yukon and certainly the first nations of Yukon if we were to ignore the representations they have made and the work they have done to put together Bill C-2 and to get it to the stage where we find it today.

I mentioned that we wanted to be satisfied that there has been broad public consultation, which is something I will deal with in more depth later, but we are satisfied in this case. In fact we could almost use this as a template model for how consultations should take place if we are serious about garnering real input and real representation from various groups. If we look at what they have done in Yukon over the past five or six years leading up to this particular bill, that is a process that we should be using for other legislation as well.

I note that there were two major rounds of complete touring consultation throughout Yukon. There was one for 90 days that went to every community and first nations village throughout the whole Yukon. Every first nations community not only had an opportunity to send in written submissions on draft one but each community had an opportunity to have an open public hearing in its community.

Taking what they had heard in that initial consultation process, the drafters of the legislation, the tripartite committee that was struck to put this together, took back what they heard, implemented those changes and went for another exhaustive tour around the whole territory two years later with draft two, which I believe was a 60 or 70 day exhaustive tour.

I do not think anyone here could safely say that there was not adequate consultation, nor that the input during those sessions was disregarded or not treated with the respect that it deserved. We are satisfied in this case that genuine consultation did take place and led to what we think, as I have said at the outset, is a very worthy document.

As I mentioned earlier, we have two separate routes here. We are dealing first with the regulatory process and the assessment process. Dealing with the assessment bodies, as to who will make the assessment, the Yukon environmental and socioeconomic development act would establish the Yukon environmental and socioeconomic assessment board. It would also establish six designated offices located throughout Yukon. Again, what could be viewed as a model of decentralization, this board would not be concentrated solely in Whitehorse. There would be an opportunity to have fully staffed offices spread throughout the Yukon in the regions of the north.

The board would be made up of seven members, three of whom would make up the executive committee. The Council of Yukon First Nations and Canada would each nominate one member to the executive committee. The hon. member from the Canadian Alliance, the Indian affairs critic for the Canadian Alliance, said that this could make room for patronage appointments, that there may be an opportunity for abuse in the composition of this board. This was dealt with in the early stages. How this board will be struck will be critical for the ongoing success of the operations of the board and how it will be constituted has been set out in Bill C-2.

The CYFN, the Council of Yukon First Nations, and Canada would each nominate one member of the executive committee. The Minister of Indian Affairs, after consulting with the two other executive committee members, one of which, as I have said, would be nominated by the Council of Yukon First Nations, would select the third executive committee member who would be the chair of the board. I do not see room for abuse in this process unless the hon. member from the Alliance sees something that I am not seeing.

Two of the four remaining board members would be appointed also by the Council of Yukon First Nations, while the others would be appointed, one by Canada and one by the government of Yukon. If there is room for abuse or a patronage appointment, it would be for one member of the seven member board. I am not here to say that kind of patronage appointment never happens. Maybe the Government of Canada or the ruling party of the day will use some kind of a patronage appointment but it will only be for one board member because the possibility has already been contemplated and it has been nipped in the bud. It has been eliminated given the structure of the committee that is laid out in Bill C-2.

I admire the Alliance member for raising the possibility of patronage appointments but our caucus is satisfied that there is no such room for abuse in this particular process. Therefore that is not one of the justifiable grounds for trying to block or to stall this important bill.

Under the Yukon environmental and socioeconomic development act, the board may establish panels to conduct panel reviews. These panels must be made up from board members. Again, I do not understand where the room for abuse comes from.

One of the features that I particularly like about the bill is that six small communities would have designated offices, although I am not sure which six communities would have them. I presume Dawson City would be one and possibly Old Crow, Teslin, Tagish and Mayo the other ones. I am not sure which communities would get these various offices but they will be located in each of the assessment districts.

It is easy to say that Ross River and area could be considered one development area. Certainly the Dawson City area and the gold fields, et cetera, is another with the mining interests in that area. Haines Junction and the far western part of Yukon might be considered another area. However the boundaries of the assessment districts and the location of these designated offices would be worked out in the implementation phase of the YESAA.

On the board's recommendation, the number of designated offices and the assessment districts can be increased or decreased to meet operational requirements. In other words, flexibility is built into the bill so that we can increase or decrease the number of regional offices to meet the various application demands that may be put forward.

The logical question is: What sort of activities would be subject to assessment? I believe the Alliance member was fearmongering when he said that some business venture may come forward and have its project nipped in the bud by this new authority in Yukon that may scare away investors and turn down their applications. If the member had read the briefing book or perhaps listened he would know the sorts of projects that would be subject to assessment and what project's assessment would be waived, deemed unnecessary or exempted from the assessment process.

The project list regulator will be the body that will determine which activities are subject to assessment and which ones are not. The goal of the PLR is to catch those projects which pose a potential risk to the environment and/or socioeconomic impacts while ensuring that activities which do not pose any risks are exempted.

In other words, if there is no environmental or socioeconomic risk to the activity that is being proposed, it does not have to be subject to an assessment review. It is only activities or enterprises which do pose an environmental risk or a socioeconomic impact on Yukon that would be subject to the assessment. I do not see how that differs from the current status quo, which is the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act as it stands today, which this bill will supercede once it is implemented.

Under declarations, the parties recognize that there may be some activities that do not pose any risk under normal circumstances but, because of special conditions, the risk may be increased and therefore the activities should be assessed. The type of things they are getting at there are culturally sensitive issues, issues that have a social impact as much as an economic impact and as much an environmental impact.

To address that, Bill C-2 provides for exempted activities to be declared where any level of government with authority for the activity is of the opinion that there is a risk of impact. This again is contemplated and a clear course of action is laid out within Bill C-2 that might be dealt with if necessary.

If several governments are decision makers for a project, they must all consent before an activity is declared to be a project. This is intended to allow an activity that would not normally require an assessment to be assessed if there are particular concerns. For example, if it were to be carried out in a sensitive area or if there were issues of cumulative impacts that were not part of the original activity or enterprise.

The entry point also is pointed out or itemized and assessed in Bill C-2 that most projects will enter the assessment process at the designated office level in the region in which the enterprise will take place. A small number of large or complex projects will enter into the assessment process directly at the executive committee and will not undergo any assessment by a regional office. This would have seemed logical, quite straight forward and easy to follow had the people debating the bill today actually gone through the briefing notes.

When the designated office makes an evaluation on a project, it will be subject to further review from the central board as to whether it should immediately go ahead, whether it should go ahead with specific terms and conditions, whether it should be barred or whether it should be referred further to the executive committee for its recommendation as well. The executive committee has an alternate screening role. The projects that are submitted to the executive committee will be screened again for the same four tests. The committee ultimately can order that perhaps the project should go to a public panel review or some other form of public consultation review.

As members can see, this is perhaps why the bill took a number of years to get to this stage. It is very complex and it is difficult to foresee all the possible implications or possibilities that might come forward and to deal with those eventualities.

The boards and the bodies can issue documents allowing a project to go ahead without any further review. I do not think I will deal with those technical aspects any longer because I am aware of the time limitations.

I will try to answer the question in which most people in the House should be interested, which is this. What will the Yukon environmental and socio-economic assessment act mean for Yukon first nations? That ought to be the ultimate question with which we should be dealing today and with which we should be seized.

We believe that Bill C-2, or the YESAA, will fundamentally change the role of first nations in environmental assessment in Yukon. Perhaps that is really more to the point to which the member from the Canadian Alliance was objecting. We have noticed a pattern with the aboriginal affairs critics from the Canadian Alliance systematically opposing every move toward true self-governance for aboriginal people and systematically trying to cite reason after reason why aboriginal people should not be given the next stage in their own self-determination.

We believe this will change the role of first nations in environmental assessments in Yukon because under the current assessment regime, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, first nations have had very little opportunity to participate in any meaningful way with these environmental assessments. Under Bill C-2 they will play a much larger and more significant role.

Some of the issues of serious concern to first nations such as the socioeconomic and cultural effects, which were not given any consideration under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, will be a very important part of every assessment under the new YESAA.

For further clarity, under the YESAA, assessments will now be conducted by neutral assessment bodies rather than by self-assessment by government alone. This is a fundamental change. This will be an independent board made up by stakeholders nominated by first nations and the other players, the federal and territorial governments themselves. These issues will be dealt with by the board rather than by the government itself, which obviously led to a certain conflict of interest.

The assessment bodies must seek the views of any first nation that will be affected by the project. In other words, the mandatory consultation process is built in here. It will not be left subject to the courts. It will not be required to be heard. A first nations community would have to seek legal redress and demand to be heard. That process is built into Bill C-2, much to the satisfaction of the people involved.

Also integral part of Bill C-2 is that every existing project must consider as an aspect of going ahead the need to protect first nations rights under the final agreements, under the umbrella agreement. In other words, there can no longer be any doubt, and we do not have to go to the courts again, that any developer must consider first nations' rights when they undertake an enterprise.

We have had recent court rulings like the Haida ruling in B.C. dealing with forestry issues. For the government to do any development affecting first nations and treaty rights, the consultation process is necessary. However up until today third parties, business enterprises, did not necessarily have to take into full consideration treaty rights of first nations people that might be affected by the economic enterprise being undertaken. Now, under Bill C-2, for any future development of Yukon, it is mandatory and binding that the need to protect first nations' rights under final agreements, or first nations' special relationship with the wilderness environment or first nations cultures, traditions, health and lifestyles must be taken into consideration before a permit will be issued for that development or that enterprise within Yukon.

Also within Bill C-2, one of the biggest changes for first nations people in Yukon, is that both assessment bodies and other bodies must give full and fair consideration to traditional knowledge. The words traditional knowledge show up in Bill C-2, as do references to culture, tradition, health, lifestyle and first nations' special relationship with their wilderness environment. There has never been a document so culturally sensitive when it comes to first nations people as this bill, so it is shocking to me to hear any major party in the House of Commons speak openly that it cannot support it.

This is breaking new ground. This is forging a whole new path for our relationship with aboriginal people and economic development. If we hear every party in the House of Commons saying that the answer to the atrocious conditions is economic development, well here is the acceptable road map as negotiated between the affected stakeholders in Yukon by which such economic development can and shall take place with sensitivity toward the special relationship to the wilderness environment, the cultural, the economic, the traditional, the health and the lifestyle issues that any such enterprise might affect.

As well the assessments of every project and existing project must consider the potential environmental and socioeconomic effects which include effects on economies, health, culture, traditions, lifestyles and heritage resources of the project. In other words, if a mining enterprise might interfere with a traditional fishery, even if one is of a much larger magnitude than the other, the traditional enterprise must be taken into consideration before the new economic development enterprise is given a permit and allowed to go forward. That was not the case.

That might seem like common sense but up until today, until we pass Bill C-2, that has not been the case. That is why we have a backlog of 200 such cases before the courts today. The only redress aboriginal people have, if they want consideration of those cultural issues, is to go to court and fight for it, unless someone voluntarily recognizes their right to have those traditional issues recognized.

Another effect of Bill C-2 is that the participation of Yukon Indian people in the assessment process is guaranteed. It is not something that will be granted when it is not an inconvenience and be withheld when it is inconvenient. It will be guaranteed.

Federal and territorial decision bodies much consult with the first nations without final agreements. In other words, those first nations within Yukon that are not members of the Council of Yukon First Nations, and there are some, must be satisfied as well. They are being folded into this umbrella deal. Maybe that is the wrong term because we refer to the Yukon self-government act to this day as the umbrella framework agreement. However those first nations who are not currently members of the Council of Yukon First Nations will have their concerns dealt with as well. I think they are the Kaska and the Kwanlin Dun, and there may be others. I believe that 9 out of the 14 first nations are members of the Council of Yukon First Nations.

Some, for whatever reasons, are not currently members of that plenary organization. They may be in the future but in the interim federal and territorial decision bodies must consult with the first nations that are not part of any final agreements so far, before issuing decision documents for projects that will affect their traditional territories. In other words, some activity or enterprise could take place on areas where current claims are in effect. That would be wrong and might jeopardize future negotiations and the settlement of those claims. We all believe that it is in everyone's best interests to have those claims settled and nothing that takes place should interfere with the progress being made as we work to finish those negotiations.

Self-governing first nations will be decision bodies with respect to projects on settlement land. This is a whole new status. This contemplates that we have to get our minds around a whole new way of dealing with economic development on first nations land, and that is where Bill C-2 breaks new ground. It really shows us a template, a model, which has been arrived at through an exhaustive consultation process and it shows us perhaps a template for future settlements in other parts of Canada. Maybe it is a good thing.

Earlier today I met with the representatives of the Council of Yukon First Nations and said that perhaps the reason that we arrived at such a civilized, thorough, comprehensive and almost unanimously accepted document is that Yukon is kind of a nice, manageable size. Yukon is almost a microcosm of the rest of Canada when it comes to relationships between first nations and the federal government. Maybe because the population is small and manageable enough we have done it here as a template, as a pilot project, and perhaps this model will work in future negotiations as well.

The implementation of the Yukon environmental and socio-economic assessment act or Bill C-2 is structured in such a way that part 1 will come into force on royal assent while parts 2 and 3 will come into force up to 18 months later. This will allow the parties to make appointments to the board early on so that the board can begin to develop and put in place rules and bylaws, hire staff for the board in designated offices, et cetera. After 18 months or less the actual assessment process will come into place. Therefore, it is fair to say that no new projects will be developed in Yukon under the rules of the new assessment act until some time in 2004.

I began my remarks by saying that Bill C-2 finds its origins in chapter 12 of the umbrella framework agreement. It is instructive to those who perhaps have not dealt with this bill very much to realize what tests have to be met for Bill C-2 to truly reflect the details of chapter 12 of the umbrella framework agreement. The chapter was to provide for a development assessment process that recognized and enhanced, to the extent practicable, the traditional economy of Yukon Indian people and their special relationship with the wilderness environment.

The directive was to put in place a development assessment process that provided for guaranteed participation by Yukon Indian people and utilized the knowledge and experience of Yukon Indian people in the development assessment process. Does Bill C-2 meet that test? I argue, upon reading the bill, that yes it does.

Does Bill C-2 meet the test that we need a process which protects and promotes the well-being of Yukon Indian people and their communities, of other Yukon residents and the interests of other Canadians? Does it meet that test? Again we are satisfied that, after an exhaustive consultation process of all stakeholders, there is unanimous consensus virtually that yes in fact Bill C-2 does promote and protect the well-being of not only Yukon Indian people and their communities but of other Yukon residents as well and the interests of other Canadians in general.

Does Bill C-2 protect and maintain environmental quality and ensure that projects are undertaken in a manner consistent with the principles of sustainable development? That is what the bill is about. The very substance of the bill is that it must be in keeping with the principles of sustainable development but with special consideration of the cultural, traditional and unique relationship that first nations have with the land.

Does Bill C-2 protect and maintain heritage resources? Bill C-2 specifically refers to heritage resources. Again, it is groundbreaking and precedent setting legislation that takes into consideration those intangibles, things that do not necessarily have a large market economy value, but have value in the traditional lifestyles of aboriginal people.

Does Bill C-2 provide for a comprehensive and timely review of the environmental and socio-economic effects of any project before the approval of the project? Contrary to what the member from the Canadian Alliance was saying, yes it does. It has guidelines and time frames. We will not have cases where a development application is held up for years and years. That is the status quo. That is what we have now. We might have a mining enterprise that wants to start an operation 60 miles outside of Dawson City and it might wait five years for all the various assessments to take place such as the water surface assessments, the transboundary assessments and the exhausting assessments that need to take place.

What would take time, what would bog down and bury a number of economic development projects in Yukon is if Bill C-2 were to wind up in the courts. What if the first nation community that is close by says that this enterprise fails to take into consideration its historic right to have input into this project and it takes two or three years for the courts to deal with that case?

That is when venture capital runs scared because venture capital seeks stability and a process that it can trust and rely on, with a known timeframe to get an answer of whether the project will be reviewed or not.

Bill C-2 would give that satisfaction and that comfort to investors, that at least there is a mechanism in place that would not be challenged in the courts and that within a specific timeframe they would get an answer as to whether the project should or would go ahead or not.

Does Bill C-2 provide for a comprehensive and timely review of the environmental and socio-economic effects of any project before the approval of the project?

Again, to meet the tests of finding its origins in chapter 12 of the umbrella framework agreement it has to. The experts in the field, many of whom are in the gallery watching today, the people who have spent the last seven years developing this, are satisfied that Bill C-2 would meet this test, that it would provide for a timely review of the environmental and socio-economic effects of any project before the approval of the project.

Will Bill C-2, upon its introduction, avoid duplication in the review process for projects? This is an issue that was put forward on behalf of the developers and business interests that may be affected.

Does this avoid duplication in the review process for projects and, to the greatest extent practicable, does it provide certainty to all the affected parties and project proponents with respect to procedures, information requirements, time requirements and costs?

These are key questions that need to be answered before economic development venture takes place in Yukon.

We are satisfied again that Bill C-2 is comprehensive enough in its scope and its mandate that these pressing questions would be addressed, the business community can feel comfortable that these issues are addressed and that all affected parties and project proponents would be satisfied that the duplication of procedures, information requirements, time requirements and costs would be of be avoided with Bill C-2.

Will Bill C-2 require project proponents to consider the environmental and socio-economic effects of projects and project alternatives and to incorporate appropriate mitigative measures in the design of projects?

I will leave that one up to the experts who have reviewed these cases. They are satisfied that Bill C-2 would address that concern and that those are the objectives of chapter 12 of the umbrella framework agreement that must be met in order to call Bill C-2 an accurate reflection of that chapter.

We in the NDP caucus believe that a large part of the success of reaching consensus with Bill C-2 is due to what we are pleased to point to as the most comprehensive consultation process that we know of in issues dealing with aboriginal affairs.

It is a point of legislation that with any government legislation implemented that may affect or may have an impact on treaty rights, or traditional rights, or the constitutional rights, or even the common law rights of aboriginal people, there must be a round of consultation. However the confusion has come, and it has again come to a head under the first nations governance act, or as the aboriginal affairs standing committee deals with the first nations governance act, just what is broad consultation? What is the definition of broad consultation? What satisfies the tests of having been fairly and adequately consulted if that is what is mandated in the legislation?

I would like to speak to that briefly because we believe if the fruit of genuine consultation is a quality piece of legislation, such as Bill C-2, then what can we anticipate with Bill C-7, the first nations governance act, with a consultation process that all parties agree is largely flawed, incomplete and less than comprehensive?

It is instructive to look at the principles of consultation and see if they were met in the consultation leading up to Bill C-2. Can we look at the methodology used for consultation in Yukon and find the formula, the recipe, and the methodology that could be implemented elsewhere?

I should start by saying that aboriginal people, through their first nations plenary organizations, such as the Assembly of First Nations, have some specific and definite thoughts as to what constitutes genuine consultation. In their view it is key and paramount and fundamental, in a true consultation process, that there be no predetermined agenda brought to the table. In other words if it is a genuine consultation, if one is really seeking the input of the people that one is asking their opinion of one does not put an agenda on the table and say, “How do you like it?” The agenda is developed jointly. The parties, together, fashion the agenda.

I believe that is one of the things that was met in the Bill C-2 consultation process because they did not shop a finished document around. They took draft documents to the people, they listened to the input that they received, they took that input back and they implemented it into draft 2, draft 3, et cetera.

Another basic tenet for fair consultation is that the parties comprise federal and first nations governments meeting on a nation-to-nation, government-to-government basis. In other words, the historic imbalance in the power relationship between those two parties must be set aside for the consultation to be viewed as genuine, sincere and meaningful.

A third basic tenet would be that the parties exchange information, views and comments as equals and conduct their business with mutual respect and in good faith. There have been books written on what it means to negotiate in good faith. I do not have to cite the leading authorities on those legal definitions. In the House we all know what good faith means.

With regard to Bill C-2 and the consultations leading up to it, I have not heard anything in my experience after meeting in Yukon with the Council of Yukon First Nations and now meeting today with representatives from the Council of Yukon First Nations that would indicate that there was anything but good faith in the consultation process.

These consultations should be open and agreements be openly arrived at. In other words, there should be no selective or private side meetings, for example. If we are comparing a good consultation process with a flawed consultation process, like we saw in the first nations governance agreement, that is exactly what happened.

When the minister was finding that he was not hearing what he wanted to hear at the open consultation meetings, a bunch of side deals were made and groups were split off and hived out of communities. They were offered financial incentives to cooperate with the consultation process or even threatened with financial punishment if they failed to cooperate with it. That should stand as an example of what we do not want to see in present or future consultation processes.

Another basic requirement should be that first nations obtain and be given the fullest information to enable them to make sound and reasoned judgments.

The NDP caucus is satisfied that Bill C-2 is a bill that is worthy of our support. We see it as another step toward the realization of a dream for aboriginal people, for first nations communities in Yukon who are seeking self-determination and true self-government. The management of their own land and resources is key and integral to true self-government. Bill C-2, by putting the board in charge of the environmental assessment of developments, would go a long way to putting them in charge of the actual development of those resources.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I wish to inform members that with the next speaker speeches will be 20 minutes followed by a question and comment period of 10 minutes. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate representing the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.

I have listened to the debate very carefully as various members of different parties enunciated this afternoon. Bill C-2 is an act to establish a process for assessing the environmental and socio-economic efforts of certain activities in the Yukon. The key word is process. In essence the bill establishes a process.

On first reviewing Bill C-2 it appears to make a lot of sense. It puts in place a new arm's-length assessment board to evaluate new projects. That is the primary goal. It makes sense to have all the stakeholders, all levels of governments, sitting at the same table. I know that is not an easy accomplishment.

The purpose of this board is to do both environmental and socio-economic assessments for all new proposals. In other words, assessment is the key function of the board. If the process had been totally inclusive then obviously it is rational to think that the selection of the board should be an inclusive one and all the stakeholders should be represented on the board.

All Canadians are concerned about our environment. They are concerned about waste, natural and man-made; the generation and disposal of waste; recycling; clean water and air; as well as the promotion of a clean environment. Canadians believe that it is the government's role to protect our environment as well as our resource base not only for today's generation, but for our future as well. In other words, all new development should be evaluated through the environmental lens. That is what Canadians will have to learn to deal with.

It is interesting to note that Bill C-2, in large part, will supersede the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act on most fronts. In principle, the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada supports the process as established in Bill C-2.

This is not a perfect bill, as we have heard today. There is no such thing as a perfect bill when it comes to this place. That is why we have this process. This is second reading and from here it will go to committee. Hopefully we will make it more perfect in committee.

We believe that a single board to do the work is a good idea.

Let me make some comments about consultation. When the government says it has done consultation, 99% of the time I am a skeptic. In my five years in the House, having shepherded a number of bills through the House, I am always disappointed with the way that governments have consulted in the past on previous legislation.

With Bill C-2, I am pleasantly surprised that the government did some consultations. We have been told there have been two major rounds of public consultation during the development of the bill. The first was in the fall and winter of 1998 and the second in the summer and fall of 2001. Both rounds of consultation provided opportunities to all Yukon first nations to receive presentations and to provide their comments orally in their own communities. First nations were also invited to make written submissions.

The reason I am surprised is that for too long different levels of government, whether municipal, provincial or federal, tended to do business by themselves. What makes sense is to get people together to sit at the table to work out the problems, especially when something affects all three levels of government.

I am happy to hear that this process actually took place. If access had been truly given to all stakeholders, and if all levels of government were involved, then this can serve as a template for other provinces to follow down the road. From that perspective new ground has been tilled with this particular bill.

I must remind everyone in this place that government is about people and is for the people. That is why we must ensure that the process is an inclusive one on any decisions we make, and that we all sit at the table regardless of the level of government. We must think this through regardless of political affiliation. We are here to deliver service to the citizens and taxpayers who sent us here. This is what democracy is all about. From that perspective, Bill C-2, if validated to be true, reflects what democracy should be.

People in other regions will have taken a proactive approach with regard to the bill. It is in their best interests to be involved. It is the people's resource base and environment. We all know that it is also their future, both environmentally and socio-economically. They need to be involved in determining their own economic future.

As has already been mentioned today sustainability of all communities in Yukon is important as it is everywhere else in this country. Hopefully Bill C-2 would help bring that goal to reality. Bill C-2 should create an atmosphere of stability and even more important, it should develop an atmosphere of hope for the people who live in Yukon.

The PC Party of Canada supports Bill C-2 in principle. We support a grassroots driven approach to legislation that is long overdue. More legislation coming from that side of the House should follow this process. We look forward to working out the details of this legislation in committee. We need to validate both the process and the contents of this legislation. It would also be a good idea for the standing committee to look at the new regulations attached to the bill which are almost ready to be tabled. The details will be worked out in committee, and I look forward to debating them there.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I would just make a comment as opposed to a question so the member does not have to get ready. I just want to clarify a few technical things in response to the input from all the other parties. First, I would like to thank the members for Dauphin--Swan River and Winnipeg Centre for their glowing support of the bill, the process and the great insight they have had into the way it has been developed and what it can do.

As a clarification for the member for Winnipeg Centre, he was correct the Kaska and the Kwanlin Dun are not members of the CYFN, and the Kaska is made up of the Ross River Dene council and Liard first nation. There are some first nations that have not ratified their self-government agreement. He made the important point that all these are involved and will be consulted in the bill as well, so everyone is included.

The only reservations that have been brought forward in the debate are several from the Alliance, six from the member for Portage--Lisgar. I think he will be happy that all six are covered in the bill. I will just explain briefly how they are covered and basically, I think everyone will be on side, which is great.

I realize this is a complex bill so members might have missed some of the references that dealt with some of the concerns which were raised. Of course, I would like to thank them for their support of the final objectives, of which I think we are all in favour.

The first issue related to the mining certainty. It is an excellent example because it actually solves three comments. For example, with Placer Mining, there was a concern that there would be staking, which is not presently accessible under this act. Clause 2(3) of the bill states:

In this Act, a reference to the granting of an interest in land includes only the granting of such an interest in circumstances where there is a discretion whether to grant it or not.

Because there is no discretion here, there is no difference and there is just as much certainty for the mine. In fact this illustrates three points, not only the point he was indicating but also the fact that there was consultation with the chamber of mines on this point.

The consultation was effective. This change was made because of the input from the mining community. It shows there was input from the economic community. I was at meetings with the chamber of commerce and the chamber of mines and they did have input into the process.

The second point was the clarification on timelines. The member thought there were not timelines but, as I and the member for Winnipeg Centre said in our speeches, there are. If members would refer to paragraphs 30(1) (d) and (f), they are actually specified right in those paragraphs. I will note one of those. Clause 30(1) states:

The Board shall make rules, applicable to screenings by the executive committee and reviews by panels of the Board, with respect to ...

Paragraph 31(2) (f) refers to the periods, that is the timelines. It states:

the periods within which the executive committee and panels of the Board must perform their functions under Part 2.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

It is indeed a very long comment. You have been speaking for four minutes and it is much more debate than a comment or a question to the main speaker. If the hon. member for Dauphin--Swan River wants to answer please feel free to do so.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments of my hon. member across the way. That is the reason we have committee hearings so we can go through the whole bill clause by clause and sort these things out.

At this point in time our role is representing respective parties to put forth our position, certainly our preliminary position, in terms of how we view the bill whether in a positive vein or a negative one. Obviously the Alliance is the party that perceived this whole process in a negative vein and I guess we will have to work it through in committee to show it that there is always room for improvement. I believe there always is room for improvement in all legislation at all stages.

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5:50 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I will continue with my comments on the other four points and I will try to make them more quickly. First, there were different rules by the six designated offices in Yukon. The umbrella board shows consistency in all those rules, but the rules made by the board shall prevail over the rules made by the designated office to the extent of any consistency. That is in clause 31(5).

He talked about the fact that there was no audit. There is an audit of the board as set out clause 28(3). The fifth was about business interests on the board and of course the government appoints those members. If the member is in government, hopefully he will keep in mind sustainable development and economic interests when he makes appointments to boards.

Finally, is the hope that Yukoners will have strong memberships on all bodies. The six designated offices are throughout Yukon. Travelling every week, I know that no one will commute to Yukon to be on these bodies. They will work there for those six bodies. For the umbrella board, it says right in the bill that the chair and the majority of members must be Yukoners. I think that deals with those concerns.

I want to make one final comment on the fact that the six different designated offices can do things locally. That is a very big strength in the bill. Perhaps the member's riding in Manitoba is different. However, in Yukon we are vastly different. It is not one set economy and conditions. There is the beautiful Kluane range with the biggest icefields anywhere in the world outside the polar caps. There is the placer mining near Dawson City and the great forest in the southeast Yukon.

Any process that can be flexible to help environmental review of these and maybe standard conditions for like operations that might be in that area will enhance and speed up the process and be more sensitive to local areas, just like the Alliance Party is sensitive to the provinces and wants them to have powers so local people can have input.

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5:55 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to participate in this debate. I would like to start by complimenting and congratulating the member for Yukon and the member for Winnipeg Centre for their very exhaustive, comprehensive and thoughtful analyses of the bill.

I was particularly struck by the comment made by the member for Winnipeg Centre when said that this was the most culturally sensitive bill he had seen ever come into the House. Coming from an opposition party, this is quite a compliment being paid to the government and those who have helped in preparing the bill.

Also, the member for Winnipeg Centre referred to this bill as resulting from the most comprehensive consultations that have ever taken place. I would imagine that he speaks from experience and that his comments are very relevant.

Unfortunately, I cannot say very much about the intervention by the member for Portage--Lisgar who trotted a number of old chestnuts into the debate which were not really necessary in the context of Bill C-2. However, in explaining the reasons for his opposition to Bill C-2, he referred to the fact the bill would be a disincentive to potential developers. I do not see anything in the bill that can be interpreted as being a disincentive to a potential developer.

On the contrary, if one were to read, as several members have already done, the purpose and the aim of the bill as indicated on page 1 is “to establish a process for assessing the environmental and socio-economic effects of certain activities in the Yukon”. If that is not adequate enough to give the member for Portage--Lisgar sufficient assurance, then he probably would find that assurance by reading clause 5 of the bill where the purposes of the proposed act are outlined. Clause 5(2) is extremely well worded. It states:

(2) The purposes of this Act are

(a) to provide a comprehensive, neutrally conducted assessment process...

(b) to require that, before projects are undertaken, their environmental and socio-economic effects to be considered;

If I had any criticism for this particular clause, I would have it in paragraph 5(2)(e) where it seems to me that perhaps it could be phrased in a more positive way. It states:

(e) to ensure that projects are undertaken in accordance with principles that foster beneficial socio-economic change without undermining the ecological and social systems on which communities and their residents, and societies in general, depend;

When the bill comes to committee, I would recommend an alternative wording by way of an amendment which would say, instead of “without undermining” which is a bit negative and detracts, the words “while enhancing the ecological and social systems on which communities and their residents”. Enhancing is a positive approach and it fits much better into the general purpose of the bill as outlined by the short title.

However this is not the place perhaps to make suggestions for amendments to the bill and I am sure that the member for Yukon in his very committed way will look at every positive possibility to strengthen the bill.

I would only like to say that we have a Canadian Environment Assessment Act and the bill ought to be responsive and on the same wave length and have the same degree of application and strength as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Therefore, I would like to put on the record some questions, namely, how will the two laws, Bill C-2 when it is proclaimed, and the existing Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, plus the current Bill C-9, which is in the process of being referred to committee, integrate? How will they come together? Will they be implemented in the same way, as I hope they will? Are the two laws reinforcing each other? Are the interpretations of each of the definitions in clause 2 of the bill the same? In other words, are they going to be applied in the same manner?

For instance, will the words “significant impact” be interpreted in the same manner in both laws once they become operative? For instance, will “mitigative measures” have the same significance in both laws? Will the word “assessment” have the same definition? Will the word “environment” have the same definition? Will the word “project” also be defined in the same manner? I do find some comfort and assurance in clauses 63 and 64. At this stage one can only raise these as potential questions for examination in committee and leave it at that, because I am sure that after all these consultations the bill will be examined very thoroughly.

My task is coming to an end. I will conclude by quoting a letter I received from the Yukon Conservation Society today in which the text, signed by executive director Christine Cleghorn, reads as follows:

Since the signing of the Umbrella Final Agreement (UFA) in 1993, the Yukon Conservation Society has participated in and followed with keen interest the development of new environmental assessment legislation for the Yukon.

At the present time, [the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act] is scheduled for review by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development...Despite having undergone a second round of public review this spring, the draft legislation remains a convoluted, labyrinthine document. For a jurisdiction with only 30,000 people and environmental assessment trends indicating that over 85% of projects assessed each year are small projects, it is our view that YESEAA is unnecessarily complex to the point of absurdity. It seems that during the negotiations the original vision in Chapter 12 was lost to trying to create a piece of legislation that is basically a super version of The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

We believe it would be beneficial for YESEAA to be heard by both of the above-noted Standing Committees.

These are, namely, the aboriginal affairs committee and the environment committee. This is not possible unless the House leader approves of that approach and I do not know whether this would be very productive and very helpful.

To conclude--

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6:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The hon. member for Peterborough on a point of order.

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6:05 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that the member is splitting his time with me and I think he has to say so before his time is up.

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6:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

It definitely helps the Chair.

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6:05 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

To conclude, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Conservation Society writes:

--we are most anxious to have YESEAA moved to both Standing Committees and look forward to receiving a favourable response--

It seems to me that by and large the society is supportive and that even if this process will not be as required or as suggested by the society it will be given very thorough consideration.

As my learned colleague from Peterborough has just mentioned, we are splitting our time.