Madam Speaker, I am speaking to legislation that was taken through committee by my colleague from Dauphin--Swan River who, unfortunately, cannot be here today. He has been absent from the House and committee in the past while, although I know members of the committee miss his important influence and input into the committee work. I know they miss him because he does have a good grasp on what is happening with regard to first nations issues.
I have stood in the House and spoken in favour of Bill C-2 previously on behalf of my colleague from Dauphin--Swan River, and I will again reiterate the support of the Progressive Conservative Party for Bill C-2.
This past Tuesday a vote was held in the House on an amendment to Bill C-2. The original amendment was proposed by the member for Dauphin--Swan River and passed at the committee. It said that any future changes to regulations were to be brought before the standing committee before being published in the Canada Gazette or before coming into force. Effectively the committee agreed with this as being a good amendment, that before any of the regulation changes were to go forward and be gazetted they would come back to the parliamentary committee. What an innovative way of doing business in the House that in fact parliamentarians and the committee, which knows how the regulations would affect this legislation, would be able to deal with it.
However, even though the committee accepted and approved the amendment, it came back to the House and the minister felt that it was a little beneath him to take an amendment from an opposition member of the committee so he decided last Tuesday to do away with it.
I am somewhat disappointed with the member for Yukon. I respect him and his ability to bring this legislation to the House. I respect the passion by which he has dealt with this legislation. However I have to admit that I am disappointed that the member for Yukon did not stand up and support what the committee had done to bring this legislation forward and support the amendment. This would be a small chastisement of the member for Yukon, an individual who has put his heart and soul into this legislation, and who, as I said earlier, I respect for what he has done in the past but perhaps cannot respect him quite that much for not supporting this amendment coming forward.
Having said that, we do support it. We believe it is a good step forward. We believe the process was a good process, right up until the committee amendment was defeated in the House, but it brought together basically three levels of government, and I say that with some trepidation, but it was the federal government, the territorial government and the Council of Yukon Indians which represented the majority of the aboriginal governments within Yukon. I believe 11 of the 14 were represented at the table. That is good, co-operative federalism at work. I wish other departments and other ministers would consider that co-operative federalism when dealing with their own portfolios. They could probably learn a lesson from the minister in this particular case when they did go out and did use the consultative process and used it well, I might add, in order to bring all those parties to the table.
What it also does is it creates the process whereby environmental and socio-economic effects of a wide range of development activities are carefully assessed and considered before a project is approved. That is also very positive. This puts a process in place that will allow developments to go forward without having all parties throwing unnecessary barriers or roadblocks in the way. The ultimate result will be increased opportunity for economic development within the Yukon territory. That in itself is extremely positive.
The bill would also establish a development assessment process which would oversee development proposals within a province, which is, as I just said, a proposal that obviously would assist the process as opposed to having roadblocks thrown in its way.
There are some concerns, as was mentioned earlier by my colleague from Windsor and by other sitting members. The fact is that the benefits of the bill certainly outweigh all the negatives. As I say, it speaks to the insensitivity of not only the minister but certainly of the member who brought it forward, in not allowing what we consider to be a very important amendment that was brought forward and accepted by the committee but which was then taken out of the system in a back door fashion.
I want it on record that the Progressive Conservative Party will support Bill C-2 in its final reading. I appreciate the fact that the first nations in Yukon have the ability to more forward as well as they should.